Start with the first part.
I only want to kiss Brock.
We packed our bags, and began the journey home. I was anxious. Incredibly nervous. It had only been a few weeks, but I was going home to Brock with a willingness in my heart that I hadn’t had before. I was so scared that I would see him, and not feel love, affection or joy. I was scared that I would be cold and hard again. I was scared that he wouldn’t want ME.
When we landed in Charlotte, the kids and I trudged our way to the baggage claim. It had been a long day of flying, and a ton of walking and we were exhausted. The butterflies in my stomach were overwhelming. Was he here? Was he waiting for us? Did he love us??
Ronan spotted him first, and shouted “DADA!” at the top of his lungs. He ran into his father’s embrace. I had Ruby in the ergo, and put her down to let her run to her daddy as well. Brock hugged his babies, the longest he’d ever been away from them, with tears in his eyes. They had grown while they were away, and he felt it hugely. Then he stood up, wrapped his big arms around me, and hugged me like he was never going to let me go. I breathed him in, his warm, musky scent. It felt right. My heart said yes. I could keep fighting for this.
He pulled me away, and looked at me solemnly, his eyes touched by sadness. “Can I kiss you?” he asked, unsure of where we stood. I nodded, and his lips met mine, gently at first. There was still love there. There was passion, too. It hadn’t died… it had merely cooled for a while.
We loaded up our children into the car, and Brock drove us to our new home. While we were in Canada, Brock had found a rental home for us, so we could move out of his parents house. It was a lovely four bedroom, with a spacious kitchen and an absolutely enormous den. Nothing was unpacked – all of the boxes and furniture had been moved in, but there was lots of physical work to do. Still, it was OURS. We were in our own space, and both willing and ready to work on our relationship, our future, and focus on the growing child within me.
While we were gone, Brock spent an immense amount of time in personal therapy. The marriage counselor we had chosen was also a sex therapist, and they did the work required to get to the bottom of his porn addiction. When I returned home, Brock had to talk to me about ALL of it. There could be no secrets. He told me everything. Any major point in his past that contributed to the need for addiction. Any harmful moments. Any event that took away his agency, sense of self, power, personhood. There were times that I was in tears – it was, without a doubt, easy to see why addiction had been an easy coping mechanism for him. For the first time, I had empathy for his situation, and how he was dealing with it.
He also told me what had flipped the switch for him – what finally convinced him that pornography was actually harming our relationship (besides the fact that I had been telling him so!) Our therapist shared an article with him. It was called, “He’s just not that into anyone,” and outlined how damaging the usage of pornography had been to the male psyche, and also their sexual health. However, that wasn’t what finally reached him. When he read, in that article, that each time a human reaches climax, they have an oxytocin release – which literally means that viewing porn is chemically, hormonally tantamount to cheating – he realized that he was giving his love (if even only his love hormone) to someone other than me.
He suddenly understood what he had been unable to see before.
He and the therapist talked about coping mechanisms. They talked about strategies to avoid falling back into porn. But most of all, she instructed him in the art of “feeling bad.” After all, most forms of numbing (addictions) are used to distract ones-self from feeling bad, and the most powerful way to avoid those issues is to… well… just feel bad. She taught him that it is okay to feel sad and down without trying to change it. It’s okay to feel out of control without trying to exert control on your life. It’s okay to feel hurt without trying to immediately cheer yourself up. Brock had to learn that, even when he was feeling bad, it would often get better without doing anything at all.
After Brock’s solo therapy, we had to move into therapy together – how to rebuild trust, and fix our communication. What we discovered was that Brock is a “people-pleaser” who would do just about anything to stop someone from being mad at him – even if it meant sacrificing his feelings and desires. We also discovered that I was what is known as an “over-functioner,” meaning someone who tries to feel and think and do for everyone else. Growing up, I was pegged as strong-willed at best… bossy at worst. I could always see the way that thing SHOULD be done, and convince everyone else to do it my way. And when you mix a people-pleaser with an over-functioner, you have an easy relationship (because I would always get my way, and he would never have someone mad at him) but you end up with an entire person in that relationship who doesn’t feel seen, heard or validated.
The next several months of our lives were spent in weekly therapy, learning how to have conversations where we NEVER tried to fix anything. We just had to HEAR each other. Every single issue that we had included hours and hours of talking about it without ever trying to solve it, or convince the other person. We did a massive amount of validation and re-repeating. It was REALLY hard for me. I struggled immensely, and I’m not proud of it. I had a hard time hearing Brock’s feelings about, truly, anything. When he would tell me how he felt, in my mind, I would roll my eyes. I would LITERALLY say to myself, I don’t give a shit how you feel, just shut up and listen to me!
We had spent so many years in a relationship together where I NEVER took his feelings into account, that it was challenging for me to begin to do so. It became incredibly apparent to me that Brock wasn’t the only problem in our relationship, and that I had a lot of work to do as well. I had never realized before how closed off I was to the feelings of the people around me.
So, Brock had to practice telling me how he felt, even when it was really difficult and might make me mad, and I had to practice listening to him and hearing his feelings. It was frustrating and felt stupid… but the more we practiced, the easier it got. And eventually, I started to realize that there was a lot about Brock that I didn’t know. There was an incredible depth and wisdom to him that I had overlooked. He had really great ideas about parenting and our family. He wanted to be more involved with Ronan, and his therapies. He was deeply in love with his daughter, and found her miraculous. He was excited and nervous to have a third.
The sex part didn’t come around easily either. While I was physically attracted to Brock, and also enjoyed having sex, the negative feelings associated with never being able to say no were still overpowering. Just knowing that he was ‘in the mood’ or interested in me immediately made me feel anxious and turned off. I told him, under no uncertain terms, that if my feeling weren’t a “HELL YES,” it was going to be a no. And he had to be completely okay with my no. There would never, ever be any pressure for a yes again.
During all of this, Ronan continued in his therapies, and we put him in three year old preschool. I really wasn’t comfortable with sending him, but it seemed like what we were supposed to do. Because Ruby wasn’t nursing any more, and sleeping so well in her pack-and-play, we put her in a crib when we moved into the new house. Ronan had his own bedroom at the end of the hall, Ruby’s room was right across from ours, and our bed was empty.
We spent a good amount of time talking about our prior birth experiences, and decided that, could we find a good homebirth midwife, we would try having our next baby at home. A dear friend of mine gave me the name of the woman that delivered her babies, and we made an appointment to visit with that midwife. I was whole-heartedly terrified that I would HATE her, and choose to stay with her anyways, just because I wanted a homebirth so badly.
When the day came for my appointment, Brock and I drove to her home. We walked in, and I felt at simultaneously anxious and also at ease. Her house felt ‘homey’… but what if I hated her?
We sat in her living room until the people before us left, and were invited in to sit down. I walked into the room and looked around at the smiles in front of me. I felt welcome, and warm with comfort. There were three beautiful, gentle, calm faces; peaceful and expectant, waiting for me to speak – and I burst into tears. I managed to choke out, through my sobs, “I was SO WORRIED I was going to hate you, and I haven’t even met you and I already like you!”
We chatted with the midwife and her assistants for an hour. I told her about Ronan’s birth, and Ruby’s birth, and our decision to no longer vaccinate, and how we wanted a homebirth and felt so weird and outside and other… and she smiled. Nodded. Accepted. Affirmed. I fell in love with her right then.
We had our midwife.
To be continued.
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