I got married when I was 23 years-old. I was a child. A young girl, really. Not yet a woman, just a girl madly in love with her college boyfriend that had a plan and a vision – to be married at 23, my first kid by 25, a nice sedan, a home and a mortgage. That was my plan. And if you know me even a little bit, you know that I am persistent and determined about things I am passionate about. Marriage and family was, and still is, one of those things.
I remember being caught up in the moment of planning my wedding. I was a law student consumed with finishing my first year of law school, the year known to be the most difficult and stressful year, yet calling my wedding planner in between classes to find out if our venue was booked or available for our selected day. I used pages ripped out of wedding magazines as my bookmarks for my law books.
After a 12 month engagement, it was our wedding day. I had a beautiful dress, six bridesmaids, six matching groomsmen, and almost 200 guests. We were married by my father-in-law in the church my husband grew up in. It was a historic Southern Baptist church, prominent in the community and considered “the” African-American church to belong to. I felt like a princess that day.
I spent years questioning my own sanity about getting married at such a young age. I even tried to pass the blame on our parents. What were they thinking? Where was the voice of reason? Why did they “let” us get married?
Throughout the years, my husband and I have not had it easy. Being a new bride and second-year law student meant very little time to spend with my husband, a new college graduate looking for employment. We lived off of our wedding money and my student loans the first three months so finances were a big issue. I remember getting into a horrible fight with my husband because I bought a winter coat (on sale) without discussing it with him first. His point, we didn’t have the money and it was not in the “budget.” My point, I was freezing and it was snowing outside, and since there was still “MY” student loan money in the account, it WAS in the budget. (!)
Six months after we got married, I got pregnant. Had my baby third year of law school, then studied for the bar nine months later (while carrying my breast pump on one hip and bar study books on another), then got my first job, and so on and so forth. It was years of stress. Years of pressure, and years of wondering when things will get easier for us. We loved each other so much, but we didn’t always understand what love, forgiveness, or teamwork meant. We were young kids, raising a baby while trying to figure things out. Then we had one more, born premature and sick, then 14 months later, another one came after being on bed-rest full-time.
I realized last year what it means to live in the moment. I spent years wondering, hypothesizing, and regretting. Those thoughts were stealing the joy out of my present day life. It didn’t make sense to debate and wonder. After my third, very difficult pregnancy, my doctor told me I was lucky that I had my kids so early. Had I waited, I probably would not have been able to carry a baby to term, or at all. It’s so easy to say that I would have done things differently. The present showed me, three beautiful, healthy children, a husband who has been nothing but a good father and provider for our family. Now twelve years and three kids later, our relationship continues to grow daily. Rather than saying we were too young when we got married, I can see how much we have grown up because we got married.