So, how did it happen that M and I became parents before marrying? What’s the dish on that? Did we get, hmm, surprised by LP’s arrival?
Actually, no. Here’s the deal.
M and I got together when we were both a little older (me 29, him 32), and had our share of experiences already. In my case: a very painful, short-lived marriage in my mid-twenties (I know I don’t need to justify myself and specify this, but it was mostly for legal reasons –immigration purposes, actually-, and there was no ring, no wedding planning, just a City Hall thing). In his case: a broken off engagement around the same period, and the ordeal of buying a house with a girlfriend who fell into a deep depression and left a few months later, right about when I met him. When we finally started to date, we had known each other for three years as co-workers and friends, and we both just knew it was the real thing. There was never any hesitation, any games: we became immediately joined at the hip and never looked back.
I entered into this relationship differently that I would have had in my early twenties, though. Early on
we he had discussed marriage a little bit, making some jokes about it, even asking me the kinds of rings I liked. I always knew I did want to marry him (no, my faith in marriage had not been destroyed), but I didn’t want to obsess over it, I didn’t want to screw it up. This time, I knew better than to push someone into it, especially that I knew him, knew how he hates feeling pressured into doing anything, how it was partly why he never married his previous fiancee. For me the important thing was (still is), that we could be together, share our lives, and build our future. My stance was that if it comes along, great, but let’s not let it ruin my life if it never does.
Bottom line is I saw marriage as a “nice-to-have”, rather than a necessity. Here in
Quebec, there’s a peculiar social phenomenon I have never seen anywhere else except in Scandinavia: marriage is a complete non-issue. If you want to marry, fine, if you don’t, no one will ever frown upon you and people will view your relationship as just a meaningful and committed (both socially and legally). As a result, at least as many people spend their lives together as shack-ups than as married couples. People who have kids without being married are very common, and around us at least, there is absolutely no social pressure towards it.
These factors might seem a bit trivial, but from what I’ve observed all around me they actually make a lot of guys much less prone to pop the question! Without marriage being something of a quasi-mandatory social rite of passage, and without a big tradition of parents footing the bill for the event, a lot of people just forgo it entirely or wait until it makes sense for them (sometimes until they have teenagers!)
We're also not that traditional, we both have progressive backgrounds and although we were both baptized as Catholics, we come from non-practicing families and had no religious affiliations. We are still surrounded by married people, however, as I suddenly realized earlier this year when one of my best friend invited us to a party and got married to the father of her two kids on the spot instead. It hit me: we were one of the only remaining non-married people in our extended circle. Even my gay sister got married this summer!
Back when M and I first started off as a couple, I was approaching the big 3-0, all my friends were preggers or having babies, and that was much more on my short-term radar than marriage was. We both wanted kids, and one day we sort of spontaneously decided to get at it too. It's like we got suddenly overwhelmed by this biological, nesting response. It took us nearly one year to get pregnant, and during that time I wasn’t thinking about much else…
Finally feeling that baby grow inside me made me more emotional about the issue, though. I became much more eager to take that next commitment step for our family, I don’t know, it just seemed like the right thing to do. I began to reflect on how my past would inevitably affect my child, on that horrible divorce tag I was wearing. I wanted to cry when I envisioned the day LP would learn that his mommy had been married to someone else, but not to his daddy... Without being a constant nag, I let M know that it was becoming a personal disappointment for me, not pressing him to take action, but making it clear how I felt.
Then I think what changed it all was the beautiful white and blue beribboned gift bag that appeared under the Christmas tree last year. Tiffany’s! I couldn’t believe that he would have spent that much on a ring, and I didn’t want to let myself get carried away, but at the same time, what would you have done in my place? On Christmas Eve, when I finally got to open the bag, my heart was pounding. It could be anything, I was telling myself, earrings, perhaps a watch... But at the bottom was a little square box, once again wrapped with that exquisitely coveted robin’s egg blue ribbon. Exactly the shape and size of a ring box. I told myself: yes!!!! It took a long time, but it is finally happening! That moment was so cute, with the three of us sitting besides the tree in our PJs... I was shaking.
The box contained a… beautiful sterling silver star-shaped pendant on a dainty chain. I smiled and I kissed him, put it on and told him that I loved it! And I did! But of course I was telling myself what an idiot! Why do you do this to yourself? M is no jerk, he knows me very well, and I know he saw it in my face and understood. I’m certain that’s when he saw how important this was to me. He was being all weird afterwards, like he was so sorry his wonderful gift had completely backfired, but at the same time it clearly wasn’t his fault. What an awkward moment, entirely due to my getting carried away despite having urged myself not to…
After that self-inflicted fiasco, I decided to really be an adult about it, deal with the fact that we might never get married, and that it was fine. I needed to focus on the positive, and indeed I had many blessings to count: a great partner, a wonderful son, a loving family, many friends, a house in a community I actually liked, a good job… Everyone was healthy and happy… When I looked at it that way, it seemed like I couldn’t honestly hope for anything more in life!
And then, when I expected it the least, M proposed a few days before my birthday, in the middle of Bryant Park in our shared favorite place,
. He got down on one knee, simply presented me with this incredible ring, and I just lost my breath. I was holding our son, it was a really mellow late spring early evening, and I will remember how it felt for as long as I’ll live. I will remember his smile most, soft and almost shy. I will remember how his eyes sparkled. We’d been together for over three years, he’d seen me give birth, we’d been through a lot together, including the constant, sneaky stress of dealing with a very difficult baby, and I swear, they sparkled just like they did on that very first day, and maybe even more… New York City
No, the ring isn’t from Tiffany’s, but it’s truly the best. It’s a simple round .75 carat solitaire on white gold, and I couldn’t have picked a better one myself. I’m so proud of M, who did all his research, decided to go for a Canadian (ethical) diamond, and got it from a place that guarantees it will be appraised for at least 200% of its price (which means a bigger rock of great quality for less money!) It was in no way inexpensive, though. An amount equivalent to a big chunk of the wedding budget, actually. But unlike the wedding which will be over in a day, I’ll be wearing it proudly for the rest of my life.
I still can’t believe it sometimes: here I am, 33 and a mother, and I finally have that beautiful, elegant engagement ring on my finger. It makes me feel like a very young girl again. I’m tagged! I’m spoken for people!!!