When I was a freshman high school girl, I used to watch this senior boy during practice on the track and field. He was a pole vaulter. If you’ve never seen a person in real life, not on TV while watching the Olympics, but in person, pole vault, it is truly a tremendous thing to see. Even the task of running at full speed down the laid out path, while holding a plastic pole three times your height strikes awe. The leg muscles bunch, and contract, lines form in the upper arms and forearms showing the strength of tendons. Then the pole touches the ground, and seemingly in slow motion, his body would gracefully arch through the air. Legs, where the strongest muscles lie, leading first. He would be upside down for a second, then the rest of his body, twisting, would follow, head now above the rest, here comes the landing. A perfect vault would end with the measurement bar untouched, the pole softly hitting the ground and the athlete landing softly on his back.
Little did I know, I would watch this boy turn to man, I would watch him over and over again, jump the highest of bars in life. I would see him use nothing but the strength of his own self to get over problem after problem, jump higher bars and higher bars. The thing about pole vaulting, though….you fall many times. You knock over the hurdle. Sometimes you don’t run fast enough to get the momentum to fling yourself over. Sometimes your body, your muscles are exhausted and the strength to pull yourself isn’t there.
I’m on the sidelines. Watching. Fingers folded under my chin, I hold my breath as he attempts again. I will cheer him, no matter what. I am after all a cheerleader. I clap, cup my hands around my mouth and shout a positive accolade. “You can do it!” I exclaim.
Now as his wife, his life partner for the past 14 years, I have to remind myself….I can’t get over that bar. I can’t get him over it either. I can only encourage and support from over here.
When we married, we stood at the alter, we promised each other “For better or for worse, in sickness and in health.” We’ve had plenty of the better and the health. It’s easy during times like that. We’ve had plenty of the worse and sickness, too. Making it through infertility, was a challenge. It was hard. We both held onto the pole together, combining our strength, and having to time it just perfectly for us both to fling our legs over at the same time. We would have never have gotten over it without both of us working together. It was a team effort. I will admit, his strength, his muscles did lots of work, but it was my determination, refusal to not give up, my ambition that kept it going until the task was accomplished.
I fear I’ve worn him out. I’ve taxed the muscles too much. We spent so long focusing on the one hurdle, the highest challenge, that we lost sight of the rest.
Now here we are, we have two beautiful children. Our time and energy has been focused on them. Our prize for the hard work. This mother, who used to be a cheerleader for just her man, now has a whole team. The weakest players are getting all her attention.
The raising of children does this to many partners in life. But as we shared in our vows the word of God, “I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned – but if I have no love, this does me no good. Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud, love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love is not happy with evil but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope,and patience never fail. Love is eternal.” (1 Corinthians 13: 3-8)
Now we stand, we have another vault to make. You are older, your muscles not as spritely, your burden heavier. There has been some pride, some selfishness, some irritability, records of wrong doings have been hoarded inside. But it’s time now, as we face the vault, we stand side by side. You holding the pole. The run looks long, the task looks too tall. We are weary. We know we have fallen plenty of times already. I’m going to let you run towards the bar, I’m going to stand here and watch. I’m going to cheer you on, I have faith, I have patience.
Amanda Schlatter is a Reno mom, a teacher for the school district, and an advocate for children and families. After seven years of suffering the disease of infertility, she and her husband finally succeeded in pregnancy through the help of a charity called Baby Quest. More can be read about her journey at www.babyjailbreak.blogspot.com