All of the Questions You Wanted to Ask…

There is this strange cultural phenomenon that takes place when you become pregnant. When you walk around visibly carrying another human in your womb, a large subset of the population seems to think that you’ve completely given up your right to privacy and personal space. People stare at you, touch you, and ask you a whole bunch of unsolicited questions. Most of the questions tend to be pretty harmless, but it’s not uncommon for friends, family members, and even complete strangers to just strike up conversations about your future parenting choices, how you conceived your child, and even ask you very specific questions about parts of your anatomy.

When telling someone that I’m expecting my deceased husband’s baby (while there is generally a period of stunned silence), more often than not I’ve found that I’m inundated with even more questions. In the interest of transparency and simplicity I’ve created a list of actual questions that I’ve heard in one form or another from people with a lot of curiosity surrounding my very personal decision to pursue becoming a solo parent via ART (assistive reproductive technology), following the death of my husband. I’m considering getting an “everything you think you need or have the right to know about my pregnancy” pamphlet printed to distribute rather than repeating many of these answers, but for now the magic of the internet will have to suffice.

Now, I can’t stress this enough. It is perfectly ok to ask people not to touch your belly and decline to answer their questions about your cervix, nipple size, and whether or not you’re going to sleep train your infant. Got that pregnant people? A perfectly acceptable answer to all of these questions (or any other question you may encounter) is “it’s none of your damn business!” With that being said here is a list of questions that you may have wanted to ask about my very personal decision to have my dead husband‘s baby.

You’ve said that this is Travis’s baby, but I mean, is it really Travis’ baby? 

Yes, this is really Travis’ baby. If I went on the Maury Povich show for a DNA test he would say without a doubt that Travis is the father. Conceiving this child was a three year process and Travis has been with me every step of the way, even after he physically left my side.

You seem to have waited a long time to tell people about this pregnancy, why the big secret? 

There are a lot of reasons why I’ve kept my pregnancy pretty private up until this point (more than half way through). First and foremost, it’s a pretty complex situation and so I wanted to make sure that I was comfortable discussing everything before I let a lot of people into this part of my life. It’s just not as simple as “we’re expecting!” when half of the “we” isn’t there to revel in the news. Things were further complicated by the fact that in the beginning of this pregnancy there were initially two heartbeats that unfortunately became just one around week #10. When you couple that with a previous miscarriage that means that I have lost 2/3 of the babies that I’ve ever carried. Anyone who has experienced pregnancy loss knows how painful it is to un-tell people who have already started to love your baby right along with you, and so I became pretty apprehensive about sharing the news.

Consequently, it’s really taken this long for me to feel truly connected to this pregnancy. I liken it to Sandra Bullock’s character in Bird Box referring to her children as “girl and boy” until she feels like they’re safe. I love and want this child more than I’ve loved or wanted anything in my life, but until recently when I started to regularly feel them wiggling around I just wasn’t ready to let them be real. Now that I’m there, I am pretty excited to be sharing this news with the world. Also, no one was buying the “I ate a lot over the holidays” excuse anymore so I guess it’s time…

What are you having? 

Well, I’m pretty sure it’s a human baby but Travis was pretty hairy so I guess part-bear-cub is also a strong possibility.

Ha ha… that’s funny,  but seriously, what… what is it? 

Oh, right, you and everyone else seem to be oddly curious about my child’s genitals. I’ve decided to be surprised, but rest assured that the doctor feels that whatever genitals this baby has are developing normally. I’ve also heard those ultrasounds can be pretty inaccurate anyways. I’ve had a few friends and family members who have been unexpectedly surprised in the delivery room, and a couple more who have told us all a few decades after their birth that we were dead wrong about their gender.

Aren’t fertility treatments expensive? How could you afford this, especially after the insanely high cost of your husband’s cancer care

Fertility treatments are very expensive. We were fortunate enough to be eligible for assistance from Livestrong Fertility, a program that helps cancer patients and survivors become parents. Although, I’m pretty sure from reading the fine print that I’ll forever have to introduce this child as being “made possible in part by a grant from the Livestrong foundation…,” I am incredibly grateful to be starting my life as a parent without the financial burden that can come with pursing fertility treatments. After all, I’ve heard actual babies are pretty expensive, too.

Speaking of finances, at least you’ll be able to get social security benefits for your child on their late father’s behalf, right? 

Unfortunately, it seems likely that will not be the case. Conceiving children after the death of one’s partner is not super common, but happens often enough that the Supreme Court has made a ruling to leave this decision up to the states. My state is among the few who have weighed in on the issue and have decided not to extend benefits to biological children conceived after the death of a parent. While I can certainly understand the argument from both sides I would of course appreciate being able to have this child benefit from the system that my husband paid into for 20+ years only to die before being able to benefit from it himself. With that being said, Travis was a very responsible guy and was able to provide some financial means for his wife and the child he hoped we would have. I’d love more stability, but I have so many more advantages than other solo parents starting out.  I’m grateful for that and I think we’ll be ok.

Have you picked out names?

Travis and I picked out names together but I reserved the right to meet the child and make sure the name fits before officially signing any paperwork. This part will be a surprise as well.

Why didn’t you do this while Travis was alive? 

That’s a tough one. We both wanted and expected children to be a part of our relationship. We experienced one miscarriage before his diagnosis and were unsuccessful in conceiving through the fertility program we worked with while he was still alive. Many people think fertility treatments are a slam dunk, especially given the financial investment most individuals/couples must make, but the reality is that it often takes many attempts to successfully conceive a child and success isn’t a guarantee. We tried, but unfortunately it just didn’t work out in time for his children to be a part of his life.

Have you had any cravings? 

Not really cravings, but this kid has definitely made their voice heard when it comes to food preferences. I want raw vegetables and grilled fish about 90% of the time. I’ve tried to talk the kid into iced cream, cookies or a big juicy cheeseburger on numerous occasions, but thus far they just keep telling me to make us another kale salad and a bun-less salmon burger. I don’t think I started disappointing my parents for at least a few years after my birth, but this kid is really sucking the fun out of what I’ve heard are the more enjoyable parts of pregnancy.  I guess it’s a good thing that Travis isn’t here for that part… he would be so disappointed to find that his kid, at least for the moment, seems to basically be a vegetarian.

I have a friend going through IVF right now. Any advice on how to make sure she’s successful? 

Well, I had two failed embryo transfers before this one decided to grab on to my uterine lining and try to make it in the real world (there’s a lot more science behind it but I’ll leave it up to you to consult with Dr. Google for as much information on the process as you’re interested in acquiring). The only thing I did differently in preparation for the third one/only successful one was complete a marathon the day before the procedure. That’s right, 26.2 miles seems to be the ticket to a successful implantation for this sample size of one! And please let me know what your friend says when you tell her that’s all she has to do if she wants to conceive.

You’re 35, isn’t that a little old to be having a baby? 

Well, medically speaking I am of “advanced maternal age,” and my pregnancy is classified as “geriatric.” But no, no I don’t think I’m too old. The baby is developing beautifully. And, I’m just not going to say any more about this one.

The other age question — You’re only 35, you’re so young! Isn’t this kind of a panic move? I mean, you really just freaked out and did this on a whim because you think you won’t meet someone that will want to have a family with you…

Well, what can I say… I did meet someone. As a couple we were a very happy family of two for more than a decade. We wanted children together. We tried to have children together, and then he died. Maybe I will meet another someone at some point and we’ll mutually want those things together as well, and maybe I won’t. Regardless, I am ready for this next step now and while it would never be my first choice I am ready to take on this challenge of solo-parenting.

And let me be clear when I say that nothing about this decision was done out of panic. There were doctors, counselors, faith leaders and trusted friends who helped me understand the gravity, timing, and preparation for this decision. My husband and I made the choice to go down this road knowing that he was terminal upon diagnosis, and that if we were successful in conceiving the most likely outcome was me raising our child as a single parent. I put my body through months of tests, medications and self-administered injections, and I can tell you that no one would be able to get through that experience on a whim. This process was at most a decade and at least three years in the making, and I’ve never been more confident in a decision than I am in this one.

And yes, a stranger on the internet actually said this to me when I was visiting an online chat group. Beware the trolls. 

Why don’t you just adopt? 

I’ve always wanted a big family and Travis and I often talked about adoption. I’m very open to a life with more children whether they’re biologically my own or someone else’s. With his cancer diagnosis we made the decision to preserve our ability to create children together. With a post-surgical break before beginning chemotherapy we had a window of opportunity to make those preparations before his contribution to the process would have become unviable (something not all cancer patients have the opportunity to do). We were then blessed to be given the financial means to complete that process (again, thank you Livestrong Fertility), and then among the lucky ones (less than 50% by most statistics) for whom assistive reproductive technology resulted in what has thus far been a healthy pregnancy. The stars aligned for me for this particular means of becoming a mother, and if they hadn’t I would likely be looking into alternative options including adoption.

Do you know what the Catholic church says about IVF? 

I do. I was raised Catholic and my faith is a big part of my life. I was also raised to question, pray, and discern my own path. I’ve made choices in my life that are counter to the Church’s teaching, and the Church currently teaches many things that are counter to the beliefs that my prayerful discernment has led me to. So I’ll just say this: I am always grateful to have the guidance and wisdom of my faith behind me when I make a major decision in my life. I didn’t approach this decision lightly and have spent many hours reading and considering both scientific and faith based writings on in vitro fertilization and other assistive reproductive technologies. I am confident in the decision I have made, comfortable with the process I used to help create this pregnancy, and hopeful that the life I have been given the opportunity to develop, and God willing bring into this world, will be welcomed by the faith community in which I was raised.

Isn’t it kind of unfair to bring a baby into this world without a father? 

Yes, it is completely unfair that this child will never have a chance to meet their father in person. But I hate to break this to you, literally every single person who was or will be born after February 6th, 2019 has been given a bit of a disadvantage in life because they will never have the opportunity to meet my amazing husband. But the world has kept on turning and presumably will continue to do so. I believe that there is so much good in this world and I am excited to have the opportunity to share that good as a parent. I will do everything in my power to help my child know the man who helped make them and who wanted so desperately to be their dad.

The magnitude of his absence was already quite palpable, but it has absolutely been compounded by his absence during this pregnancy. Travis would have loved this (and not just because my boobs are bigger than they’ve ever been). He loved taking care of me, and especially after years of being the patient he would have been thrilled to have the opportunity to support me through this experience. I would give anything to have him back in this world for me, for our child, for everyone who loved him, and for everyone who never had the chance to know him. Everything about this is unfair.

Aren’t you scared to do this on your own? 

I wouldn’t say that I’m scared. I have no illusions that this will be easy but I’ve gotten pretty used to life being hard. If suddenly something was simple that’s probably when the fear would kick in. And I also wouldn’t say that I’m doing this alone. You’ve probably heard the saying that it “takes a village to raise a child.” And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all of the challenges that I’ve faced in the past 4 years, it’s that Travis and I have a pretty damned good village.

I’m Ready to Love Again

I was 23 when I met the man who would become my husband. A few months after we started dating, a close friend of mine asked me if I thought he was “The One.” I had no concept, at the time, of who I wanted to be as an individual person let alone how to work another human being into that equation. I thought about it a bit and I said the only thing that made sense to my still developing, young adult brain…  “I don’t know if he’s ‘the one,’ but what I do know is that he is someone I want him to be in my life for a very long time.” Four years later I said “I do” when asked if I would love him for as long as we both shall live, idealistically converting “a very long time” into forever, and thereby declaring him “the one.” But just six years after that I watched him take his last breath, in that moment realizing that we wouldn’t get forever or even “a very long time” (although as a 23 year old I may have considered a decade to be just that), and if he was “the one” his departure meant I could be living without love by my side for an actual “very long time.”


They say that to have loved and lost is better than to have never loved at all. And while I’ve come to believe that may be partially true, the full truth is that losing a love is so cripplingly painful that avoiding it all together often seems like it may have been the better choice to begin with. While you are grateful for the time spent in love and the memories you made, the reality is that each of those memories has become colored by the loss you eventually experienced. An entire epoch of your life now defined by the tragic way it ended.

And these losses are not just limited to experiences with death. Anyone who has been through a difficult breakup knows that feeling of despair as you grapple with the major changes in your life that come with saying goodbye to a relationship. You were two, and now you’re just you, and it’s scary and confusing and just plain hard. Food tastes different. Songs you once loved now make you cry or scream or roll your eyes. And every plan you made for a future together has now been erased and you alone have to discern what comes next.

Likewise, losing love is not limited to just partner loss. My husband was in a sense “the one,” even if he was only the one for an unfairly short time in my life. But I have a mom who is also “the one” and only one of those I’ll get. My sister is the “the one” and only one of those I’ve ever had, and although my dad actually has six sisters I’m sure he’d say they are each individually “the one” in their own unique way. My brother, my father, each of my grandparents, family members and friends have been “the one” version of that individual that I will get in my life. Those that I have already lost have proven themselves irreplaceable, and as I inevitably say goodbye to others through the twists and turns that life brings my way I’ll have to grapple with the devastation that comes from saying goodbye to the love I have shared with each.

The impact of losing my husband instantly made me want to shut out the possibility of any new love from my life. His manner of death made the grief exceptionally hard as for more than a year we were practically joined at the hip as the cancer gradually took away his eyes, his legs, and his ability to form complete sentences. Everywhere we went we walked in lockstep with my left arm around his waist and our right hands clasped together. I could guide him away from something that was not within his field of vision using only gentle touches, a perfectly understood code that we developed seemingly overnight without any conversation or coordination. And without fail I could somehow read his mind and complete his sentences when the words weren’t there for him. The cruelty of the disease required us to become more than just partners. He needed me and I needed him as this supporting spouse role gave me a sense of purpose like I’d never felt before.

I have never experienced any greater love than to be trusted to care for someone in their most vulnerable moments, and yet the agony of getting to that point is something I’d never wish to experience again. How could I possibly let myself get close to someone else knowing that it could lead to this same type of pain? But gradually over the last year the incredible weight of this loss has become bearable. It’s still there. It hasn’t gone away or even lessened. But there are little rays of sunshine poking through the clouds hanging over the decade of life we lived together. I smile when I think about him and my still frequent tears are now, more often than not, ones of joy rather than despair. And in spite of the potential for pain, I’m confident that I’m ready to love again.

Now you may think that what comes next is an announcement that I met someone, and that I’m crazy head over heels in love with them, and that I think they may just be “the one.” And, that’s partially true. I have fallen in love with someone, but I haven’t actually met them yet. If all goes well, I will be meeting them on or around June 10th.

image0This isn’t how Travis and I imagined welcoming our first child into the world, but nothing about my life for the last 3 or 4 years is in any way how I imagined it would be. We started a pre-chemo family planning process not long after his initial diagnosis in hopes that he would somehow beat a seemingly unbeatable cancer, or at least be here long enough to meet his children. Watching and feeling this child grow over the past five months has been an incredible experience. I can’t wait to meet them and shower them with all of the love that I am so ready to give. I can’t wait to hold them in my arms and tell them that they are truly, and without a shadow of a doubt, The One.

Read my next post for answers to many of the questions you may have after reading this post:



She’s not Megan

My dog recently suffered a loss. It was the kind of a loss that I know a little something about. The loss of a partner. The loss of the one you used to “do life” with. The loss of a best friend.

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Megan & Duncan, December 2008

Duncan first met the love of his life in 2008, about an hour after Travis and I adopted him from a shelter in Ohio. Megan, my parent’s black lab/golden retriever/who the hell really knows mix was about three at the time, and just aching for some canine companionship. And Duncan, an abandoned puppy who never knew his mother was in desperate need of some maternal guidance. Their eyes locked, their tails wagged in unison, and in that moment they both discovered exactly what had been missing from their lives. Each other.

While Duncan would go on to spend most of his life in New York, and Megan lived out all 14 of her years as an Ohio resident, the pair spent a significant amount of time together. My parents, who regularly traveled the I-90 corridor en route to visit my sister in the greater Boston area, would drop Megan off for days or sometimes even weeks at a time. She’d settle in to our menagerie with ease, somehow even co-existing peacefully with our cats in spite of her overtly murderous nature. Likewise, when we were scheduled for extensive travel, we’d make arrangements for my parents to care for Duncan. When we’d split them up after a long, or even a short visit both would spend the subsequent days pouting before eventually returning to their individual routines.

When Travis was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016 my parent’s asked if there was anything they could do. “Can you come get Duncan?” I asked, knowing that dealing with the impending chaos would be easier without worrying about our dog, and knowing that they’d be at our door step as fast as their Hyundai could carry them. Duncan would remain with them throughout much of the 28 months of Travis’ illness. Even during the periods where Travis enjoyed relatively good health it was nearly impossible to juggle constant medical appointments two hours away and properly care for a dog (especially one as spoiled as Dunc). He missed us, that was apparent each time he visited, but living with Megan was hardly a consolation prize, as he flourished with her by his side.

As the end of Travis’ life neared I let both of my parents know that I was going to need Duncan to help me get through the immediate aftermath of losing my husband. I worried a bit that he wouldn’t come willingly, that he’d spent too much time bonding with Megan (not to mention bonding with my Dad’s running schedule, and my mom’s endless supply of dog snacks) to leave and return to a life with me and the cats. Much to my surprise and delight, he immediately fell into my routine (or lack there of). It may have had something to do with the fact that in those early days after Travis died I walked, a lot. I didn’t know what else to do so I just wandered. I’d grab Duncan’s leash and we’d just go. My step-counting app would read 6 miles, and I’d have no idea how it got there. Duncan was far from reluctant in helping me through this particular manifestation of grief that I was experiencing, he likewise had no trouble assisting me through the long naps that followed the long hikes. We were a good team.

Unfortunately, Megan didn’t fare so well. My parents reported that she didn’t want to take walks or really even leave the house. She was approaching 14 years old and with the large quantity of lumps distributed throughout her entire body she seemed, at that point, to be more cancer than dog. They feared her end was nigh and asked if they could bring her for a visit. Her visit would end up lasting the better part of three months as she suddenly perked up once Duncan was back in her life.

Her vision and hearing seemed to be significantly impaired, which explained her hesitance to take walks without Duncan by her side. He displayed an incredible amount of empathy and patience for his companion as she slowed down.  Our six mile days ended as Megan couldn’t quite keep up with that pace. Duncan didn’t seem to mind slowing down for her, adopting her schedule, and giving way to her needs. The dog who regularly stares me down at 6:00am, demanding that we walk now (right now!), was instead patiently waiting for Megan’s aching joints to wake up each morning, as shorter mid-day adventures became our new routine.

I was perfectly equipped to handle this sort of doggy-home-hospice situation, having just been through it with my own human companion. I was working mostly from home making me available to walk Meg whenever she was awake enough to go. I was occupying a house with which Megan was familiar, having spent the majority of her life there. And I was dealing with significant grief that included feeling a lack of purpose having spent the better part of three years providing care for a man who was no longer in need of anything from me.

Each day Megan seemed a bit slower, and a little less capable. But she was eating, drinking, playing and smiling so it seemed best to just let her live her life rather than providing any intervention. And then, on a warm Sunday evening in June, Duncan watched helplessly as the love of his life suddenly lost the ability to stand up on her own. Just hours before they’d hiked a solid two miles and danced in a river together, and now this. He stared at me, his eyes begging me to do something to fix her and make it better, while somehow knowing that there was nothing that could be done. He said goodbye in the same room where they’d first met nearly 11 years prior, and stood by quietly as my dad and I helped her into the back end of my Subaru for her last ride.

Duncan’s grief seemed to manifest itself in much the same way that mine had a few months prior, with a need to wander. We’d find a trail to hike and he’d insist on taking every side trail we encountered until the miles began to rack up. It was 7 miles that first day, 6 the next, we’d hit 8 on Wednesday that week. We’d get home from a walk, he’d nap for a few hours and then begin asking for another walk. How could I say no? Each time my parents visited he looked for Megan hoping she’d get out of their car. Instinctively he knew she wouldn’t be there, but he still looked, just in case.

A few weeks back a dog did emerge from their car. You see, while the options for finding reliable human companionship after you lose your life partner are few and far between (and sometimes creepy and terrifying), there are shelters and rescue organizations that can help you find new four-legged friends pretty quickly. They’re just there, waiting, wagging and wanting your love. And while they can never replace what we’ve lost, they seem to need us as much as we need them.

Ms. Halle Berry, my parent’s recently adopted awkward, gangly, chocolate lab/who the hell really knows mix, immediately locked eyes with Duncan and embraced him as the mentor she’d been waiting her whole short life to meet. Duncan’s greeting was less than enthusiastic, but not entirely unfriendly, and he’s even allowed himself to enjoy her company on occasion during their brief time together. He’s approached his relationship with this new recruit, in a manner similar to most of his other dog encounters. Duncan can be friends with other dogs on Duncan’s terms and when it’s convenient or desirable for Duncan. It’s often confusing for the other dog especially those for whom Duncan assigns the status of “outside friends,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Duncan’s “outside friends” are dogs that he will only play with outside, immediately ignoring and shunning them as soon as they step inside a building.

Halle is a wonderful companion and has started to fill in small pieces of the Megan-sized holes that were left in my parent’s hearts. She seems bound and determined to make Duncan fall in love with her, courting his affections in every way she can think including punching him, dropping toys on his head while he sleeps, chewing on his face, and body slamming him as she runs full force across the yard. Mostly he ignores her, occasionally acquiescing to her advances with something that resembles friendship. Unfortunately for Halle there’s just not much she can do to change Duncan’s opinion of her (although less face biting might help some). In Duncan’s mind there really are only two dogs who have existed in this world aside from himself – Megan, and everyone else. And thus she suffers from the same fatal flaw as every dog he’s ever met. She’s not Megan.

Duncan & Halle – 2019


She Already Knows

On my 33rd birthday I wrote an open letter to my 23 year old self discussing the crazy twists and turns my life had taken during the decade of time that had just passed. I woke up on my 35th birthday with a similar desire to write to 25 year old me, but just couldn’t bring myself to tell her what her (0ur) life looks like today. How do you tell someone who is just about to get engaged, buy a house, and land her dream job that exactly ten years from that day she’ll be single, unemployed, living in her childhood home, and checking virtually all of the boxes on the crazy cat lady score card? While I seem to be falling short on providing proper guidance to my younger self at the moment, there is no shortage of advice being sent my way. With plenty of wisdom to choose from I thought perhaps I could cobble together something for her (me) from the advice of others, but I wasn’t quite sure where to begin.

I could start with the friend of a friend who told me that she was “a mess when her husband left her” but that she “reclaimed her life” by doing all of the things she couldn’t do when they were together. Even though my husband didn’t exactly leave but rather died, I put her advice into action and tried to think of things that the confines of my marriage had prevented me from doing. All I could come up with, however, was watching movies with Ashton Kutcher in them and wearing colorful pants. Travis and I were so insanely compatible that those are literally the only two things I could think of that he despised, that I might actually like. And after perusing the Kutcher compendium on Netflix and browsing the vast world of floral leggings available in online stores, I’ve come to the conclusion that he may have actually been saving me from myself with these two very reasonable deal-breakers.

There was also the more practically focused advice from the 91 year old widow who cornered me after a church service and recommended that I invest in a life alert button since I’m “all alone now and could fall and be on the floor for days before anyone knew.” While being seen as a peer by a nonagenarian could be a shock to 25 year old me’s system, at least then she’d know that she’s not alone in all of this. My new friend had further offered to help me gain residence in her retirement community, but I had to stop short of filling out the application when she told me I wasn’t actually eligible to live there until I was 55. Perhaps someday 65 year old me will be able to reach 55 year old me and let us all know if this gels with our future plans.

Of course I also need to consider the potential impact on the cosmos if one of these letters were to somehow actually reach her (me). I’m not exactly sure how time travel works, but I’ve read enough science fiction to know that confronting one’s younger self with bad news is a recipe for disaster in the form of disrupted timelines and alternate realities. 25 year old me was a real go-getter. Who knows what calamities she’d inadvertently set off in pursuit of changing her fate. Worse yet, what moments of joy she may have caused us to miss as she sought to avoid her (our) own sorrow.

No, it’s better not to try and reach her. It’s better not to warn her of the things that lie ahead. After all, she already knows everything she needs to know to get through what’s to come. She knows she loves Travis and that being his wife is something she both wants and feels called to do. But she also knows that he’s not her better half (and she is not his). She knows that considering herself to be only a fraction of a person in need of finding her missing piece is at best a tired fairy tale, and at worst a socially imposed mandate that makes those living a life without a partner feel somehow incomplete. She absolutely loves the life they’re building together, but she knows that what makes their relationship work is that they are both entirely whole people who don’t complete, but rather compliment each other extremely well. She already knows that if she is ever without him she will miss him terribly, but that she can indeed go on without him because she’s strong and will only become stronger with the love and support he’ll provide during the years she has him by her side. 35 year old me may require constant reminders of all of this, but 25 year old me is a lot smarter than she (I) thinks (thought). She already knows.