A Shot of Love

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E! News Anchor, Guilana Rancic, recently came under the fire for saying she puts her marriage before her baby. It is hard for some to believe that a new mother would entertain the notion of putting anyone or anything before her child. I have to say I completely agree with her. The best gift Anthony and I can give our daughter, is a strong healthy marriage. I want Mary-Isabella to know what a healthy love relationship looks like.

The controversary over Rancic’s statements reminded me that Anthony and I were beginning to neglect our relationship. Since Mary-Isabella’s arrival, we haven’t wanted to take anytime away from her. After nearly 5 months of hibernation, it was time for us to take some much-needed time for us. I took off, so we could plan to spend the entire day together during his Spring break. I arranged for my inlaws to keep Mary-Isabella all day and night.

We couldn’t have chosen a better day as the weather was beautiful. It was like the old days, we didn’t an agenda or time constraints. It felt great reconnecting with Anthony. My husband is the funniest, smartest and caring (despite what he wants you know). We laughed, talked and enjoyed doing what we do.

I absolutely loved every minute of it. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments where we missed our precious baby girl.

My husband enjoys firearms, so we ended our night with a trek to the gun range. I’ve never shot a gun, so I was a little nervous to say the least. I knew it was important to him, so I open myself up to it.

While I’m terrible at shooting the targets, taking the time out to do something he likes was the shot of love we needed. I really hope we are able to find ways and time to invest in our marriage and one another.

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How We Met

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All things considering, I have a great life. I’m married to the love of my life, James. We live in Memphis and we are the new parents of Mary-Isabella and a Shih Tzu, Riley. We have a solid support system in our parents and friends. Our story started four years ago.

Looking back, I began to doubt I would ever be a wife, a mother and at the very least, a pet owner. Just five years ago, I was married to my work and emotionally drained after ending an unsuccessful attempt at reconciliation with my ex-husband.

TIme passed and like most people, I was living what little social life I had on social media. I joined an alumni ning site and Facebook. I received a FB friend request from James. He later admitted he noticed me on the ning site. While I didn’t know him personally, I accepted him as a friend because we had a lot of mutual college friends. He says (I don’t remember) he began to comment on all of my posts. He said I never commented. I think I remember commenting once or twice. Nonetheless, we finally connected on the day he declared was going to be his last post. I invited him to join me at a work event. He turned me down because he said he had to teach Sunday school the next day. I was immediately impressed that he was teaching Sunday school. we exchanged inbox messages for several weeks. During that time, he would post YouTube music videos dedicated to me. He would let me know I was on his mind. He was/is one of the most loving people I know.

June 11, 2009 – we went on our first date to Bahamas Breeze. I remember it vividly. We met there. He was already seated when I arrived. As I approached the table, he stood and pulled out my chair. I remember thinking this was such a warm and kind gesture. He was wearing the floral print shirt. I was a nervous wreck as I had never met someone from social media out on a date. I immediately ordered a cocktail to calm my nerves. He put me at ease with his wit and intellect. He presented me with a gift bag (red and white – my sorority colors). I opened the gift to find a bottle of Bear Rabbit syrup. In an earlier conversation, I mentioned I couldn’t find that particular syrup in Memphis and how much I enjoyed it. So, you know, I was impressed that he remembered.

This is how our story began …

TeamSpraggins Love Story

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During our first date at Bahamas Breeze, I explained to James (aka Anthony) that I wasn’t dating recreationally. I felt strongly God was going to answer my prayer to be a wife and a mother. At the age of 36, I felt I had nothing to lose by being transparent. I expected him to end our date and to never hear from him again. Quite the contrary, he said he had a similar prayer of marriage and parenthood. He asked God to send him a wife.

Within days of our first date, we began dating exclusively. It was a whirlwind relationship. We both knew he had something so special. Anthony was so transparent about his past, feelings and his intentions. He shared things and past relationships that would’ve scared me ordinarily. Our past couldn’t have been more different. I felt such a sense of peace and purpose I had never experienced in my life. I clearly heard God’s call to be Anthony’s wife. Within 4 months, we were engaged.

While his family immediately embraced our relationship, my parents and my pastor (also my boss at the time) were very skeptical. As an admitted people pleaser, this was one of the few times I did what made me happy despite others’ opinions. I was so sure that I was ready to do whatever I needed to do to be with Anthony; including potentially alienating my parents and my boss. Our closest friends were very supportive. In September, we celebrated our engagement at the Cove, a quaint bar in the Broad Avenue Arts District. The Cove was also the place, Anthony and I shared a public kiss and he bared his heart. The Cove will always hold a special place in my heart.

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While my parents were skeptical, my maternal grandmother, Mary Gavin, was so warm and accepting of Anthony and our relationship. She immediately took to him. I think it was partially because he shared my grandfather's name, James. I also think it was because she could see how much he loved me. His gifts of perfume – what she affectionately called, "smell good", could have also had something to do with it. Nonetheless, they both grew to love each other.

We moved forward with our wedding plans despite my parents’ objections. It was until my mother helped to convince my father to participate in a family dinner with Anthony’s parents in Grenada that my Dad began to warm up to the idea. It also helped that Anthony extended the olive branch. Once, this happened, I felt like I fully plan and involve my parents’ in the planning. It was also important that my pastor accepted our relationship. Anthony moved his lifelong membership from Metropolitan Baptist Church to my church. We also went through pre-marital counseling with the pastor. Through those sessions, our pastor began to see Anthony’s intelligence, passion, and love for me. He gave us his blessing.

He married us Wednesday, June 16, 2010 in an intimate ceremony with a few friends and family members.

Desperately Seeking A Baby

From the moment, we returned from our honeymoon, we began trying to conceive.   I felt time wasn’t on our side as I was 37 and he was 43.  In anticipation of trying to conceive, I stopped taking birth control six months before our wedding.  By December 2010, we hadn’t conceived, so I went to a fertility specialist.  After a battery of tests, I was diagnosed with fibroid and cysts.  I underwent surgery to remove them in January 2011.  He said I was healthy and should have no problem conceiving.  We were elated.

With every month and menstrual cycle that passed, I grew more and more anxious. We had so many false positives or late cycles. It was torture. I would get depressed every month with my cycle.  I returned to the specialist who ran tests and said we were still able to conceive.  A year had passed since the surgery, we still hadn’t conceived. I went through a range of emotions. It slightest mention of a baby or something on TV would send me into a depressive mood. To top it off, it seemed as if more and more of our friends were conceiving. While I was happy for them, I would become sad for us. I really began to question God. I felt as if I was only woman going through it.  I felt as if no person could relate. The person closest to understanding was Anthony.  My husband was so patient and understanding.  He was a rock. 

Anthony encouraged me to consider adoption. He said we could love a baby and didn’t matter if we conceived it. I took me a while to warm up to the idea. In fact, during a counseling session with my pastor, he told me God had revealed to him that we would adopt.  After extensive research and contacting agencies, I learned adoption is very expensive and more than we could afford. At the same time, Anthony was laid off from his job after almost 20 years of service. I grew more depressed.

During a hospital visit with my maternal grandmother, Mary, I sat with her and shared my fears about infertility and marriage.  She told me that I have to ask God what kind of wife and mother He was calling me to be. I didn’t understand. She said that I couldn’t continue to be married to my work and my husband. She cautioned me about my priorities. She said I was asking God to bless me with something I wasn’t ready to receive or handle. She said I couldn’t be the type of mother God had for me if I wasn’t ready to make sacrifices. She encouraged me to continue to pursue adoption. I did as she instructed and prayed for God’s voice and will.  Shortly after, that visit, my grandmother’s health took a turn for worst.

In the fall of 2011, my college roommate and sorority sister, called to tell me she was pregnant.  She said, while it was unexpected and unplanned, she was happy.  We hadn’t spoken in years, but we reconnected. She shared her fears for her unborn child and her relationship woes. I shared my fears about not being able to conceive.  We were a sounding board for each other. It was what I needed. As months passed, I helped to plan her baby shower and was there in the hospital the day she delivered. She welcomed a healthy baby boy in the spring of 2012.

Just as my grandmother shared, God began revealing His will for my life. He showed me I had put work before Him, my family and Anthony. I felt a sense of urgency to make things right.  Unfortunately, my grandmother’s health continued to decline. The day after my grandmother’s death, I had my first phone interview with a new company. Several weeks later, I accepted a new position that afforded me more of a work-life-balance. I finally able to be the wife I always wanted to be. We were able to have dinners and date nights without interruptions.  Things were finally put in proper order; God, my husband, family and then work. Just as we are were feeling hopeful, we handed another setback as Anthony suffered a knee injury and had to undergo surgery requiring months of recuperation.  

I resigned myself that motherhood may not happen for me, at least not in the near future. I joined The Junior League of Memphis to fill the void and to possibly help other people; especially children. October 12, 2012 – I received the call of a lifetime. My sorority sister, who I had reconnected with, called to say she knew a couple who were looking for a couple to adopt their day-old baby. I couldn’t believe what she was saying. We called my husband on three-way. He was understandably skeptical. My friend said she would investigate more.  She called within minutes to say she spoke with the birth father and birth mother and was confident it was legit. I dropped everything and rushed home to meet Anthony. While reluctant, he drove me to the hospital.  The moment we walked in the room and I saw the baby, I knew she was mine.

 

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