Wedding Graduates Return: Morgan and David

I’m not going to lie to you. Today’s post makes me cry every time I read it. Morgan has been around APW a long time. She was the first person brave enough to write about getting married right after a parent’s death, and her joke with me is that she basically OWNS the hard stuff chapter of the APW Book. So it was important for her to come back and write this piece about how after surviving the unimaginable, she and her husband David have somehow fought their way through to happiness. Morgan was the inspiration for all the posts about what happens on the other side of the really really hard parts this week, and I’m so honored to share her story with you.

The year before the wedding was so hard that it only makes sense that everything since has felt so easy. My dad was diagnosed with—then died of—cancer, David was unemployed for eight months, my mother was challenging, my cousin died two weeks after the wedding, and my already stressful yet boring job became almost comically awful. (I’d tell you about it, but for that HR gag order…) How could all that has followed not have been easier?

The hard stuff got better. The grief over my dad has leveled to a dull ache with moments of raw grief. David switched to a similar job in his industry with a stable company for a substantial raise. My mother turned sixty, calmed down, lost thirty pounds and found new happiness. She is so much less negative now and it’s proof, I guess, that sometimes people do change and that I was right to distance myself from her but not to close my heart. She’s still who she is and critical, but she’s not mean anymore, and that’s more than I could have hoped for two years ago.

I left my terrible job for a lateral-on-paper move within the company that’s been excellent for me, and I have just been promoted from admin assistant to engineering technician. I left my twenties behind with a surprise birthday party planned by my husband and best friend that involved party hats and goody bags and I couldn’t be happier to be thirty.

When I think back over the last year and half, I’m flooded with so many happy memories. Eating decadent Pierre Hermes treats in a park in Paris, going to a hockey game in Prague, curling up on our fancy leather couch in the basement to watch movies, and handing David a pregnancy test with good news. There have been so many happy things—days, trips, and special moments.

In my mind, the last twenty-three months have been a breeze. But the real world is more complicated, of course. I had bleeding blisters on my feet from all the walking in Paris—at the very beginning of a three and a half week wander around Europe, so I ended up limping across the Continent. We hated Prague so much that whenever we have to do something we don’t want to do, one of us turns to the other and says, “At least we’re not in fucking Prague” and then we fist bump. The basement flooded in May and insurance in Canada doesn’t cover “seepage,” so we had to do a five figure renovation without warning. Because it was all out of pocket, we couldn’t really afford to pay anyone and did 90% of the work ourselves. All while I was in the middle of first trimester exhaustion. Even the baby news wasn’t wholly uncomplicated. I had an early miscarriage a few months before this pregnancy and so we spent the first trimester waiting for something to go wrong. I don’t think I fully believed that it was happening until we had the first ultrasound at 13 weeks and saw little Skipper flailing away (nicknamed after the Madagascar commando penguin). I’m still having trouble processing the fact that we’ve like, created human life and that in March, we’ll bring home a person.

Before the wedding, I kind of worried that I might regret not spending more to have a more typical reception. You know what? Not for one damned second. We knew that we could have an average priced wedding in our area, or a cheap wedding, a nice leather couch and three-plus weeks in Europe a few months later. The wedding, couch, and trip were/are all completely awesome.

We spend most of our disposable income on travel, and I’ve taken seven vacations since we got married, to eight countries, including nine American states. We’ve travelled together and separately with friends. Even with travel pretty much at the very top of our priority list and the use of most of our disposable income, I still feel lucky to have seen and done so much. The wedding, in some ways, allowed us to solidify our values and live our lives according to what we both want. Our money goes to savings and mortgage, travel, improving our house, hockey tickets, and food, in about that order. Would we have come to that, without a wedding? I’m sure we would have, but the conversations about weddings and marriage, before and after the wedding, helped us get there faster.

Being married has made me braver. I spent six years in a job that was increasingly bad for me, but I don’t know if I would have the courage to leave without David supporting me. He may not have left his old job for this one without me pushing him in return. We make each other better, braver, happier people and I’m so grateful on a daily basis that I get to be married to him.

There are challenges ahead, but I have faith that together we will make it work. One of the big ones is that because I’m Canadian, I get a year of parental leave, so while David will work full time and bring home a full time salary, I will keep a small person alive full time and collect employment insurance. (Thank you so-called “socialism!” I will happily pay taxes for these rights.) We’re going to have to figure out a new balance while learning to raise a baby. We’re going to have to do it on less money, with less travel, on far, far less sleep. But we’ll do it, and if there’s one thing that our years with each other have taught me, it’s that we’re an excellent team and can hopefully deal with whatever else life throws at us—together.

Photos from Morgan and David’s personal collection, all taken by David

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  • mimi

    Congrats on the baby! So glad to hear that things have improved for you!

  • Sara C.

    I’m crying too! And can I just say – in that last picture you look absolutely beautiful! So happy for you :-).

  • These follow up posts are so important – because they prove that the story doesn’t end in the hard/dark place. I remember telling a friend going through a hard time that in 1 year from that point, she’d be able to look back and see how things ended up working out. That’s the hardest bit of perspective to apply to your own life though. Right now, we’re in the midst of a sad/hard/dark time and 6 months, 1 year, 2 years from now seem too far to hold on. I have some holding on fatigue. But this, encouraged me because it’s a testimony of life and spirit. Thanks!

  • Congratulations on all of it — the job, the travel, the baby and mat leave!

  • SJG

    Hearty congratulations to you – I’m so envious of your ability to travel with your husband and friends! We’re expecting our first baby, too (due in June), and our limited disposable income is rather focused on saving for a new rental deposit and hospital bills and a self-funded maternity leave. I can only hope to one day be able to travel with our new little family!

    Best wishes to you, and I’m so glad to hear that all is well in your neck of the woods.

    • meg

      Ah, but the point is you pull through the hard bits, and there is hope. If Morgan can pull through what she pulled through, then holy hell. That is hope in it’s most tangible form.

      Class of 1980, our brillant regular (older than the rest of us) commenter always says, “I hope people are not envious of the good things I have, because they wouldn’t have wanted all the really hard parts of my life.” I can’t imagine living through what Morgan lived through, so I don’t begrudge her even the tiniest bit of joy, or travel, or any of that. And there is such freedom when we stop envying each other and start just APPRECIATING each other, you know?

      • Well gee. I was ALMOST not crying. THANKS Meg. ;)

  • Becca

    Awesome post! And I am SO glad someone else hates Prague as much as I did!!!

    • Really? Why is this? I thought Prague was awesome. Was only there for a few days, and I stayed with a friend so never dealt with a hotel or hostel, but the hills, the parks, the castle, the super old buildings, the hilarious museum of communism? what’s not to like?

      • David calls it the Edmonton of Europe, complete with mullets and weird 80s clothing. (Sorry, Canuck joke.)

        But it was more the people. And that they took this lovely old European town and gutted the first floor of every building in the historical core to put in a shop selling the same tacky crap as the next store. After France, Belgium and Germany, we found the people to be so very rude in comparison, and the fact the whole country chain smoked didn’t endear me. (What with my dad dying of lung cancer, I’m pretty militant against cigarettes.) The food wasn’t great. It was the only part of our trip where it felt like were actively trying to scam us because we were tourists. Also, the way communism history and current capitalism interact, while interesting, got old fast.

        It was pretty, though, so there is that.

        • That’s funny! I loved Prague – I’m from Saskatoon and in a weird way (maybe all the bridges) it reminded me a bit of Saskatoon! I went on a school trip with a native Czech prof though, so he showed us more of the non-touristy areas. I do agree that the tacky tourism crap next to the historical stuff was off-putting.

        • You know, we looooved Prague. We talk about it with such fond memories. But looking back, our exposure to the city was in the form of a 3 hour walking tour– otherwise, we ended up mostly hanging out with our host family we found through couchsurfing. They are international activists, and had a 10 month old son at the time, and they had endless stories and phenomenal food to share. We cooked meals with them, watched movies, and learned about each others’ cultures. We could have done that anywhere, but because it happened in Prague, we have a special attachment to the place. :)

          So glad you’re through your rough (understatement of the year) patch. You look so deeply, gloriously happy in your pictures, and I wish you nothing but the best. Thanks for sharing your story!

          • K

            I once spent an afternoon in Prague with my then-boyfriend on the banks of the Charles River drinking horrible rotgut vodka with a bunch of shirtless tattooed guys that I sort of assumed were dock workers. We were just walking down the river and they gestured for us to join them. We passed most of the time singing “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” over and over again. Bizarrely, it seemed to be the only English any of them knew, except for the words “I love you,” which one guy said to me after showing me, no kidding, his groin tattoo. It remains a fond memory fifteen years later, surpassed only by the time we got dropped off in the middle of the night in Central Turkey in a town we had not bought a ticket for and then were rescued by a night security guard who took us back to what appeared to be an abandoned cement factory that he was guarding to sleep on rolled up carpets. I love travelling; the strangest things happen.

      • Okay, I do admit I LOVED the museum of communism. It did almost redeem the whole city. Almost.

        • My husband and I have almost the same catch line when things go wrong- “At least we’re not stuck in (insert expletive here) Baltimore.”

          That line made me belly laugh. So happy for you, Morgan. You’re one hot momma-to-be.

    • My boyfriend and I didn’t hate Prague, but we didn’t really like it either! After all the hype it disappointed us a bit. We looooved Fribourg (Switzerland) which was a last minute addition to our road trip though!

      • MDBethann

        I find your assessments of Prague interesting. A few years ago, when I planned my trip to Bratislava & Vienna, I had a bunch of grad school classmates telling me “No no no, you HAVE to go to Prague! It is so much better.” I still haven’t been to Prague, but I LOVED Vienna & Bratislava, and probably Bratislava the most b/c what was left of the historic, non-Communist part of town was completely restored and pedestrian only, so it was lovely to wander and it wasn’t touristy. Most people I met couldn’t seem to figure out why an American would want to visit Bratislava. The coolest part was, my hotel was a boat (botel) on the Danube. Sounds like I made the right decision. And I highly recommend Bratislava, even if just for a day or two while visiting Vienna or Budapest. (sorry for the tangent!)

        • Trips are such personal experiences, aren’t they?

        • I don’t know why, but we didn’t have a great experience. It started with a less-than-polite worker at the outer-limits city parking (we were on a road trip and had looked up a program that’s P+R, Park+Rive, that encourages people to leave their car outside the city and ride the subway/bus downtown). Everyone we talked to was so… grumpy.
          Our hotel was great though – the staff there was awesome!

  • Zeph

    I was so touched by your honesty and your courage when I read that chapter of the book. It is wonderful to see that things are looking up for you and yours. As predicted, this post did make me tear up…the last few paragraphs about marriage making you stronger and braver….perfect. Thank you for sharing and congratulations to both of you on the baby!

  • melissa

    Congrats on everything and especially the baby! A year?! I’m so jealous. If that’s socialism, sign me up. It just sounds civilized to me.

    I too would like to make travel a priority, but time seems to be the issue. Not enough vacation time in this bastion of freedom.

    • meg

      Ha. Right? Freedom’s just another word for always having to work.

      • DKR

        I got a really good look at that when I went to Italy on a brief study abroad. Here in the States, we live to work. Italians work to live, and the difference was startling.

        • I’d argue that at least in my part of Canada, it’s work to live, and it IS different than what I read about in America. It certainly looks like a core difference between us, and it runs deep and affects the culture on all sorts of different levels.

          • I think it depends on the industry too. I work in mining and refining (in Canada) and I’ve met a ton of “live to work” people. It may have something to do with the massive salaries available if you put in the time and dedication…

          • True. But I do work in head office Oil and Gas, where I would expect it, and see surprisingly little. Bay Street in Toronto? I expect that’s a totally different universe than mine, where every second Friday off is now industry standard.

  • Carrie

    Congrats on the tiny human and on finding so much happy after such a tough time. I’m smiling huge as I sit in the airport. Also, you have just helped me drop Prague from David’s and my European trip this summer…I was waffling. But I am going to look at this as a bit of destiny. Much love and luck to you guys and the baby!

    • MDBethann

      Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. Definitely Budapest. The baths are awesome and the food in all 3 cities is great.

  • I’m so happy for you two. Your wedding grad post was one of the most touching I’ve ever read, and I cried through the whole thing. I’m so glad things are looking up in your life.

  • angela

    oh man, i want to move to canada.

  • J.

    Canadians get a whole year of maternity leave? That’s amazing.

    • Darcy

      It’s not all sprinkles and unicorns but it is amazing. You get 52% of your income for 50 weeks (and a two week waiting period with no money). The birth mom gets (depending on your province) about 17 weeks and the remainder can be taken by either parent.

      • meg

        Cough. You realize that IS SPRINKLES AND UNICORNS right? We get nothing. Zip. The right to take six weeks without pay.

        • LBD

          12 weeks, though a couple of states have additional benefits on top. And this all assumes you work for a company that has at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius (I can’t imagine it’s not easy to exploit THAT one). Otherwise you are SOL, and have absolutely no right to family leave whatsoever.

          If you look at this wikipedia entry, you can see how ridiculously behind we are pretty much every single country in the world. I’m not just talking first-world countries here.

          It’s something that fills me with a lot of fury, particularly having worked for a less-than-50 company until recently. They are exempt from a lot of labor protections I always took for granted, it turns out.

        • Lauren

          Really? Only six weeks? Holy hell. In Australia, we only get 18 weeks paid at minimum wage, but we do have the right to a year off without pay. And we are up in arms about being behind.

      • Kimberly

        I would run a marathon in order to have just the 17 weeks with half my pay! I’m on Unplanned Baby #3–I’m prolific, what can I say?–and am dreading having only 6 weeks. It’s barely enough time to heal and wrap your brain around the idea of a baby. We’re actually considering having me stay home and be poor for a while so we can be rich as a family. So yes, SPRINKLES AND UNICORNS AND A CHERRY ON TOP. You Canadians are very, very fortunate.

        (I’d pay higher taxes to have more time off with my babies, too!)

  • Autumn A.

    All of your posts have moved me so much. I read your story in the “Hard Stuff” chapter in Meg’s book and bawled at 2 a.m. (I started at 11 p.m. and read through the night). My mom died last year, and both of my partner’s parents passed before we met. It’s so wonderful to have someone talk about the hard stuff that I feel so often gets covered up by shiny, pretty things with wedding planning.

    I’m so happy to hear of the joyful (and still challenging) turns your life has taken with David. I admire all of your travel adventures and hope to emulate them! (Also, I’m 1/4 Canadian, my grandmother is from Vancouver Island, so I feel a special love for all things from north of the U.S.)

    Thanks for sharing your stories, the good, the bad, the painful, and the lovely.

  • If Meg doesn’t mind me soap-boxing for just a second, I can talk about the year parental leave. Yes, it is a year, and can be split between parents. Yes, you get to collect money from the government the whole time, and you are guaranteed by law an equivalent job when you go back to work at your company.

    But it’s not free. I’ve been paying in to EI since I started working, to a max of $800/year, based on income. Which my employer matches. Likewise my husband, and his employers. So, we’ve basically already paid my mat leave off, based on some back of envelope math. Collectively, between our taxes and our companies’ taxes (based on money we helped them earn), we’ve paid $38k in to the EI system, and I’ll get $25k out for the year. Even ignoring corporate contributions, he and I have paid almost $20k in to the system already. In some ways, you can think of it as a long term savings safety net. I pay in to it for the good of everyone, and when I need it, it gives me money.

    Also, let’s be honest. It’s a hell of a lot easier to pay in to a system over your lifetime than to try and save up $25k yourself by the time you’re ready to have kids.

    Oh, and due to having a working health care system, having a baby in a hospital only costs you, um, parking fees. Maternity care is “free” in the same way as EI. Everyone pays taxes and when you need these services, they don’t cost you out of pocket.

    Sorry, I’ll step off my red and white soap box now.

    • K

      No, don’t be sorry, Morgan. I live in Seattle and have lots of Candian friends both north and south of the border, and what we tend to forget sometimes is that with your fabulous health care system etc. you also pay way higher taxes than we do. It’s not quite the same as “free.”

      • Taxes are high here. Again, back of envelope stuff from here ( mean that if you make less than 39k in Ontario, your federal and provincial tax rate is 20%. And that’s the lowest for anyone in the country. If you make more than 150k in Nova Scotia, it’s taxed at 50% on any income over 150k. (It’s actually super complicated with different amounts being taxed different rates, so a raise doesn’t put you in a whole new tax category except for the money above the specific tax bracket. Sorry, I used to do personal income taxes as a part time job.)

        The internet suggests that America tops out at 35%, and you need to make WAY more money to pay that in Canada. It looks like I’d pay 25% in America, and I pay 32% in Canada.

        Wait, fuck. Seriously? I thought you guys paid so much less tax and that’s the difference. That’s not that big a difference. And I get health care and maternity leave and a social security net? *mind actually blown.* I had NO idea that it was so close. On my salary, that’s less than 5k a year difference, ignoring deductions.

        I am actually sitting here checking the math with my jaw dropped.

        • Edelweiss

          And add to that the fact Social Security money isn’t going to be there when most of our generation needs it. Those of us lucky enough to have employer health plans are also taking an additional, steep, paycheck deduction then.

          Not to turn this into a political discussion, but it feels like the Canadian government is doing something else besides just pre-emptive taxing to be able to provide those advantages. It kinda makes me want to take a class and write a paper on it.

    • Please don’t apologize. I have never heard it explained so clearly or succinctly before. It makes so much sensed – I wish the US could figure out something like that. But we’re too busy paying for a war that’s none of our business… *cough cough*

    • Thank you! That’s a huge peeve of mine. Our services in Canada are NOT free. Americans could have them too… if they paid taxes accordingly.

      • And, see my comparasion math above, direct their money towards social programs instead of what it goes to now…

  • ah I love this Morgan. I’ve already said again and again in these comments how much you helped us when we lost Mike’s mom the week before our wedding, how your words from your posts pushed us forward and gave us hope. And now this. Amazing. Beautiful. So happy for you two (soon to be three!). Sometimes it feels like it will always be this way, things just keep coming at us to try and break us down, but I know there’s the other side. And you writing here just proves it. That last photo of you is just the happiest thing. Thanks for this.

  • Anne

    Ah, so happy for the two of you. I love hearing about wedding graduates are doing :)

  • “She is so much less negative now and it’s proof, I guess, that sometimes people do change and that I was right to distance myself from her but not to close my heart.”

    I’m in this, right now. Your proof gives me new hope.

  • LBD

    I totally skipped right for the hard stuff chapter when I got the book. I am always relieved to hear about how life has gone on, and gotten better, as my own wedding stirred up a lot of Hard Stuff for me, as I have an abusive mother. These are my favorite posts.

    Also I am totally in awe of you guys redoing your basement on your own. I want to learn to be able to do that kind of stuff for our house, but have no idea how to begin. Totally whoa.


  • Edelweiss

    I love this post. Coming from a hard childhood, I’m realizing I’ve been gifted with a perspective that lets me focus more on my blessings than my hardships (I’d whine about the blisters across Europe, but not become consumed by then).

    I think everyone has truly awful times in their lives, and I’m becoming grateful that some of mine came early. I’m sure your marriage has gained strength from your early hardships that helps you treasure watching movies on your couch more and dwell on the basement flood less.

    You wrote the feelings I wish my close friends in terrible times could realize might be in their future.


    Distancing self w/out closing heart . . . words of wisdom regardless of situation, from a lady who knows. THANK YOU

  • Tamara Van Horn

    Not Safe For Bus…I had to hold in the blubbering! Good on ya, Morgan…good on ya.

  • Jamie

    My fiance’s father passed away just before we began dating. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind and now we are engaged, planning a wedding, and the one year anniversary of his father’s death is looming closer. I always feel like he is my rock, and I don’t necessarily know how to be one for him. I wish I could do more. Anyway, this didn’t make me cry, it made me feel hopeful that he and I will find our way together to the same beautiful place you have found with your family. Cheers!

  • I’m really, really happy for you. You deserve every bit of happiness that is coming your way :)

  • Moz

    Morgan I am so happy for you guys. I am sorry about the miscarriage and still sorry about your dad and so glad that things with your mum are better.

    All the best as you keep on keeping on. Come back and tell us about being a mum.

  • Congrats congrats congrats!!! It’s so wonderful to see (and hear) that little heart beat after a loss!!!!

  • MWK

    “At least we’re not in fucking Prague!” BEST. EVER.

  • sarah

    Okay, so this has very little to do with your actual post (which was lovely, by the way, and CONGRATULATIONS on getting through all that hard stuff and on the baby!), but. The B and I live in the CZ, in Brno, and we pretty often turn to each other and say, “Well, it could be worse: we could be in Prague.” So your line about Prague absolutely made me guffaw. Guffaw! Thanks!

  • So glad to hear you’re in a much better place. And someone already mentioned it, but you’re positively beaming in the photos . . . love it. Best wishes for a smooth labo(u)r and delivery.