We’re buckled up to this season and ready to roll. And I can’t help thinking about a friend of ours driving to visit us for the first time.
“It was dark,” he began. “I was riding along at a pretty good clip. No hazards, no cause for concern.
‘Until there was. Until I hit a bump and went airborne, headlights skyward, road falling away…. All I could do was pray and shout, “HERE WE GO!”
My friend’s story feels like the perfect metaphor for every football season. We football families strap ourselves in and get ready for this ride of our lives.
We think we’re ready for anything.
We meal prep and mentally prep and lay out kids’ clothes for the week. We load game bags, and wine cabinets, and schedules on Google calendar to share with husbands. We set reminders, too. Lots and lots and lots of reminders. Daily, hourly, minute-by-minute reminders.
But no matter how many times we’ve been down this road, no matter how prepared we think we are, no matter how many calendars and frozen dinners and and bottles of wine, something will go wrong. Something always goes wrong.
Some unknown, unpredictable speed bump comes out of nowhere and sends us airborne. Our eyes must turn skyward as the road falls away and we shout, “HERE WE GO!!!”
It never fails.
But neither does God. It’s not us in total control, no matter what we think. That belongs to God.
Life is hard. And the football life is harder than hard.
But football families can do hard things… With our best-laid plans and God in control, we can do harder than hard things. We can do this football life.
Six years ago last week, Mike and I announced we were pregnant with twins. It was football season, and it was an IVF pregnancy. We’d been practicing safe shots at halftime in random field houses and between parked buses for half the regular season. It was not an easy place to be, but it was definitely a blessed place to be, so we savored and celebrated each and every needle poke in my hindquarters.
After trying for over a year to get pregnant (and knowing at my age it was unlikely without intervention), we’d visited a fertility specialist earlier that spring. Naively, I’d thought we’d start the in-vitro process my next cycle. That way, if all went according to plan, we would be well past the exhaustion, hormone injections, and morning sickness of a first-trimester IVF pregnancy once football season began.
Boy, was I naive.
First off, I was 47. Which meant my cycle was far from predictable, even if it had all been up to me and my eggs… which it wasn’t.
My doc kindly informed me my eggs were dinosaurs and he didn’t do Jurassic fertility. So I would be using donor eggs… and an online site to find our match. Kind of like eHarmony, but for couples looking for open, available ovaries.
Second, IVF takes months to prep and plan for. Months. The game plan is exact and exacting, requiring lots of perfectly-orchestrated moving parts. Her ovaries, my uterus, Mike’s swimmers. This was a team effort. And there was no hurry-up offense.
The process was complicated, timely, expensive, and painstaking. But once we found our donor (anonymously), her ovaries were hyper-stimulated, my uterus was prepped, a couple balls were bobbled (wink wink), and… SCORE! (times two!)
And that’s when the really hard part began on my end. My rear end, that is.
We’re talking needles. Lots of them. And vaginal suppositories. And pills. And time. Lots and lots of time. It was quite the process. All in the midst of football season — our embryo transfer happened scrimmage week.
The nightly shots to my booty were a real pain in my end zone. There was a sharpie-circled bulls eye on each cheek, where Mike took aim. (He’d asked the nurse to draw them during week one, and he’d redraw them every couple days as they began to fade. He didn’t want to miss. My booty is plenty big. There’s no way he would’ve missed.) Those shots bruised and burned and gave me an itchy allergic reaction. My ass was hotter than an August-in-Georgia kickoff. And not in a good way.
And because I had to receive those shots as close to the same time every single night for ten weeks or so, they became an even bigger pain on Friday nights. So we arranged for them to fall between 8:30 and 9:00 pm. Because… halftime.
Away games were hard. At home, I got poked in the floor of my husband’s office on a jacket he chivalrously laid over the spongy, decades-old carpet. But away games…
Away games, Mike would scope out the joint, pregame, looking for a hopefully private (sometimes not-so-much) place for me to drop my drawers so he could thrust a needle into my angry, sharpie-circled buttocks.
I got poked on a striped sofa in an Athletic Director’s office.
I got poked in a dark hallway outside a gym within audible distance of the opposing team’s halftime harangue.
I got poked in the back of a Kia Soul, my legs at a cramped, contorted angle while a sweaty linebacker hunted for his mouth guard in the parking lot nearby. Thank God he knew nothing about the shenanigans a mere ten yards away…
I got poked in the arse so many times, and in so many weird and far-from-wonderful locations, that it’s easy to lose track.
I was a pincushion. But I was pregnant pincushion, so I wasn’t complaining.
Beyond the shots, were the oral medications and vaginal suppositories that turned my undies periwinkle if I forgot my pantie liners. Which I did. A lot. My mind was all floaty and fuzzy from the chemical cocktails doing their job.
There were some days when all of the hormones got to me and I cried. Who am I kidding? They got to me all the time. I cried all the cries, all the time.
I cried on touchdown runs. I cried on Publix commercials. I once cried when I cleaned the ceiling fan and clumpy caterpillars of dust dropped from the blades onto my freshly-washed duvet.
But I really, REALLY cried during the band’s playing of Amazing Grace after every home game. Because the reality of God’s gracious favor hit me like a hurricane every single time.
This pregnancy was happening. This was real. And this was all God. I couldn’t take credit. Nor could my husband or my good doctor.
God kept us pregnant through dehydration and preeclampsia and advanced maternal age and hospital runs at midnight and a fortnight of sleeping with ice packs on my chest when it felt like my little linemen were splitting my sternum like a wishbone formation.
So I cried all the cries all the time because I knew and believed in God’s perfect timing.
I was 41 when I met the most amazing football coach. I was 46 when that coach finally threw me a Hail Mary and asked me to be his wife. (But hey, God’s perfect timing…). I was 47 when my fertility team tenderly laid our two precious, perfect, 5-day blastocytes inside my uterus. And I was a monthish shy of 48 when those little linemen burst through my middle in an unplanned C-section just shy of 35 weeks gestation. Absolutely perfect.
So yes, I believe in God’s perfect timing.
Y’all, I am by no means trying to make light of infertility or the expensive and excruciating journey that comes with it — a journey so full of uncertainty and with absolutely no guarantees.
We were incredibly blessed to get pregnant on our first IVF round. Unbelievably blessed. The statistics were not in our favor.
Most women go through an average of 2.7 IVF cycles and experts recommend going through at least three cycles to increase you pregnancy chances. Even then, the success rates fall below 50%.
While the numbers may not sound promising, God’s faithfulness always does. And hearing other people’s stories about fertility treatments helps you feel less alone. Because this is a story so many of us share.
No, there are no guarantees. But there are options.
There are so many generous strangers out there –fertility godmothers, is how I see them — working with God to lend their eggs or their wombs or to give their babies up for adoption. God works in mysterious and perfect ways. None of these journeys are easy. But nothing perfect ever is.
Your blessings may come differently, but they will come. Trust in God’s perfect timing
Every summer, prior to season kickoff, the football team sets goals. Sets expectations. What they want and need to accomplish if they are to have a winning season.
Expectations, when met, make a good team into a great one.
The reason I’m wrangling this metaphor is because I just read a post from a football wife asking for some support and advice. Her husband has been gone all summer — from sunup till way-past sundown every day, and the season has yet to begin. This wife is feeling neglected and alone. She needed a sounding board and some legitimate suggestions on how to broach the subject with her husband. She got both from most. But not from all. From one wife, she got something else entirely.
One wife of a football coach told another wife of a football coach to have zero expectations and then she won’t be disappointed.
And that rankles me, y’all. Bad.
It gets me all sorts of riled up. Blood-pressure-through-the-roof, expletive-laden, all sorts of riled up. Because what did she really just tell that wife?
She told her that she comes last. That she doesn’t deserve her man’s love, respect, or time. That her needs aren’t important. Quite simply, that she’s not important.
She regurgitated the debilitating dogma that society has fed women since forever: Support your man. Hold down the fort. Love and look after him when he’s around. Miss him when he’s gone. And expect nothing in return. Then… if you get more than that… well… go you!
Now, if y’all know me, you know my history, and you know exactly how I feel when somebody tells a woman she shouldn’t have expectations. You can pretty much guess what came out of my mouth. And it wasn’t pretty. (But it was pretty French.)
As women, we deserve more. As wives… in a marriage… a partnership… a team, if you will… we absolutely deserve more.
Women are so much more than helpmate and safe harbor. We are so much more than simple cisterns to be filled with our man’s hopes, desires, and offspring — contrary to centuries of saying otherwise.
Women have voices and women have value.
And as partners in our marriages we should have expectations. And those expectations should be met. Even in a football marriage. Especially in a football marriage.
Both of you want to win — at football and at marriage. If you didn’t, neither one of you would have gotten involved with either marriage or football. (And tell the truth, football wives, you knew what you were getting into when you married him. Well, for the most part you knew.) And because you both willingly signed up for this crazy life, you’re both now shouldering an insane amount of responsibility.
He’s shouldering the needs of a full squad of teenaged boys with all their adolescent edges and angst. And he’s balancing the demands of a season-full of practice and bus and meal and game schedules. Plus carrying the ungodly stress of parental and community politics. And he doesn’t come home until he’s put it all to bed. Well after dark. Till the field house is quiet and calm. Deceptively so. The weight of it all can be unbearable.
And you’re balancing and carrying and shouldering, too. Everything else. Jobs, hearth, home, kids. All the study and practice and play and bath and story and bed times. Plus the ungodly stress of all the tantrums and fistfights and set-it-all-right politics. And he doesn’t come home until you’ve put it all to bed. Well after dark. Till the house is quiet and calm. Deceptively so. The weight of it all can be unbearable.
It’s easy to get resentful. On both sides. Because from each respective side, it appears the other has it easier. Well, guess what? Neither has it easy.
To keep our marriage healthy and happy, my guy and I BOTH have expectations. As we should.
Mine are simple, but effective: Communication and Kisses.
Communication is my bread and butter. It sustains me. Before the day begins, we have breakfast. Together. Always. It’s my special 20 minutes of “Just Us” time while the boys are still in bed. Cereal, coffee and simple chit-chat — my fuel for the day.
Then he sends me little texts as power snacks all day long. And for lunch, sweet love notes on my sandwich bag. He makes all the lunches — it’s just one way he helps lighten my load. That plus laundry — preloaded in a delay cycle a couple times a week. (I hit the jackpot with my coach. He exceeds my expectations. Constantly.)
And then there’s the kisses. Lots and lots of kisses. At wake up. Before leaving for work. With emojis on the phone. And real ones when he gets home. Always before games. And always after games.
Always and forever, lots and lots of kisses. Without them, I more-than-sort- of-self-destruct. It’s well documented. So he gives me plenty.
Plenty of communication and kisses. It’s on the game plan.
And as for his expectations, they’re a whole lot of the same — especially, believe it or not, the communication part. Because if I don’t tell him when something’s bothering me or something’s not working, he’ll spend all sorts of time he doesn’t have trying to fix it — totally blind. And that’s not fair to either one of us.
Yes, football and marriage are team sports. And for the team to get stronger and for the game to go well, each member needs their expectations set and then met. That’s what makes a good team into a great one.
It’s a daunting challenge, joining a new coaching family. There’s a whole lot of feeling your way around and searching for a niche.
It’s an uncomfortable place to be and can feel incredibly isolating – especially if you don’t have biological family close by to help with the kids and the nerves and the insecurities. Because there are ALWAYS insecurities when you’re with a new team. Always.
In the beginning, you usually feel more apart from than a part of a new football program.
I vividly recall two lonely seasons not long ago where I was completely apart from the other coaches’ wives. It was just me and my twin babies, a stroller loaded with a pantry full of snacks, and a haunting suspicion that in the whole grand scheme of things, no one on staff besides my very own coach gave a darn about whether or not we were ok.
Every Friday night, I hunkered down in the far corner of an end zone because we couldn’t navigate the stadium risers on our own (and no one ever offered to help). So we dodged band instruments and blazing-fast receivers. And we stood apart and alone.
One of my favorite social media hash tags is #footballisfamily. Sadly, there was no family on that football team.
Now, however, thanks to the grace of God, my personal little football family has found itself in the midst of a football program that is all about family. There is true connectivity and support amongst the coaches’ wives on our current team. There are welcome notes and survival baskets at the beginning of the season. There are group texts for reminders and updates throughout the fall. There are generous hugs and helping hands in the stands on Friday nights. And there are potluck dinners and hearty conversations in the field house after games.
This is what the hash tag #footballisfamily should be about.
So I’m writing this blog — not for the new wife, but for the established wives in your football family.
I’m writing this as a gentle reminder that all of us have been there. We’ve all been the New Wife — the one no one knows. And sadly, some of us have even been the New Wife that no one ever knows… the one that no one ever reaches out to before the transient nature of the football life has its way with us, and we move on to our next location and our next potential football family.
So I’m writing as a reminder that football SHOULD be family.
Don’t be the wife who never reaches out to welcome the new member. Don’t be the one who assumes someone else will do it — somebody else will check up on her because you, you with the twin toddlers and the teaching job and gazillion essays to grade and gazillion students to nurture and never-ending dishes and laundry and dusting to do (well, you get the picture), you are helmet-deep in The Grind and you just can’t do a single thing more.
Ah, The Grind – the world-famous Football Grind.
It weeds out the unworthy. It leaves the weak in the dust. It measures mental and physical toughness and true character. It ensures that when you’ve given it your all, there’s still more of you to give – to your team. Because football is not a solo sport.
For any team to be successful, it is well understood that every single member must fully embrace The Grind.
And we wives are no exception. We have to be tough and driven and full of desire. And we must always be willing to push through the fatigue and give just a little bit more – for our football family – at home and in the home stands (and away ones, for that matter).
So push through your fatigue, coaches’ wives. Find your reserves and be the New Wife’s Left Tackle. Cover her blind side. Show her the ropes. Send her the welcomes and the updates and the encouragement. Help her wrangle her nerves and her kids in this brand new stadium.
Give her love and support and encouragement and bathroom breaks. (Nobody ever thinks of the bathroom breaks.) Help her become a part of the team.
There are three of us in my marriage. I knew I’d be sharing my husband when I married him. And I also knew it wouldn’t be easy.
I get jealous sometimes. (Who am I kidding? I get jealous a lot.)
Because the third member is demanding and competitive and physical and fast. Oh, and hot — incredibly, extraordinarily HOT. And then there’s all the penetration. So much penetration. (For this one, it’s all about the grind!)
And I can’t compete with that. (Well, I could, but it’s not really me. I’m the quiet, reserved one in this marriage.)
So I support. And watch. And cheer him on. And I’ve been told that’s hot too. ;b
You see, my husband is a high school football coach, and he’s been married to the game for a really, really, long time. They were a thing long before he and I were a thing. And when we started dating, I had to come to terms with the rules of engagement.
But lucky for me, I love the game, too. I had worshiped it from afar nearly my entire life. I was drawn to its passion and intensity. And then I got incredibly lucky and was able to merge the two loves of my life in holy matrimony. And we’ve been happily married for the last six years. And I love it, I really, really do.
But like I said, sometimes I get jealous.
Football has its way with my husband six nights a week, five months out of every year — plus summers and even a couple of weeks in May. It steals a lot of his time… our time.
That means I don’t get many candlelit dinners and date nights in the fall. (Who am I kidding? As a family with twin boys, we don’t get many of those ANY season — but definitely not during football season.)
Needless to say, because of its unforgiving nature, football can be a homewrecker if you aren’t careful. So you have to be vigilant. And creative. And snag time whenever and wherever you can.
And since Spring Ball just ended for us after a hot and heavy ten days of full contact, Mike and I will be making the most of it for the next two weeks (before summer workouts begin…).
We’ll be eating cozy dinners together — as we referee our forty-pound, twin four-year-old boys while they fight over parental time and attention. Having Daddy home to help share the love (and war) every night is a blessing that I relish while it lasts. And while that may not sound very sexy to you, it is more than a tad bit sexy to me.
And we’ll be spending a lot of time in bubble baths — wrestling those forty-pound twin four-year-olds into and out of the water. Having Daddy home to help snag the slippery little suckers and wrangle them into pajamas every night is a blessing that I cherish while it lasts. And while that may not sound sexy to you, it is mega-sexy to me.
And we’ll be snuggling up on the couch – with two forty-pound four-year-olds in our laps demanding four stories, complete with sound effects and occasional hand motions. Having Daddy there to read while I administer asthma and allergy meds every night is a blessing I treasure while it lasts. And while that might not sound sexy to you, it is super sexy to me.
And we’ll be giving and receiving a whole lot of loving in bed – as we tuck those two forty-pound four-year-old boys of ours beneath the covers and sing them lullabies. Having Daddy there to give real-life kisses instead of surrogate ones every night is a blessing I hold dear while it lasts. And while that might not sound sexy to you, it is uber-sexy to me.
And we’ll be taking a couple of vacations – family ones — and by family vacations, I mean our little family will be visiting our larger, extended family (including the boys’ big sisters) during the dead weeks between now and the start of football season.Having Daddy there to help contain and entertain twin preschoolers on incredibly long and arduous cross-country road trips to see the people we love most in the world may not sound very sexy to you, but I find it sexy as hell. (Well, the travel will be hell, but my husband — he’s sexy.)
Now don’t get me wrong. My coaching husband and I do have some time to celebrate US with just the two of us. We do. We make time. And sometimes it’s as simple as popcorn in bed while we catch up on our crime dramas and each other. But we do manage to squeeze in the occasional candle-lit date night, too. We even have one planned for tonight. Mike set it up and surprised me with it.
And I think that’s ANYBODY’S definition of sexy.
Yes, there are three of us in this relationship (not to mention a couple of forty-pound preschool boys). And sometimes it feels like football gets more time and attention and energy than the boys and I ever do. It is definitely demanding. And physical. And competitive. And passionate. But boy, is it HOT.
Football – and my coaching husband – they’re HOT.
So, it’s always worth the work. It’s always worth the grind. As a matter of fact, it’s all about the grind. And that, my friends, is sexy.