Life’s Tiny Miracles may look like any other light-hearted parenting blog today but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a marriage that was tested time and again by unimaginable heartbreaks.
Over two decades ago, David and Angie Sim (the blog’s creators) were like any typical bright-eyed couple. They met online at a time “when modems still screamed”, says David, and tied the knot three years later in June 1999.
The pair, now in their 40s, celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary recently and are proud parents to 12-year-old Dana and six-year-old Alexander. The happy portraits you see today, however, disguise the trials they’d gone through in the earlier years of their marriage.
Blow after blow
Infertility alone was a rough journey to walk. But for David and Angie, the issue was compounded by miscarriages and child losses.
In their third year of marriage, their first child, Nathaniel, conceived via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), was stillborn at 22 weeks. “Our gynaecologist turned to me after delivery and solemnly said, ‘take care of your wife’. Those words stuck with me,” says David.
He recalls his acute helplessness, “I was at a complete loss. The baby room was all set up, complete with a crib and his baby clothes, but we weren’t going to bring the baby home.”
A couple of years later, the couple took a leap of faith and gave IVF another shot. They conceived twins this time, but their joy was short-lived. Joash was stillborn at 18 weeks while Ashley succumbed in the intensive care unit 36 hours after a premature birth at 24 weeks.
It wasn’t until 2008 that baby Dana came into their world safe and healthy. The couple then adopted Alexander six years later.
But just when life seemed to be ‘normal’ again, Angie was diagnosed with stage 1 endometrial (womb) cancer via a routine check-up in 2017 and had to undergo a major operation to save her life. She is now in remission.
“It was the longest six hours I’d ever experienced in my life,” says David of his agonising wait outside the operating theatre.
Growing stronger together
“For better or worse, in sickness and in health” – this ubiquitous wedding vow has been a constant anchor for David and Angie through their most trying days. “Though it [sounds] simple, it is significantly profound and extremely challenging to fulfil,” says David.
“Having been on the road less travelled. We have learnt to focus on what matters, not to fret over the small stuff or take life, time and each other for granted,” he adds.
This includes being able to handle disagreements mindfully and with grace. The couple makes it a point to understand each other’s (well-meaning) intentions and when things get too heated, they take a “time out” from each other by taking a drive or giving each other personal space to cool down.
Romance is still crucial, maintains the pair, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be grand or expensive. An ordinary movie date, a drive out to hunt for their favourite hawker dishes or simply unwinding over a Netflix documentary after the kids go to bed are tiny gestures that add up in the long run.
What they most appreciate about each other
“I am thankful that David is a loving husband and hands-on dad,” says Angie of her devoted spouse who reads to the kids daily, sings, prays and exercises with them and even takes them on cycling expeditions.
“As a husband, he loves and protects me fiercely, and always thinks the best of me even on days when I don’t love myself,” she shares.
On the other hand, David appreciates their personality differences as “that balances me out and smoothens my flaws”. He shares, “Even after 21 years, Angie still tells me randomly that she loves me. She’s very self-sacrificial and goes out of her way for her family and hubby.”
David and Angie both agree that a strong marriage takes massive effort. Not only is it necessary to allow each person to pursue his or her own aspirations, a couple also needs to devote time to build each other up, fill each other’s love tank and stand in the gap for each other, says Angie.
David meanwhile urges young couples to return to their marriage vows. “Work hard at it always and for the husband, ‘take care of your wife’.”
Image source: David and Angie Sim