I remember when we first got married I’d crash on the couch beside my hubby after work and say, “Hey Babe, how was your day?” We’d discuss take-out options while deciding if we should go for a walk or watch a movie. Life was simple. We had time for “us.”
And then we had a baby.
The new normal: exhausted from the work day and being up all night breastfeeding, I’d walk (more like stagger) in the door to our colicky newborn, David, screaming his lungs out and my husband, Luke, rocking & shushing & bouncing him, & rocking & shushing & bouncing …
I’d frantically scan the daycare sheet to see how many times David pooped & peed, ate & tooted that day and we’d do the hand-off while my hubby filled me in on the answers to my daily routine of 42 questions.
An easy, no fuss dinner (like spaghetti … or cereal) and a few diapers later I would try not to fall asleep during the quiet minutes while David breastfed — again. If my husband and I talked at all during those fleeting hours before we crawled to bed exhausted, we talked about David. And the logistics of the next day. And David. And poop. And how tired we were.
We eventually got up the nerve to leave David with a babysitter & actually go out together. I remember sitting in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble, about to go inside and browse (and pretend like we had time to read) when I broke down crying.
I cried because I barely recognized myself; I barely recognized us. There was no more sweet small talk, no more relaxed evenings together. Just parenthood. Cold, hard parenthood. It felt like we had become partners in raising this screaming cute child, but no longer the best friends who liked to hang out together and make each other laugh. Our lives now rotated around bottles, diapers, daycare arrangements, doctor appointments, and the latest methods for calming David down …
I cried hard. I cried long.
And as the words poured out amidst the tears, even as I felt awful for SAYING them out loud, I felt better as the man I loved looked at me with compassion and understanding in his eyes and told me that he loved me & that everything was going to be okay.
I don’t know if everyone has this experience. Maybe it was so hard because our firstborn was so colicky, or maybe it was so hard because we got pregnant a month and a half after we got married (yes, you heard me right). But any way you dice it, having your first child is hard.
So if you’re going through the “first kid” transition, go easy on yourself and on your spouse. It’s okay to mourn the loss of the life, of the “us,” you knew. There were a lot of good things about it, the days when it was just the two of you, and you can’t get it back. But this crash course in crazy does get better.
Your marriage, like jello, just got dumped into a new mold and it’s going to take time for it to fill in the crevices. The weight of parenthood is something you have to get used to carrying, like a heavy backpack. Over time — and this time length varies for everyone — it won’t feel quite as heavy.
The “us” you were used to just got bigger. If you were a team, you just got your first player. And no, they don’t know how to do ANYTHING on their own. And, yes, you will have to carve out time for yourselves instead of taking it for granted that it will be there when you want it.
You’ll swap long evenings alone together to small exchanges in the kitchen or a smile across the dining room table. You’ll beg every one of your friends to watch your child so you can go on date night, and it will be WORTH IT. You’ll recognize your love for each other not only in the bedroom but in the “I’ll get up with him, Honey,” as your spouse gets up and lets you get some sleep. And you’ll begin to recognize each other again, not only as the person you’re glad you married, but as the man or woman that you wanted to become the parent of your children.
Most important, understand that your child is a gift. He or she will bring you closer together if you let them. This little person will make you better versions of yourselves. They will teach you compassion, patience, stamina, endurance, and fortitude you didn’t know you had. And most of all – Love. Which is why you signed up for this in the first place.
So hang in there. And who knows? Pretty soon you might be making team T-shirts and thinking of another player … Because coaching kids through life as a couple is actually pretty wonderful.