How marriage changes with a new baby.
When you're pregnant for the first time, everyone gives you the side-eye and says, "This baby is going to change your life and your marriage forever. FOREVER." In cynical tones, they describe the horrors of nighttime feedings, the distance you feel from you spouse, the way this child is going to be your entire world, and how things will never, ever be the same.
And they're right...in some ways. But what I really wish is that the cynical tones and horror stories would stop. It's almost as though society sets up us for failure in our marriages after a child is born. A picture is painted of the incredible difficulty in raising a child AND being a wife, and no one talks about the beautiful aspects. When the rare person comes along and says that they prefer this life to their previous one, everyone thinks they're lying.
I clearly remember being 37-weeks-pregnant and laying in bed with Braxton Hicks contractions. I was timing them and watching the TV on mute as Taylor slept. He had just driven four hours from Savannah to see me. I was already living with my parents in anticipation for Sully's big arrival, and Taylor was gearing up for his impending deployment in a mear three weeks. I was absolutely terrified. I'd heard how hard a child is on a marriage. I'd heard how hard a deployment is on a marriage. How in the world were we going to survive both at the same time? I didn't have much time to think on it because my water broke the next week, and suddenly, we found ourselves in the throes of new parenthood and reality.
I won't lie and say that it was super easy at first. I was incredibly emotional, and every little word or action could set me off. Taylor laughed while I pumped breastmilk for the first time, and I almost burst into tears. Um, of course he laughed. That shit is funny looking. But after a couple days, we settled into our routine. Taylor would wake up every morning and make me pancakes with Sully on his arm while I napped. I'd take Sully mid-morning while Taylor ran to the gym. Then, we made time to focus on us.
And therein lies the key.
So simple, right? Focus on each other.
But it's so hard. This new, tiny being is your world. Truly. In every sense, this baby depends on you...for love, for life, for food and shelter. For EVERYTHING while your spouse is self-sufficient. Your husband can fix his own dinner. He doesn't need his butt wiped. He doesn't vomit on you after every meal. He doesn't look to you to swaddle him and rock him to sleep. He can provide for himself. He has his own wants and needs. And there it goes...you let your focus on his slip through the cracks because he doesn't need you like this baby does. He feels your focus redirect towards your child, and while he probably finds it beautiful, it also makes him distance himself some. He gives you some space. Steps in when you ask. But slowly and surely, your connection fades.
Ten years down the road, you look at him from across the kitchen table and think, "I don't even know this man." All you have in common are the children because they are all you've paid attention to for the past ten years.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Yes, this child and all that follow will require more time and attention that you can imagine. Yes, they need you, but so does your spouse. And you need him. And your child needs a loving, stable family. Taylor and I decided that nothing is more important for Sully and Baby Dos that showing them a mommy and daddy that are in love, that will be there for each other, and that will always provide a comfortable, safe home for them. I don't want my children growing up to think that screaming, yelling, and being hurtful is the way that a mommy and daddy should fight. Of course, they'll see us argue at some point. But we have promised to never hurl words like stones and say things we'll regret. I'm not just blowing smoke up Taylor's ass. He truly has stepped up to the plate to be an amazing husband and father.
We met at eighteen and nineteen.
We were engaged at twenty and twenty-one.
Married at twenty-one and twenty-two.
Parents for the first time at twenty-three and twenty-four.
We will be parents for the second time at twenty-four and twenty-five. Are we the same people we were when we met? Of course not. But instead of growing apart, we've grown together. We've shaped each other. Our lives have been on the fast track, and I can hear people snickering now. "Just wait. In ten years, you'll be as jaded as everyone else."
But I disagree. Time and age are not the issues. The focus on our marriage, on each other, our needs; those are the issues. We check in with each other. "What do you need from me? What can I do to help you? Are you happy?" Is our marriage perfect? No. And anyone who thinks they have the perfect marriage is probably doomed to fail because they don't believe their marriage needs work. All marriages need work. <strong>EVERYDAY</strong>. And people that say a good marriage shouldn't need work are kidding themselves. Because work is what makes a good marriage. Without it? You have a rift that will just continue to grow. A marriage cannot run itself. I think, unfortunately, media today teaches us that it can. And when times get tough, that's when you make a break for it.
I never want that for me, my husband, or my children. My husband is my world. My children are my life. And I vow to all them that I'm here for the long run and will always, always be the mama and wife they need from me. And in return? I get an amazing, thoughtful, husband and hopefully, children that understand the love and respect required for a functional relationship.
Again, our marriage is not perfect. I'm not here to tell anyone what they need to do to fix their own marriage. But hopefully, my words can provide a little hope to the mom-to-be, the new mom, or maybe a wife that's feeling like there's no hope in her own relationship. There is. It takes work, time, and commitment from both parties, but there's always hope where there is love.