Skip to content

marriage

How our relationship was swallowed whole by a baby

A and I just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary this week.

(Yep. Still obsessed with faceless wedding photos.)

We have this little ritual on our anniversary of writing down our best and worst times from the past year and our goals for the coming months. While we were out to dinner (what a JOY it is to dine with no one other than your adult partner at 7pm on a balmy Monday evening) I plopped the little leather-bound journal where we’ve jotted this stuff onto the table, and we had a look at years gone by.

We really like creating abbreviated versions of words that don’t have any. Like “anny.” It’s just so exhausting and common to say anniversary. We are such hipsters.

Here are the pages for anny 5 and anny 6, our first two as parents.

Hello, salient metaphor for how having a child has changed our relationship.

If anything, these first years of parenthood have impressed upon me the finiteness of things. Time. Energy. Sleep. Patience. And I won’t lie—it’s definitely done a number on our relationship. I can confidently say now, 2 years in, that we’re finding more moments to connect in that lingering and nostalgic way we used to before J came on the scene. It feels like dusting off the words of a language we used to speak fluently—we have to work harder now to remember how to say certain things, but it’s sweet and confirming to feel our mouths form the words again.

As we lingered over our bottle of rosé, we couldn’t help but notice the goals we had listed for our 4th anniversary—when I was 6 months pregnant with J.

Such innocent ambition: social time, couple time, alone time, “not swallowed whole by baby.” Oh! and don’t forget exercise.

It really put those two blank years in the book into perspective. I think it’s taken us 2 years to get back to the place where those goals even make sense again.

Our hopes and dreams for this year?

“See 4th anniversary goals.”

On taking care of myself

Before I became a mother, I was grotesquely good at taking care of other people. I credit my naturally empathetic, sensitive nature, my incredible-caretaker mother and my co-dependent upbringing. In the months before I got pregnant, it dawned on me that my constant tracking of other people’s emotional and physical needs could be an asset as a mother. What didn’t dawn on me: it would also be my downfall.

In my first few days post-partum, I sank right in to tracking J’s every need and even making some up.  When I wasn’t doing that, I was trying to make sure that A, my partner, was getting enough sleep and staying generally well fed and happy.
In return, I became completely desperate for A to take care of me with the same obsessive empathy. The result of this whole dynamic was bad. I felt used-up, pathetic, un-loved and despondent. A felt confused and somewhat mistreated and underappreciated.

Add all that to the typical sleep deprivation of the first few months and the hormone roller-coaster, and we were all pretty screwed.

Things have stabilized since then. We all sleep more. I think A understands more about my plight during those first months. And I see how I my strengths in caring for others have created a huge blind spot. I am the blind spot.

In all of my endless scanning for how everyone is doing, the person I most often pass up is myself. And when I finally do notice my own need for help, I’m usually pretty far gone. Desperate, really.

So I’ve been working on that.  I regularly hear something my therapist said to me in those first few disorienting months post-partum:

Do you know what every new mother needs?

A mother.

So the project of becoming a mother to J has also turned into becoming one for myself.

Last night, I was feeling pretty crappy and sad and vulnerable from a recent schism between me and a friend. So I came home a little early from work thinking, “Hanging out with J and A is just what I need right now.”  The minute I opened the door, I started taking a supremely judgmental inventory on all of the things going on that were making my life worse:

A was being a super lazy dad and watching TV with J.
A had not fed J dinner or started getting him ready for bed yet.
A obviously does not care about me at all.

I managed to keep all of these things to myself and ask, “Has J had dinner yet?” And then I just sat down and rested my head on our dining room table and tried to limit the damages of the horror story going on in my head.

In the end, A took care of dinner and bedtime for J. I ate ice cream while watching a show on the couch.

At some point after that, A asked if there was anything he could do for me. My mind spat, “OF COURSE THERE IS, YOU IDIOT.” And I managed to get my mouth to say, “Will you go get me a glass of wine, the leftover Stilton cheese in the fridge and those big round crackers?”

Chalk this night up to victory.