There’s a joke that once you have kids, you stop having sex. That isn’t exactly true or there would never be any siblings. Still, there is truth in most clichés, and one of the challenges I’ve found since becoming a mom is simply finding time to be with Drew, just us.
The first three weeks were the hardest. My hormones were so crazy after giving birth and my whole world seemed to turn upside down and I wasn’t getting any sleep and Jackson was screaming non-stop and suddenly I was sharing my favorite person with someone else, someone who, quite frankly, was annoying me much more than he was charming me. Drew hates it when I put it like that, but it’s the truth. I had a hard time connecting to my baby those first few weeks and as much as I loved him and hoped things would get better — they have! — a part of me worried that I had made a mistake, a mistake that was going to really screw up my marriage (it wasn’t and it hasn’t).
Those first few weeks, I would lie in bed and cry and cry, not so much because I was stressed out and exhausted (I was), but because I was so scared nothing would ever be the same (it mostly hasn’t been). What I’ve learned since then is that even though things change, they can still remain pretty great. In fact, in a lot of ways, this particular change has made things better (okay, maybe not everything…see the first sentence).
When I first moved in with Drew over four years ago, we had such a challenge making his bachelor pad our home. We both had to get rid of a lot of things, including a few preconceived ideas of what our home together should look like. Moving into our next apartment was much easier and I’m really proud of how we’ve integrated our individual styles, furniture, and artwork to make a home that reflects us both. And then we had Jackson and it’s like that feeling has blown up. Here’s this person who’s part me and part Drew (and all himself), and that’s an amazing thing. Even now, three months later, we’re still trying to figure out whose features he has (nose, definitely mine; hairline, definitely Drew’s).
Before Jack was born — well, before I got pregnant, really — Drew and I had a weekly tradition. Every Friday, we’d meet for happy hour drinks right after work. We were usually pretty tipsy by six, at which time we might do some early bird karaoke in a private room followed by dinner. We were often home by, like, 8, and maybe even asleep by 11. Not crazy by any means, but we looked forward to it all week and when I got pregnant it was sad to give that up. Sure, I could still do dinner and karaoke, but blowing off steam wasn’t as easy without that Gin and Tonic (or three). It was the first of many “sacrifices” and one I was sad to see go.
But these days, we’re making so many new traditions (and only a few of them involve liquor). I’m cooking a lot more and Drew is taking his lunch to work and we’re using the money we’re saving so we can hire a babysitter every other week or so and go out just the two of us. And those few hours we get alone now are sacred in a way a few hours alone together before weren’t. We appreciate the time more. We make it count. And we feel so oddly grown up hiring a sitter! A few weeks back, we went out to a couple holiday parties and ended up making out in the coat room just because we could. Because there wasn’t a baby outside waiting for us to meet its immediate needs.
Another cool thing has been seeing each other in the role of parent. Oh man, there’s nothing sweeter than watching your significant other feed your baby and play with him and put him to sleep. I always knew Drew would make a great dad, but actually seeing it is something else. And I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have a partner who is fully an equal in this parenting thing. He gets up with him every time Jack cries at night (he’s bottle-fed) and lets me sleep. He says he enjoys it. When I tell the women in the moms’ group that, they can’t believe it. But Drew says it’s fair because I’m with him all day and I’m working, too — on this site and around the home — so I’m contributing just as much as he is. It’s true — and I have the exhaustion to prove it — but not a lot of men who are the breadwinners for the family would see it that way.
But being with Jackson all day every day means knowing his quirks a little more closely than his father gets to. I know his hunger cry. I know when he’s cold. I know when he’s bored. I know when he just wants to be held and rocked. It can be hard for me then on the weekends when I feel like Drew is questioning what I know. Or when he thinks he knows something better. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I certainly feel defensive. “I’m with him all day!” I say, exasperated. Like I deserve a medal for taking care of my baby.
We’re still figuring it all out: how to balance parenthood and marriage; how to make room for us; how to make room for ourselves. We’re still trying to figure out how to meet Jackson’s needs as well as each other’s. It’s really hard. I’m not even sure it’s possible. But we do the best we can. I ask for help when I need it. I cry when it feels overwhelming. We talk a lot — check in with each other and make sure we’re on the same page. And our situation is easy, relatively speaking. We have each other, for one thing. We have enough money to pay our bills. We eat well. We have good friends and family (though I wish they all lived closer). We have a strong marriage. We can afford an occasional sitter and night out. We have a healthy baby whose needs are not unique.
We’re lucky and it’s still hard. I worry sometimes what will happen to our marriage after years of parenting take their toll, after we potentially add another child to our family. Will we still recognize the things in each other we fell in love with? Will we still have energy left for each other? I’d like to think so. I know I waited a long time to find the person I wanted to build a future with. I gave up my life in Chicago and moved across the country to be with him. And then we gave ourselves years to enjoy just being together before we had a kid. I hope those years gave us a strong enough foundation to withstand the upcoming challenges. I can’t be certain what those challenges will be, but I do know they’ll be worth it. I know this guy is worth it. And that’s good enough for me.