It’s 3am. It’s dark. It’s silent. Save for the cry of our 1-year old old baby carrying down the hallway. I’m playing chicken with my husband. I know he’s awake. He knows I’m awake. We’re both pretending to be asleep.
A little over a year ago. As our baby’s due date neared, I remember whispers from the crowd: “get ready, life is about to change – (insert pregnant pause) – forever”.
“Hold your horses, calm down!”
I want to go back and say. Because, sure, the sleepless nights aren’t fun, but they soon become manageable. And our lives, while certainly different, feel infinitely fuller, not worse as the warning’s inference suggests.
We still go out (albeit separately), we still read the papers in bed on a Sunday (albeit when the tiny paper destroyer has gone down for his morning nap), and I still never take the out bins. So, basically it’s business as usual.
Some things are of course very different. We are very different. Our hearts are so full it feels at times like grief. We’ve not had a lie in for months, so we’re fairly cranky, most of the time. And we talk a lot about poo.
But still. With hindsight, a more accurate warning might be – buckle up, for you are about to change, unrecognisably at times. And with that, your relationship’s likely to weather some storms. But you’ll (hopefully) come out ok.
I’m fortunate, we've always been a pretty sturdy unit – we share a life plan, each do half the housework and indulge the same dislike of spreadable cheese. And yet, after the initial “We’re Pregnant!” excitement, his life pretty much pootled on as normal whereas mine shifted on its axis and never tipped back.
Being pregnant felt both an enormous privilege and entirely isolating. I resented my body, career and social life changing as much as I relished it. And the person with whom I share everything, had no way of understanding the complexity of that. Leaving me feeling like a bit of a lone (pregnant) wolf, before we’d even had the baby.
I have one of the kindest, most generous and loving husbands I know, and yet there have been times when I’ve felt we’re yelling at each other from opposite sides of a deep ravine. Because, no matter how empathetic he attempts to be, there’s simply no way for him to know how it feels to get up 7-times in one night, and then walk five times around a park with a screaming baby, a forgotten nappy bag, leaky boobs and a stranger’s kid pointing at you asking loudly “mummy, why is that lady crying?”. And that can rankle.
I love looking after our little boy but the feeling of swimming alone is often acute. I ricochet between soaring joy and gnawing sadness – and all pre 8am. It’s confusing to feel so heart meltingly in love and emotionally, professionally and financially stranded all in the time it takes to boil a kettle.
And what do we do when we feel exhausted and alone? We put up barriers to protect ourselves, start to resent those closest to us and occasionally behave – to use a technical term – like a bit of a dick.
So, yeah, we probably (definitely) argue more than we did before. But nothing lingers. We have bigger fish to fry. We argue, we scowl, we get our rubber ducks in a row and we swiftly move on.
And for all the cracks that parenthood shines a glaring light into, it sprinkles fairy dust too.
Watching my husband feed the baby carefully constructed porridge hors d’Oeurves makes me fall in love with him all over again.
We laugh a lot. We do a lot of walking and pointing at ducks, and small things like that are good for the soul. And most importantly, having carried the baby, given birth and breastfed for ten-months, I’ve kindly been relinquished from a lifetime of ever putting out the bins. So, things are pretty rosy.
Becoming a parent has hands down been the most incredible experience of my life. But it’s been bonkers too. I’ve lost and found myself full frontally – and that’s inevitably going to impact your relationship.
But we’re unequivocally a stronger team than ever before. Except when it comes to getting out of bed at 3am to soothe a crying baby. Then it’s every man for himself. And I’m most definitely asleep. Ok.