|photo by Douglas Sylvester|
For all of the pre-kid thinking I did, not one moment was given to considering the impact a baby would have on our marriage. No one had let on (much less told us) that it was tough and my husband’s brother had once mentioned that having kids made him and his wife closer, so we dived into parenthood with optimism and confidence. We lost each other underwater, though, and it was quite a shock to find, after surfacing and gasping for breath months after our son’s arrival, that the distance between the two of us was scarily large, and each of us was too weary to try to swim to the other.
Marriage this year has been exhausting, and more than once I’ve felt like I haven’t had the energy required to be able to go on. There have been times when my husband has felt more like a flatmate I didn't care for rather than a spouse, and I always feel deceitful appearing married to everyone else when there’s no unity whatsoever between us behind closed doors. In those moments, divorce felt like it’d be little more than obtaining the piece of paper that acknowledged what was already the day-to-day reality of our relationship.
Before our son, we had no inkling of just how effectively sleep - specifically, unbroken sleep - keeps us sane and sweet. We’ve endured long, long months of sleep deprivation this year, which made everything, especially relating to one another, extremely difficult. We were rarely kind to each other at 3am, often snarling instead of whispering, each treating the other like it was their fault the baby had woken hourly since we’d collapsed in bed at 9pm. Our exhaustion amplified the external, non-baby-related stresses we faced (moving church, miscarrying, beach mission), making them seem like massive waves crashing over and, at times, threatening to drown us. After each of them we’d struggle to the surface only to find ourselves even further apart.
We weren’t prepared – though I’m not sure you can be – for all of the changes a baby inevitably brings. For me, it wasn’t just the practical I-was-studying/working-but-now-I’m-not changes, but the massive identity shift that comes (free!) with motherhood: The overwhelming love, the weight of the responsibility, the new anxieties, the relentlessness, the neededness, the constant feelings of guessing what your baby needs and the worry that you’re often getting it wrong. I can barely understand how all of these (and more) have affected who I am and what I need, let alone explain it to my husband.
It also didn’t help that we’d made a fairly individualistic marriage work pretty well before our son arrived. Our son has strengthened our bond with a needle and thick thread, stitching us much closer together. His sewing has been thorough and incredibly painful, and it’s only now, after months of talking and praying and reading, that we’re beginning to appreciate his handiwork.
Over the next few posts, I plan to reflect on a few of the things – two books and one person – I’ve found most helpful for our marriage so far in this struggle to stay afloat together between here and here.