We were young and stupid when our first child came.
Maybe not stupid, but definitely young — and lacking some serious life experience. Our first months as husband and wife weren’t even just about us, because the baby was there too, even if he was only in my tummy.
It was exciting and scary and wonderful, but we didn’t always do things right. It wasn’t easy. Many years and two kids later, I can honestly say that instead of the stress of parenting tearing us apart, it’s brought us closer than I ever could have imagined, and I love my husband more today after having our third child together.
With baby number one, we dove into all the parenting books — him more than me. We wanted to be informed about this huge life change, but there’s so much you just learn from “What To Expect When You’re Expecting”, especially for dads-to-be. My husband was kind and involved, but I don’t think he ever went out at 2am to get me Taco Bell or rubbed my feet without expecting a foot rub in return.
Then our son arrived, and I think it might have been the scariest moment of hubby’s life. I had refused to do lamaze classes and he was completely unprepared for the horror show my vagina put on. Plus, our little Bug came out all purple with a cone head, and my husband thought he was dying. (It makes perfect sense for a 21-year-old guy with absolutely no experience with birth or babies.) While all his friends were drinking themselves silly and taking part in college hookup culture, he couldn’t have been more pleased to be a dad. I was sure that I was the luckiest lady in the world.
My husband wasn’t around much after the baby came. He worked two jobs to keep us fed, and it seemed completely irrational to ask him to get up for nighttime feedings when he was functioning on five hours of sleep. Life went on, the baby grew, and both of us longed to add another to our family. Five years later, we finally got our wish.
Even though I knew what to expect, this second pregnancy sucked. The nausea was terrible and my second trimester was plagued with headaches. By the 33 weeks I had already landed myself in the hospital for dizziness and contractions that just wouldn’t stop. Hubby stepped up when he was home and made sure the boy was occupied so I could rest as much as possible. Still no late night Taco Bell for me, though.
Our daughter’s birth was much more quiet and intimate, and my hubby was super supportive throughout. When she came, however, he was back to work pretty soon, and I quickly found myself overwhelmed with this unfamiliar little creature who was roughly 1,000 times more needy than her older brother had been. I cried. A lot. He listened.
Slowly but surely, she and I found our groove, but being mama to two little people didn’t give me much time for my husband. Date nights or even late nights were impossible for me. I was utterly exhausted. He tried to understand. Just after her first birthday, we were pregnant again.
This third pregnancy has spoken volumes about our marriage, and it has shown me exactly how much not only our marriage has changed over the years, but our feelings for each other.
When I’ve felt sick, he’s jumped in to take both the kids off my plate, regardless of what he has had going on. When I’ve had that killer heartburn that convinces you your stomach is, in fact, coming up through your throat, he’s run to the store for Tums, no matter what the hour. When I’m exhausted and can’t possibly manage the toddler and my workload, he tells me to forget about work for awhile and drops his own work to play with his daughter. When I’m about to hop in the shower and get that quick shot of my huge, unfamiliar body in the mirror, he never forgets to tell me how beautiful I am.
These gestures are small ones, but they meant everything.
By the third pregnancy, he seems to be more in touch with I was feeling than I was. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s watched me give birth twice and respected me more for it. I’m not sure if it’s because he now sees how tough being pregnant can be, and he knows that his supporting role is crucial. I’m not sure if it’s because he adores being a father and I had a part to play in making that happen. Whatever the reason, having kids has brought us closer together, and I love my husband now after our third child than I ever have before.
One day those kids will be grown and we’ll actually have some time for each other. For now, I simply relish the bond we’ve created because we’re on this pregnancy and parenting journey together.
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Shauna Armitage blogs about the beautiful disasters that make up modern parenting over at The Violet Moon. In addition to being a workaholic, she’s the mother of three crazy kids who completely rock her world. Most days, she can be found with a glass of pinot noir, in front of the computer, making lists, with anything Elmo playing in the background.