For many weeks after we’d come home from the hospital with our first (and only) child, I felt like I’d been in a car accident. It hurt to walk. It hurt to sit. It hurt to shower. I turned in on myself, hunching in physical and emotional pain. I sat in chairs with blankets over my body, scared to move, frightened by how compromised I felt, embarrassed to be seen. I felt like the person I was before was gone. I was now a loaner-body, on loan to this small new baby that lived in our house. It felt like the person I was the day I walked into the hospital to have him had died there in the room where he exited.
I didn’t dislike the baby. I would catch myself telling him I loved him in the smallest, sweetest voice, compulsively, impulsively. And it’s not that I suddenly hated myself... it’s just that the person I had been was nowhere to be seen.
Until my husband found me.
I was in the baby’s room one night, sitting in a rocking chair, nursing him, when my husband walked in. He sat near me, he recorded the time-on-left-nipple and time-on-right, he asked if I needed water, or coffee, or tea. He let me sit there, and just exist. He didn’t ask anything of me.
When he rose to leave, he stepped to the door, and then turned back towards me. He crossed the room, approached me and the baby, and then leaned down to kiss me.
It would take years — three, to be exact — before I actually felt like me, again.
My husband is not a romantic man. He doesn’t tell me I’m pretty, and he doesn’t grab my hand, and he doesn’t sit next to me on the couch when we watch TV. I know he loves me, but he doesn’t exhibit love in the common, romantic gesture ways we watch in the movies. His love is different. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see, but I can always feel it in the room, in the air, like a light breeze.
This was different. When he leaned down and kissed me, our two heads mid-air, over our tiny, new baby — he kissed me passionately. It was unexpected. It was effective. With that kiss, he told me something I needed to know about me. I was wanted. That feeling we are constantly seeking — as humans — he leaned in and gave it to me. When I needed it most.
His kiss didn’t make me feel needed. It didn’t make me feel required, like I was as my child’s milk machine. In that moment, I felt wanted by the man who had made the baby with me. I felt as wanted as I had the night I met him. I felt as wanted as I ever had. And in the midst and the aftermath of that kiss, I felt the resurrection of me.
It would take years — three, to be exact — before I actually felt like me, again. The me I’d been before I had the baby. The person I’d been when I met my husband.
I saw her so rarely during those years. My clothes continued to be multiple sizes larger than I’d worn before, my face looked so different from its previous shape. I had a hard time leaving the house, because I felt guilty. Getting back to me was not easy.
And there were no other moments that I remember like that one, that night. It was that night that showed me that I was still inside me, and that he still saw me. In a time when the world around me showed up to welcome my baby, my baby eclipsed me. And in that immediate, confusing, and somewhat soul-crushing time for me, my husband found a way to communicate to me.
My husband did a whole lot of other things, too — things that weren’t inherently sexy, but that certainly upped his appeal to me. He cleaned the bottles every single morning before he left for work. He checked in on me all day, via text. He came home with coffee, and every night, all night, he got up with me and our baby while I would breastfeed. He changed every night diaper and he sat in the dark rooms with me, either talking, or merely sitting silently. He told me with every single action that I was not alone in our new journey. I was anything but.
My husband spent the first year of our baby’s life being every bit as much a mother as me. As he has spent the subsequent years. He has been my rock, my chef, my best friend and my laundry-man. He has been a fun and active father to our son. He has never once made me feel like I was alone in parenting. And that is the sexiest thing a man could ever do.