Everything will change, they say. Well, duh, of course. There’s suddenly a tiny, completely helpless human my wife and I are wholly responsible for. But after six cycles of trying to conceive, we knew — or, at least reasonably understood — what we signed up for.
Or did we?
Sure, it wasn't much of a surprise when we started sleeping in two-hour increments, like prisoners of war broken apart by the enemy. Nor was it a shocker when we started eating like fugitives, in the dark, speaking only when necessary and as quickly as possible. I've even gotten used to the idea that showers lasting longer than five minutes are considered a rare luxury.
Parenthood has obviously changed our life in more meaningful ways as well. In her very brief existence, our daughter has already taught us how boundless love is. They tell you that, too, but you can't truly begin to understand what that feels like until she's in your arms and you simultaneously feel the most afraid you've ever been and the most courageous.
But what has taken both of us entirely by surprise is how much things have changed between us. Another thing they’re fond of saying is, And then there were three, but somehow I didn't realize how the three would negate the two that came before. Suddenly I wasn’t the most important person in my wife’s life, and whereas before I used to look at us as a team, tackling everyday life together, I began to feel like we were proverbial ships passing in the night, each on our own paths with our own set of goals: her, to figure out if our daughter was getting enough food and me, to figure out how to get the byproduct of that food out of our baby’s onesies.
I've been with my wife for six years. As any couple who's been together for a decent amount of time can tell you, no matter how much you work to keep the spark, some things will inevitably be taken for granted. And, honestly, I’m not even talking about sex. I miss simple things, like my wife being genuinely interested in how my day was. No matter how busy she was or how much she had on her plate, she always managed to seem as though my retelling of my day’s events was the most fascinating thing she’d heard all day. Even if she was listening to the same complaint about the same work thing for the millionth time, she’d still manage to offer a sympathetic nod or a supportive, “You just talked to them about that last month!” These days, though, I'm amazed if she can stay awake to listen to my undoubtedly hilarious reenactment of my annoying commute that morning.
I used to feel like I amused her; now I work to not feel like a distraction. On the rare occasions we manage to have each other’s full attention, I can almost see a countdown clock and the never-ending to-do list in her exhausted gaze. I'm sure it's the same for her, because the fact is, when you have precious little time before your newborn is going to demand an entire day's patience as well as your undivided attention, you can't help but talk to each other in a series of itinerary non-sequiturs:
Dogs for dinner?
No, dogs need walking. Dinner after?
For us, or for her?
You're both so tired and you have so much to do and no time to do it that you hardly realize when actual conversation gets replaced with whatever this is.
I also miss her laugh. Yes, we've laughed about things our baby has done, but I miss that laugh that comes with telling a private joke between two people who may as well have their own language because they know each other so well; that laugh that swells from the deepest part of you and then lingers with electricity like fingers accidentally touching on a first date.
After my wife's c-section, the OR nurse pointedly made me face the profound change this child brought into our lives: Did I want to go with our brand new baby to recovery or stay with my wife, who lay shaking violently from the anesthesia on the operating table? It was a near impossible decision. In the end, I picked our daughter, because my wife made me promise during those late night discussions in hushed tones that expectant parents have about their child's future, that no matter what happened, I would always put our daughter first. And she knows that I’ll always expect the same of her.
This child means more to us than anything, even each other as individuals. And the fact that we are completely committed to that means that, OK, so maybe my wife missed the stupid joke I made, but she let me sleep through some diaper changes last night and now I really know how much she truly loves me. Or maybe I forgot to ask her how her day was, but I remembered to tell her how my heart exploded when I heard her singing to our daughter. And I know for certain that we both can't wait until the sound of her laughter hangs in the air above ours, filling both our hearts with more love than we could've ever imagined.
So, yes, I miss my wife. In some ways you might say I mourn the loss of what we once were, but there’s no doubt that I have gained something infinitely greater in its place. I've fallen in love all over again with our daughter's mom.
Images Courtesy of Lacey Vorrasi-Banis (4)