It's Been 4 Months Since I Gave Birth, & My Relationship Has Never Been Better
To my partner and my best friend:
As I'm writing this, you're in the process of trying to comfort a screaming, teething infant. Our daughter Luna has spent the better part of the past five days crying inconsolably, unable to understand why her gums have turned into a hub of agony. You've perfected just the right combination of back-rubbing, singing, and bouncing to calm her down. You're the only one who really can.
I know things haven't been especially easy since we've had our daughter. We haven't had a good night's sleep for the four months that she's been with us. I'm certain this is why we're more irritable, frustrated, and quick to confrontation than usual. We're drained AF, and sometimes we take that out on each other. We bicker about things that normally wouldn't matter. We yell about issues that would have once been resolved with a rational discussion over curry or booze. We sometimes turn away from each other, when what we should really be doing is coming together.
But I want you to know that despite all that — despite the desperation that comes from sleeplessness and the perpetual struggle that is balancing being new parents with being our own humans — I have never felt closer to you than I do now.
This feeling of newfound closeness started during my grueling, 52-hour labor. I know I was the one doing the hardest part, as you yourself have pointed out whenever the subject comes up. But we went through those 52 hours together. They were the most painful, scary, exhausting 52 hours of my life. But you were there every minute, allowing me to squeeze your hand until it turned the color of a firetruck, repeatedly bathing and drying me off, staying awake for every late-night nurse's check-up, and reminding me that I could do this. That it wouldn't break me, even though I was convinced it would.
People often talk about how difficult childbirth is, but what folks don't talk about quite as often is all the sh*t that comes after the baby is in your arms. Because after 52 hours of no sleep, almost no food, and a lot of blood, you have to care for a tiny little creature who cannot communicate with you in any kind of peaceful or loving way, who cannot yet smile or laugh or show affection. It can only cry when it's hungry or when it's uncomfortable. And it can seemingly only sleep when you definitely shouldn't be sleeping.
But while I don't think we've ever been this tired or fought quite this often, our relationship has never felt stronger. In truth, I cannot imagine going through the rigors of early parenthood with anyone else.
There are few people one can truly be their worst selves around. But with you, I know I can be messy. If I haven't washed my hair in two weeks, or brushed my teeth all day, or tweezed my eyebrows, or changed out of that same baggy nightgown that you sort of hate, you never even flinch. If I flake on the plans we tried to make, or if neither of us has had time to cook, or if one of us just cannot muster the energy to be intimate, well, it's always OK.
We're powering through this — for our baby, and for each other.
Quite simply, we are in this together. When the baby wakes up every two hours, or cries for days at a time, or refuses to eat, we're both there. We're both awake with her. We're both screaming with her. We're both hanging onto whatever shred of patience we might find hiding beneath all the puked-on clothes, tear-soaked bibs, sh*tty diapers, and discarded pacifiers. We're powering through this — for our baby, and for each other.
Being there for each other through all the horrible bits of new parenthood means we're also there for each other through all the lovely ones. Every time our daughter does something new — be it discover her hands, hold onto her toy, grip our fingers, smile just a little bit bigger, or roll over to her side — we absolutely delight in it. No one around us could ever possibly understand why seeing her start to grow a tooth or push herself up a little bit higher during tummy time is so damn miraculous, nor would I expect them to. But you totally get it. You're ready to clap and congratulate her with me every time she does something even marginally interesting.
Thanks for being the one person who's happy to cope with my anxiety, depression, or general feelings of helplessness. Thanks for sharing a bed with me when I smell of sweat and spit-up.
Sometimes, it can seem like we're not on the save wavelength. But I think any conflict we might experience stems from the fact that we're on the same wavelength a bit too much. After all, both of us are tired, overwhelmed, and trying to figure out how to be just the right hybrid of selfless and selfish — not only for our benefit, but for our daughter's.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is: thank you. Thanks for being the one person who's happy to cope with my anxiety, depression, or general feelings of helplessness. Thanks for sharing a bed with me when I smell of sweat and spit-up. Thanks for being so patient, caring, and loving to our baby girl — who, despite how exhausted or angry or scared we may sometimes feel, has no reason to suspect we're anything but thrilled by her existence. Thanks for letting me be my worst self.
Because the thing is, something tells me that the fact that we can both be our worst selves around each other is part of the reason we help one another be our best selves. And for that reason, I think Luna is a pretty lucky kid. Hell, I think we're pretty lucky kids, too.