I’ve been struggling a lot over the past few weeks and thinking about this topic constantly. I will be the first to humbly admit that I wasn’t ready for a kid. Correction: I wasn’t prepared for the side effects of having a baby, especially in regards to the impact it would have on my marriage. The thing is, no one can prepare you for parenthood, and even if someone tells you, it’d be impossible to understand until you go through it. This is why no one is ever truly ready. In theory, you can comprehend that having a baby will “change your life,” but more specifically, what does this mean? Well for me and Andy it’s been a testament to our ability to communicate, be vulnerable, and empathize with one another. For me personally, I’ve had to understand and acknowledge when I’m creating (and believing!) a story in my head that’s out of touch with reality. It’s so difficult and a constant work in progress, but every time I talk about it, it helps remind me that this is normal and every parent goes through it, they just don’t talk about it. Well, it’s time to lay it out and create a dialogue so we can collectively lift each other up.
My Story: It’s not fair that you can get out and have carefree fun. When I go out, I constantly check my phone and then rush home feeling guilty, and I don’t truly enjoy my time away.
Reality: I constantly struggle with this and don’t know if it’ll ever go away. I’ve realized that this feeling of resentment/jealousy/guilt is partly a result of my decision to breastfeed and also my maternal instinct. In choosing to exclusively breastfeed, I’ve been able to create an incredible bond with Amaya that I cherish. I’m her sustenance, and it’s an incredibly rewarding role but also a lot of weight to carry. She wasn’t taking well to the bottle so I always felt tethered to her, awaiting the next feeding, or I would go out and come home to a crying baby and feel so guilty. I watched Andy with his carefree attitude and wished I could experience it for myself, but then I’m reminded that he sees my bond with Amaya and doesn’t have that either. We often talk about how this transition is hard but remind ourselves that it’s temporary. Amaya is taking to the bottle much better now since she’s been in daycare. If I leave her, maybe shit will hit the fan OR maybe she’ll be just FINE. So I’m experimenting this week with letting Andy do her entire bedtime routine (including feeding her) without me. And we’re going to let my parents do the same on Sunday night. I have no idea how this will go, and part of me is still anxious about not being there. But it’s a step towards finding a bit more freedom and trusting others to step in and help.
My Story: I don’t have time to take care of myself – working out, getting a massage, finding some quiet time is a luxury.
Reality: Constantly breastfeeding has wreaked havoc on my body, and I now have a pinched nerve due to misalignment in my neck/shoulders which is making my fingertips go numb. Last week after driving back from Houston, I had a massive headache and was in a ton of pain. I ended up nursing Amaya when we got back and sat there silently crying, hoping she wouldn’t react to my energy. Afterwards, Andy drew me a bath and gave me some peace and quiet. But the look on his face as he watched me helplessly, was a total wake up call. I knew that I needed to prioritize some me time to get away and take care of myself, or my entire family would suffer. In order to do this, I really need to let go of the guilt and remember that a happy me means a I’m a better mom and wife. Taking care of myself has to be a consistent priority and not viewed as a luxury. This is so so hard for me to put in to practice, but I’m forcing it in hopes that it’ll become my norm.
My Story: I do everything. Why can’t parenting be 50/50?
Reality: Parenthood will not be 50/50 by nature of the fact that breastfeeding automatically creates an imbalance in our roles, and it took me awhile to understand this was my choice. I could ask Andy to give more bottles or choose to pump or even switch to formula. But I choose not to, and now I realize the implication of that choice, and I can start to make peace with it. However, a huge shift happened when I evaluated areas where Andy could step in, and I actually finally asked for help (something I’m not good at doing). Andy now completely owns grocery shopping and meal prep for us. He also does daycare drop off and pick up every Tuesday/Thursday. He gives Amaya a bath every night and feeds her a bottle if she wakes up between 11pm-2am so I can sleep a solid chunk of time. He also picks up the slack on some chores around the house that I was previously able to do while on maternity leave. In turn, I also had to let go of my need to have the house in perfect order and have every chore done immediately. The latter is still a work in progress – I hate a messy house and really need the house in order before I can relax, but I’m trying to let it go. In short, I couldn’t believe how offloading all these little things would impact my sanity and allow me to claim back some time to breathe, finish a quick chore, or just do something good for myself. It’s also allowed Andy to really step into his role as a dad and bond with Amaya, which makes me so happy.
My Story: Baby comes first, marriage comes second.
Reality: This might be true in these early months as we learn life with baby, but it can’t hold true forever for our marriage to thrive. I often find myself telling Andy how much I miss him even though I still see him every day, maybe moreso now than before. But the difference is our conversation and activities are always focused on Amaya, whereas for the past 14 years it’s been focused on us as individuals and us as a couple. It’s a huge change, and I sometimes wonder if I would feel different if Andy and I had only been together for a couple years instead. Who knows. When I told my friend the other day about the difficulties of putting our marriage second, she told me to be mindful of this and to eventually figure out how to make it a priority. I think about how kids absorb everything, especially our energy and behaviors. A happy marriage makes a loving home and develops a healthy child. But it all stems from the marriage.
In hindsight, we were ready for a kid. Because we have worked so hard on our marriage that amidst navigating all this change, I continue to see how incredibly open, loving, and empathetic we are to each other which shows in the way we communicate. We ask each other about work; we try to understand each other’s worries and struggles; we call each other out immediately when needed. It sometimes feels blunt and painful, but it’s respectful and real. And I’m so grateful for Andy and his insight, patience, and even temperament. He’s not perfect, nor am I, but we constantly strive to be better. And that’s all we can really ask for – continually finding purpose in making the effort to be the best versions of ourselves. Amaya deserves it, and so do we.
“A successful marriage is falling in love man times, always with the same person.” – Mignon McLaughlin
“Always be better.” – Shandy <3