Six months after our wedding, we were expecting a baby. Getting this news was a bit like walking into a surprise party in our honor—after the initial shock, we quickly settled into celebration. Except, of course, that our anxieties were slightly weightier than your average adoring-crowd fluster, and the party doesn’t end.
We wanted a family, no doubt about that. But we were planning to plan. To wait until we had a bigger place. More money. More college. More stability, maturity, time. More of all the thousand things that may never come. The things we thought would make us ready.
But now I know that nothing, nothing could have prepared us for that moment. A moment washed in fear and awe and joy and love and the smashing comprehension that everything is changed.
The revelation I was to be a mother made me feel strangely like a child, naïve and unqualified. But my husband gripped my eyes with his, a foggy upturn to his lips, and said, simply, “I’m not scared.”
Those words were a steadying foothold in my roiling dizziness and my mind whorled into focus beside him as we began our ride into parenthood.
After months of morning sickness and “sausage feet,” after the heart-splitting bliss of that first cry, after marathon sleepless nights and spit-up stains, tumbles, bruises, first laughs, first steps, first words, our little family has now blown out one candle.
And yes, everything has changed.
No one hesitates to inform new parents that their love life is headed down the drain. The profound lack of romance in our demographic has long been fodder for stand-up comedy (usually involving jokes at a mate’s expense), movies (usually involving a chaotic passel of tots and a plumbing problem) and Sunday funnies (usually involving laundry and frizzled hair). This collective societal laugh is not entirely unwarranted. Nor, perhaps, is the apparently lucrative “keeping romance alive” self-help book industry.
We were never much the romantic candlelight dinner types, but, yes, an elegant meal and a leisurely glass of wine have become more a pipe dream than a luxury. “Luxury” would be better defined as a day in which all three of us manage to be simultaneously clean.
Yes, when we curl into a cuddle on the couch there is now a bright little body tucked between us. Yes, we stretch to kiss goodnight over her soft sleep. And, yes, too often I catch us moving around each other in our daily business, doing our best to command the chaos with, yes, an armful of laundry and frizzled hair.
But I consider our partnership in this ordinary, extraordinary adventure a genuine success. I may be able to count our recent dates on one hand, but I can count our fights on the other, most of those born of stress or exhaustion. We go about our days, waking, working, eating, exploring, sleeping. Romance has been cast temporarily aside, but love, I suppose, is a kind of energy. And energy, as Einstein’s law declares, is never lost. It only changes form.
Everyone told us that our romance would suffer. That parenting was work.
What no one told us was that, whether by growth or necessity, selfishness would wither to a vestigial wisp, and that love would become the engine that drives our lives and informs our actions. What no one told us is that the work itself is love.
Forget the scattered rose petals, the chocolate-dipped strawberries, the soft-focus, dreamy gestures. After many a long workday, I’ve stumbled over our threshold onto a freshly vaccumed carpet, or into the kitchen to find dishes drying in the drainer and my husband, barely home himself, slicing potatoes with our daughter in his arms.
Warm towels after a shower, a half gallon of ice cream and a jar of fudge, a few minutes of quiet, a shameless living room dance party, a lullaby, a kiss caught over bubbling dishwater or simmering soup, the same story read for the 14th time, a 3 AM diaper change, finger paints on the kitchen floor, imagination, patience, persistance—those everyday acts are our love notes now, and it is the most sincere and beautiful romance I’ve ever known.
We can do better, I’m sure; we’re still learning to balance this precarious tower of needs, wants, responsibilities, freedom and fun. I’m trying to say thank you more. To tell him more often that because of him, my muddling days are lit, again and again, by love and gratidude.
To tell him that more than once I’ve had to catch my breath in the cereal aisle as, a few steps ahead of me, he tickled a delighted peal of laughter into the Cheerios. That I’ve choked back a swell of dizzying wonder, sitting on the edge of the bed where they nap together, snug and rumpled, breathing in quiet unision, her eyes my eyes, her mouth his. And that I may never have loved him more than the day I came home to find them perched at the coffee table, each working on a masterpiece in crayon.
To tell him that love is waxing, not waning. Because, toddling out into the world, itself thrown open anew, is a fresh, exquisite, curious, joy-filled, blossoming life, proving with every step what I believed all along: that together we’ve become something better than our selves.
Love doesn't die after baby—it evolves