Look at that picture. What a happy family, right? All smiling and dressed in coordinated denim for this little photo shoot. Might even want to make you gag a little.
But the picture is one dimensional and it doesn’t tell you our story. So let me tell you just a teeny part of ours.
Before we had kids, John and I had a lot of time for each other. We both had challenging careers. Confession: I think I always say I have a challenging career, even at times when it isn’t all that bad for the simple reason that it makes me feel important. We would go to the gym together, we’d be current on episodes of our favorite shows, we’d watch movies and go on dinner dates with friends.
When Shaila, (Baby #1), made her appearance in this world, I remember the joy and most of the fuzzy memories from the hospital where I was absolutely fine with taking my fair share of painkillers.
But I remember as we were dressing her to get her ready to take her home, this crushing, panicked realization of “I’m not ready.”
Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy Shit.
It wasn’t just that John had forgotten to read the instructions on the car seat as we were trying to adjust it to fit her little 6 lb body. And I still fully blame John for that because it was the one task I gave him while I was incubating our child for 10 months.
As we fumbled with the child seat, realizing that the outfit we brought from home was way too big for her (A one month outfit is way bigger than the NB – or newborn outfit), we looked at each other and I think it was the first time we admitted to ourselves.
“We have no effing clue, do we?”
We somehow managed to get her home without breaking her, but it was close. She cried the whole way home and I kept trying to put the pacifier in her mouth while John clenched the steering wheel in his hands.
“Why is she crying?” he asked. Yeah, just like that I’m the Baby Whisperer because I have a uterus.
“I don’t know. It’s ok. We’ll get home and she will be fine,” trying not to panic. John was freaking the shit out of me.
Things got better when we got home. Family helped. We got into some kind of routine after our families all left. And we started to get the whole parenting thing down.
But despite all the books I had read, I just didn’t know what it would be like. What the exhaustion would feel like. That I would struggle with breast feeding both of my children, trying so hard that I was often in tears. That I gave up and turned to formula and always felt like complete crap when asked, “And how is the breast feeding going?” and I would mumble something non-sensical, hoping they wouldn’t ask me to repeat myself, feeling like I had the most inept boobs in the world.
Another shortcoming to add to my list.
But somehow we made it through it. We officially felt like parents. We even were good at it some days. Not all, definitely NOT all. Sometimes we were more like taking guesses and crossing our fingers (and toes) that we were not causing irreparable harm to Shaila. We may have done some damage, we still question it, but again, we are hoping she came through relatively unscathed.
Crossing our fingers again.
Nico (Baby #2) came and it was harder this time. I didn’t bounce back into work with the same fervor that I had the first time and it took me longer to adjust. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I was going through Postpartum Depression in a bad way, and the shiny veneer of my normally happy self was wearing thin.
So now we get back to the point of this post. Somewhere along the way, John and I stopped prioritizing each other. We kept up with the demands of work, parenting and maintaining a home, but when it came to our marriage, we did little to nurture it or each other.
After the kids went to bed, John would fall in front of the television and get lost in whatever sports event was on, while I would be in my own world, sipping on a glass of wine and writing or producing songs.
And the distance between us grew. The time we spent with each other dwindled.
We had officially stopped giving a shit.
I write this now because for quite some time this year, John and I were thinking about giving up. About calling it quits and starting over. We were very close to making a decision that would have changed our family forever.
But as the time grew closer for the actual split, I started to break down. Like, really breakdown. I would cry incessantly. If John walked by, I would burst into tears and leave the room. I would hold my children and think about having to tell them about this and cry some more.
It’s amazing I didn’t drown in those tears. I did drown my sorrows in a lot of wine though. Too much.
It took the realization that whatever our differences were and whatever our grievances are with each other, that our love and respect and concern for each other far outweighs that.
And that was a pretty amazing revelation for me.
And with that realization came the understanding for both of us that we wanted to fight for this. A little harder than we had.
Today is the day I would have been closing on the new house I bought. Some women shop at Target when they are sad. Some women splurge on a new pair of shoes from Nordstrom when they have the blues.
Not me. I bought a house. A shiny, new one.
Once John and I realized that we wanted to work on this and to “really” work on it and not just say we are working on it, it became clear that I needed to return the house. I asked John if we could keep it because I really liked all the features I had picked out, but he said that would not be a good idea.
NOTE: You lose a little more money when you “return” a house than say when you return a pair of shoes. I would strongly advise against it.
It’s a little scary trying again. It’s scary because you know there is the chance that you will fall into old habits. That the constant demands of all the other stuff, especially the really noisy stuff like the kids, can still stand in your way.
But you can’t do anything about all that. That’s still going to be there. And short of slipping some hard liquor into our kids’ sippy cups, in the hopes that they will pass out, the kids are still going to be loud.
This post is personal. I get that. I am not writing it for cathartic release or for some kind of exhibitionism of my family. I write because I know that I am not alone in this. And that others like me have sat on that scary precipice just like I did. And no matter what decision you make, you will find your way.