Love After Baby: It’s Nothing Like What I Expected
I’m dating again.
I’ve met someone who’s funny and charming. He’s in his 30s and has a kid, but so do I, so it works out just fine. He travels quite a bit, but never leaves without a text to let me know when he’s taking off, and when he’s landed. He is transparent about his feelings and sends me funny texts and supportive e-mails during the day.
No. I’m not getting divorced or going through a mid-life crisis (can one have a mid-life crisis at 33?!), I’m just really excited about this new man in my life.
Spoiler Alert: It’s Joe. Yes, that Joe, the same Joe that I’ve been married to for three years, but he’s different than when I first met him. Hell, he’s a different man than from a year ago. And, quite frankly, so am I.
We have new roles at home (“Mom” and “Dad”) and at work, so it makes sense that our relationship had to evolve, too. It wasn’t until I was in the hospital room dizzy with sleep that I realized we had nine months to prepare to take care of a baby, but we never thought about having to take care of us. That scared me just as much as the tiny human in my arms.
During the initial newborn fog, it was all hands on deck, all the time (I’ll grab the diaper! I’ll get the spit-up rag! You eat, I’ll hold him!). These small decisions and actions connected us (physically and emotionally) to ensure this little person is cared for. Being fiercely independent people, who are also utterly terrified at the prospect of appearing vulnerable, having to rely on another person, and have someone relying on US, was completely foreign. And scary.
We had one big fight that really set the tone for how things were going to work in this new relationship. After spewing verbal daggers at one another over a screaming baby, we made a promise to respect each other at our worst, no questions or eye rolls allowed. We would help each other by reminding ourselves that the house wasn’t on fire; the baby will cry even when we do everything right.
We slowly emerged from those “dark days,” as I lovingly refer to that time, different people. The surge of hormones had died down (not without dragging me through a lovely bout of postpartum depression— a story for another blog post), we were both adjusting to less sleep, and accepting this new reality. This baby was OURS. WE had to take care of him. US. Words that aren’t in the lexicon of the self-reliant. After nine months inside me, it was finally time to let someone else in on the action.
We could no longer afford to be as independent as we both so longingly desired. We had to work together as a team to get things done.
This team mentality, it didn’t happen overnight, I can tell you that much. We didn’t experiment with chore charts or resort to nagging or stalemates; I think it was a realization that we can’t do it all alone, despite our best efforts or intentions. Right now, if something needs to be done: blow out, dishes, Winnie duty, etc, one of steps in and gets it done. No one is keeping score, although I do feel like Joe has been doing A LOT of heavy lifting while I travel. No doubt, my time will come to help him out very soon.
The only hard and fast rule we have is whoever is holding the baby when he poops, changes him. It’s like a very cute game of hot potato.
What I’ve come to summarize after 10 months of playing “Mom” and “Dad” is all the realness of our relationship— the vulnerability that came with him seeing me at LITERALLY the worst I could have ever looked (see: Labor & Delivery), we have become closer emotionally, physically, intellectually. Looking back at our relationship, there have been times where Joe hasn’t seen me at my, um, finest. There have been embarrassing moments, but nothing that couldn’t be laughed at later or blamed on one too many glasses of wine. Childbirth is different. At least that is what I thought. I perceived that once your husband sees certain things (like your placenta, or your organs in a tin tray let’s say), they can’t be unseen.
During all the craziness, we are trying our best to be both “Kate” and “Joe” AND “Mom” and “Dad.” Remembering who we were while being who we are.
Truthfully, it’s hard. On top of finding the time to care for August, and myself, and the house and continue to work, sometimes “we” falls through the cracks. We’ve found that there’s no time to punish one another with silence or passive aggressiveness. There’s too much to do, and frankly, a lot more at stake. I try to remember this when my hormones rage or I feel overwhelmed with balancing work and motherhood. There are days when I’m impatient and difficult to be around. But then I look over to see the new guy I’m dating, who I think looks sexiest in his crewneck sweatshirt spotted with baby fluids, baseball hat, shorts, and Birkenstocks— I realize that in my moment of struggle, he is choosing to be patient with me. To put my needs before his own— willingly and without protest. In all the hardship parenthood brings, selflessness has been the most rewarding discovery.
Still, in all the ways we’ve connected through trials and tribulations, relationships need space and time to flourish and they most certainly need time for “Kate” and “Joe.”
So we are dating, getting to know the new person that we see across the dinner table, or playing with August. I’m excited to get to know this new man in my life.
It’s funny how people change, right before our eyes. Over the last few years, I’ve watched Joe transform, from boyfriend to husband, and now to a father. I’m so proud of Joe filling this new role, one that he has wholeheartedly embraced. These days, he needs to remember to take care of himself. There’s a lot talk reminding moms to take time for themselves, but I don’t want to forget about all the dads out there putting in long hours at work and home; they need self-care as well. As the safety card reminds us, you have to affix your oxygen mask first before assisting others.
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How about you? What new things have you noticed in your guy that make you proud and in love all over again? What ways do you find to show each other you care in the little moments? Have you been surprised by your new connection with your partner after baby?
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