Dear Husband & Father of Our Child,
Thank you for stopping by the grocery store on this cold, drizzly morning to pick up bread and milk. Our cupboards need refilling so much more frequently these days, and the kid isn't even eating solid foods yet!
And thank you for swinging by Crepes d'Elen for a pain au chocolat, as well. It was a lovely treat to have awaiting me after I failed to put our daughter down for her morning nap. Again. After having been cried and screamed at for almost twenty minutes in the dark.
Drinking a cup of hot tea and eating a French pastry allowed me to hold it together a bit longer. Meanwhile, you played on the bed with our daughter, distracting her from her fatigue, making her smile. You know, by juggling or making hand-fart noises. Whatever works.
Isn't that smile beautiful? And isn't it a rare kind of privilege to be one of the two people on earth who know exactly what to do to coax it from her?
I love watching her draw a tiny, pink palm across your face, perplexed a bit by the texture of your stubble. This is Daddy , she is thinking.
Daddy. The guy who woke and sat up in bed beside me last night at 3am as the kid cried herself into an unprecedented frenzy. This, after I'd fed and changed and burped her. We were all up for more than an hour for the first time in months. Your hand on my back as I sat on the edge of the bed, sighing heavily at the thought of returning to her room again--oh, again--made the whole thing infinitely more bearable. Your level of calm maintained my level of calm. You refusing to blame me for any of these tough moments makes it easier for me not to blame myself.
Well, no. I still blame myself for every failure--major or minor--but I don't have the added pressure of your blame. And I can turn to you in those dark moments of self-flagellation and hear you say, No, she's not still awake because you're doing something wrong. She's still awake because she's a baby. She's 25% the product of what we do and 75% random banana. (Which, by the way, is my favorite thing you've ever said to me. Ever. When she goes bananas, I always think of this. It saves me. It save us all.)
One of the hardest parts of this whole motherhood thing is the enormous pressure it lays on my shoulders. I am the primary care giver. All sorts of decisions have to be made, and they are so often entirely up to me. Because I'm the one who's home. I'm the one with the food supply. I'm the one who, allegedly, should have some kind of built-in set of instincts about this stuff. Every time I make a judgment call about parenting our daughter, I feel the pressure build.
Was it right? Will it work? Will it ruin her? Will it ruin us? Will it make our lives harder in the long run? How soon will I be able to tell? How can I fix it? Is it too late?
So, when you arrive home from work with two meal options to prepare for dinner, please continue to be patient with me when I shake my head and say, I don't know. Whatever you want. I don't care. Whatever.
I simply can't be asked to choose something so trivial anymore.
And thank you for making dinner. Again. For keeping me fed, so that I can continue to stand up and produce breast milk and function like a humanoid for one more day.
Thank you for all these little maintenance tasks you have picked up since she was born. Food shopping and meal making and breast pump washing, etc. I can't tell you how much it means to me to leave the baby's room each evening at her bedtime, knowing I'll be walking into a living room that is tidy. One where all toys and books and burp cloths have been whisked into their places, put away, so that you and I can enjoy our evening as two adults should. Without a single jingly, sing-songy, bouncy, plastic, googly-eyed thing out to be tripped over.
And thank you for feeling bad for me when I do trip. Or whack my arm into the post. Or stub my toe on a door frame. Lack of sleep definitely depletes my spatial awareness, and it was already questionable! When you come to my aid and rub the newly sore spot sympathetically, I think of all the times you will do this for our little one in her life. And I think of what it will mean to her to have you as her protector. The guy who makes the hurt a little less. (Since I'll likely be the one telling her to walk it off...)
Yesterday, I got out for a run. Thank you. And before I left, you told me to enjoy myself, to stay out as long as I wanted, not to rush back. You said, I've got this. And I knew you did. Well, actually, I wanted to believe it with all my heart, though I must admit that I doubt any other human being's ability to keep the kid quiet and happy and healthy between her many sleeps. I'm the one who has the track record, after all. I'm sorry for doubting you. Thank you for pushing past my doubt with confidence.
That confidence made it possible for me to lace up and run out the door. To feel summer sunshine on my shoulders. To listen to the lapping water at the fjord's edge. To remind myself how fortunate I am to have my health, and a beautiful, funny, sweet little baby, and a husband I adore. Only distance can allow these positive thoughts to bloom naturally. I need that distance sometimes. Thank you for recognising and responding to that need.
You can tell when that need is greatest by the number of times I swear. The depth and gusto of my sighs when she wakes up too soon. The hunch of my shoulders and spine as I drag myself out of bed or off the couch. The fistful of chocolate chips in my hand traveling blindly to my mouth. Just because that's the only available chocolate, and it acts as fuel, and no, you cannot second guess me on this one. I need it.
Thank you for buying me other, better chocolate. For breaking off squares of it and sharing with me as we watch Murder, She Wrote and take turns trying to guess who the murderer will be this time. Always the person we most medium suspect.
Thank you for changing her diapers as frequently as possible. For blowing raspberries on her tummy. For making her do a little naked dance just before her evening bath. For taking turns with me responding to her cries as we settle her down at bedtime so that I can eat at least half my meal hot. For reading books to her and kissing the dandelion-soft top of her head and taking photos and videos of her to send to me when I get my time away. Because you know I miss her. (And I need proof that all is still well.)
I often feel utterly dependent on you. It's not an easy thing for an independent woman to deal with so sudden and severe a change. For a very long time, it was easy to simply live entwined and in parallel. There for each other, but more because we enjoyed one another's company than because some situation required our effort and attention at all times. Now everything has changed.
And also nothing has changed. I can tell because you still make me laugh every day. Even after I've been reduced to tired, frustrated tears. And I can tell because we still talk about important, non-child-related things with our stockinged feet touching under the dinner table. And I can tell because we still take care of each other in the old ways, too. I cut your hair. You rub my shoulders. It isn't always easy to find the time to do these little things, but when we do, the familiarity of the actions reminds me of what life was before she came.
She. That blue-eyed ball of curiosity and squeals. I'm thrilled we waited ten years to have her. And on my more rested days, I'm elated we didn't wait any longer than ten years. She looks like you. She looks like me. She is learning how to hug and really hold on. Even exhausted, I must admit, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Love. Seriously. Love,
Your Grateful Wife & Mother of Our Child