In the past week and a half, I've received a Save the Date card in the mail, discovered another wedding date announcement in my e-mail inbox, and attended a live-and-in-person baby shower. Three different friends, all opening new chapters in their life stories. So naturally, I started thinking of all the unsolicited advice I could heap on them. The things I wish someone had told me.
The "things no one told me about having a baby that I wish I'd known" advice could fill a book. In fact, I think that's why there are so many pregnancy- and baby-information books out there: there's always something that happened for you that didn't come up in any of the books you read, so you take it upon yourself to write one. (Not to mention that there's always a market for that kind of thing, since we can't seem to stop having babies. Biological imperative and poor judgment and all that.)
Maybe they told you this, but no one told me that the midwives would hang around until I'd peed. If I'd had half a brain towards the end of my pregnancy, this might have occurred to me, but I was more than a little surprised after Westley was born to suddenly have my bathroom-going monitored so closely. I also didn't know that recovering from an unmedicated at-home vaginal birth would be a full-time job. Never mind the baby. My vadge felt inside out and lopsided for weeks, and I had to carry a little inflatable butt-donut pillow around with me. I thought sitting would hurt forever.
The thing is, I'm sure that somewhere, there's a pregnancy book that says "your vadge will feel like it's inside out and lopsided," or something to that effect. I just didn't read it. I'm not as confident, however, that there's a pregnancy book that says, "Having a baby is like pushing the RESET button on your relationship." The couple Rob and I are now is not the couple we were before Westley was born. And it's definitely not the couple we were when we got married.
I realize that that has the potential to come across as negative. It's not a bad thing, really; it's just the truth about how things are now. It's true that we fight much more often now than we did before Westley was born. We take it out on each other when we're feeling grouchy or needy or tired, and the other person starts to look like the problem. But, so far, we're fighting through the fighting, and we're problem-solving more efficiently and effectively than we did before we were parents. Maybe Westley gives us the motivation we need to really work on our relationship.
I wish someone had told me, before I got married, that there would be times when I didn't feel like being married any more. And that that's all right. Wanting to be married comes and goes, like weather. And here in Seattle there are lots of overcast days, sure, but there are plenty of beautiful ones, too. Like today.
Four years ago today, Rob and I sneaked away from work early, kidnapped some friends (the baby-shower friends, actually), and got married. I remember the Judge saying this was his favorite part of his job. He explained with a fictional-character kind of wisdom that marriage is like being in a two-person canoe, and it really takes work on both people's parts to keep it afloat. Especially when it's dark and hard to see, or stormy and the water is choppy. It was a perfect day. My only major regret is that we didn't consummate the marriage until two months later, after our "real" wedding in front of our friends and families.
Four years later, things are tougher in a lot of ways, but I like us better. We don't go to bed angry; we stay up and fight until we're fighting on the same side. Us against the fight. There are times when I don't feel like being married any more. There are times when I don't feel like being a parent any more. There are times when I think if I had really known what I was getting myself into, I would have turned left at the fork in the road. But those times do pass, sometimes with work. The trick is to remember what the beautiful days feel like when the sun starts disappearing behind the clouds.
That is the only unsolicited advice I will ever insist on giving to couples about to be Parents, to couples about to be Couples: Remember this. Remember what it feels like to like each other. Remember what it feels like to be sneaky and secretive together. Remember what it feels like to be just the two of you, together, in a little canoe.