I’m not embarrassed to admit that finding ourselves pregnant nine months after getting married pretty much brought our honeymoon lifestyle to a screeching stop. Between gaining 76 lbs with my pregnancy, 8 months of morning (all day) sickness, 2 months of pregnancy related hives, postpartum liver deficiency, the unbelievable stress/expense of taking four months of maternity leave as the primary income in the family, and the unbelievable exhaustion that comes from endless sleepless nights (while battling chronic illness) my husband and “quality” time became increasingly less of a priority or option.
There really was no opportunity after baby arrived to pick up where we left off. When I returned to work 3.5 months after Bean was born, baby boy went on a crib strike. He refused to sleep in his crib when I was home. After spending each work day away from him, I couldn’t handle his ceaseless crying at night. Cry it out wasn’t an option, I would have fallen to pieces too early in the process. Suddenly we found ourselves as a bed sharing, co-sleeping, family. I was happy for time with Bean, but exhausted. Bean was happy and content. Trent slowly became “Daddy.”
When I arrived home at night, Trent would run out the door. He tried to fill his evenings with creative pursuits, time with friends, writing, film projects, podcasts, and the occasional photography gig. When he was home, he’d head into his office and work on projects long into the night. Frequently he’d crawl into bed 4-6 hours after Bean and I had said “night night.”
We each became convinced the other was no longer in love, and perhaps not even in like. I’d get home from work and there would be three loads of laundry waiting for me, a sink full of dishes, and an empty refrigerator. Trent would get a list of “could you,” “would you,” and “why didn’t yous” as he headed out the door. I struggle at the best of times to keep my head above water. As someone that experiences chronic illness and pain I place every ounce of my best into my workday. My colleagues get my energy and good, and my family, frequently, gets the wilted leftovers. Add stress to the mix, and I’m just a yelly, achy, confused, ball of exhaustion that no one really wants to spend too much time with.
And then, something happened.
We had a discussion. A challenging one. We said things. There were tears. And then, there was listening. I heard how hard it is to have ones only intellectual stimulation in a day be that of a toddler. I heard how crippling it can be to only hear suggestions of how to do thing better or faster. I heard how frustrating it is to have a wife that is a manager and motivator try to apply all of those leadership practices at home. At the same time Trent heard me say how hard it was to come home every night from work to chores that needed to be completed at home alone with baby at my side. How draining it was to feel like no one else cared about the things I considered important for a home to be a home. How anxious I felt driving home each night to what could be total chaos and an unbelievable amount of chores. How I felt like I was losing myself because I only had time for work at work or work at home and joy was just something I’d have to find later. He heard how lonely I felt.
When I originally was thinking about writing this story, I had planned on writing something humorous. A metaphor filled riff on things a husband can do to make his partner scream with ecstasy. I planned to allude to that one thing my husband has started to do that drives me wild, and makes my toes curl. There was going to be something about seeing him bend that certain way…over a sink. Here’s the thing: it’s not funny. It’s amazing. My husband heard me and has become my partner.
We’ve entered into a phase that is so much more than we experienced as newlyweds. My husband is in it to win it with me. Each night for the last couple of weeks I have come home to my husband. We’ve had dinner as a family. Frequently all of the dishes are washed. The counters are tidy. Toys are picked up. Sometimes the hum of the dishwasher or washing machine can be heard in the background.
Usually while I’m getting dinner ready Trent grabs a few minutes for himself, and then he joins Bean and I and is perfectly present. He tells me about his day, the good stuff and the bad stuff. I laugh at his jokes. He laughs at mine. We celebrate new words, new behaviors, and toddlerific feats of terrifying proportion. Sometimes after dinner Trent offers to wash the dishes while I enjoy a glass of wine, or he takes Bean off to play for a bit while I get some time to unwind. Other evening’s he’ll head off to write, but reappear around Bean’s bedtime to take on all of the getting ready for bed routine with an extraordinarily defiant toddler while I have a shower.
He will lay and chat with me for a bit while Bean nurses at bedtime. And, if Bean fights me on bedtime, Trent doesn’t let me struggle on my own for too long. He’ll come to my rescue with his warm milkless chest, and will snuggle Bean while I head upstairs for 20 minutes of quality/mindless social media time. My husband is a damn hero when it comes to getting Bean to sleep. He’s the Sleep Whisperer of the Wilkie house.
Here’s the important lesson that has come with taking on this marriage, family, partnership thing in a full on let’s do this together way: my husband has transformed from “Daddy” to the most unbelievably attractive man I have ever encountered. He’s my Brad Pitt. He’s my Channing Tatum. He’s rugged and handsome. He’s funny and irresistible. I want to smother him with love in every moment he’s around. I can’t get enough. I am wild for this man. He’s found the secret to my desire. The key to my feminine wiles. He’s every plausible outcome of a Playboy story on “how to turn her on” and he’s doing it day after day by being the awesome dad that he always was and the unbelievable partner I suspected was in there.
I’m also becoming lovelier daily. I’m calmer. I laugh quicker. I have more energy. I’m happier. I’m decidedly more patient. I’m definitely more loving. Mostly, I’m exceptionally grateful to have a loving partner, at my side, helping carry the weight of our lives forward, together.