Friday, January 14, 2011

Metamorphosis of a Marriage

I believe it's safe and accurate to say that few events change the dynamics of a marriage more than becoming parents. The pregnancy itself is usually a roller coaster ride that begins to set these changes in motion. If I could condense forty weeks of emotional ups and downs into a ten-step timeline, it would look something like this:

  1. We're pregnant! Oh my gosh! Hugs, kisses, awed glances at each other as you both try to wrap your heads around the idea of creating a person.
  2. Mom: Get away! The smell of your deodorant is revolting! Yak, barf, gag as Dad stands by helplessly suddenly feeling self-conscious about the Old Spice scent he's wearing.
  3. Mom: Come feel this! It's like there are little butterfly flutters in my tummy. Dad (a little bummed): I don't feel anything. 
  4. Dad (three weeks later): Wow! What was that? Mom: He kicked you. The return of sweet, awed glances that hold feelings too deep to express properly.
  5. It's a ......boy (or girl)! Hooray!
  6. Mom: Good grief, I have to pee again for the fiftieth time today. My back hurts.
  7. Dad: What the heck are all these pillows doing in the bed? I can't even get to you. Your belly and your pillows are slowly edging me out of my own bed entirely.
  8. Mom: Stop trying to snuggle with me! You're like a space heater, and your arm around me crushes my ribs even more than your son is already crushing them.
  9. Mom: Uggghhh...when is this baby going to GET OUT! I can't believe you did this to me, and you don't even have to do any of the work.
  10. He's here! Tears of joy, return of awed glances, sweet croons to your new baby. Life will always be this poignant thanks to this little guy.
Cut to two weeks later when you and your husband are taking turns bouncing and swinging a colicky baby for the fifth night in a row. You don't remember what a good night's sleep feels like, the baby can't latch, you haven't bathed in God knows how many days, and no one is getting on your nerves worse than each other. Well, except for the know-it-all visitors who show up unannounced ready to force their acquired wisdom and suggestions down your throat (this after they've caught you scrambling to get out of the first shower you've climbed into in three days).

You've also likely argued more than once over who should stay up with the baby. Mom, if you're nursing you get the honor of feeding, but often you still feel Dad should be doing something other than drooling on his pillow next to you. He will likely argue he has to be productive at work the next day while you argue you need to be able to function well enough to care for the baby. These cyclical arguments can drive you insane.

Thankfully, this adjustment is a temporary insanity while reality begins to set in that neither your life nor your marriage will ever be the same. You eventually begin to be proactive about functioning in your new situation and sorting out how to realign your partnership. The million dollar question remains how do you stay two halves of a love story while navigating the sometimes rocky terrain of co-parenting?

There is not one right answer to the question, and the only real solution I've discovered to staying connected to my husband as an individual rather than just a parent is quality time. We try to have "date night" whenever we can. We live in a great city, and our activities range anywhere from evening strolls on Tybee Island to walking through the Historic District of Savannah taking goofy self-portraits. We do still talk about our kids on our dates, but talking without the disruption of "kid crazy" allows us to laugh and share funny stories about them rather than bicker over how to discipline them in the middle of chaos.

Sometimes dates just aren't a possibility, but even curling up on the couch together to decompress and watch something besides Dinosaur Train allows us to connect. We make valiant attempts to talk to each other at dinner but often crack up at the number of times we're interrupted while trying to get through one conversation. Inspired by our friends' successes, we recently started poring through coupon methods and options together, and even that simple activity feels like a chance to communicate. The key is finding a partnership that is fair and balanced and taking advantage of everyday opportunities to connect.

Letting go of the fairy tale idea that we would never fight was key for us to grow together as partners and as parents. Marriage will always require effort, but putting my faith in the lesson that has ultimately come from each trial has made weathering storms much less terrifying. I know that no one else in this world besides me knows the ins and outs of our life like my husband. Our routine and roles are always evolving, and I love looking back on the experiences we've had to get us to the point we're at in our marriage. We always sense when we need to find time just for us, and we're learning how to better express appeciation for each other (this process, too, is always evolving).

One day we'll have an empty nest, and when that day comes, I hope we've worked hard enough at our connection that I look across the table at Jason and still see my best friend. He's a great dad, but he's also an honorable man and a funny, hard-working, loving husband. Thankfully, he's also not perfect, and that takes a lot of pressure off of me!


  1. I am so proud of your writing. This is great as usual, And pardon me if I was ever one of the know it alls. I love you guys. Nana

  2. Thanks, Mama:) And no, you were never one of the know-it-alls. You've always had great respect for my role as a mommy.

  3. You have such a gift for writing Molly...this post was great and I really enjoy reading your blog :)