April 13th, 2013

planet

how our marriage survived our baby

Someone close to me recently had a wedding anniversary timed very poorly in the midst of some trying days, and it gave me bad flashbacks to 2010 when Marc and I had an anniversary that I think we could officially declare our worst ever. You know, the kind when you're not sure if you'll make another 12 months so it might be your last one ever, too? So I wrote a long supportive email all about me, realized that was basically the opposite of "supportive", cut my email down to be less of my drama and saved the whole story for my blog, like we do.

The thing is that in 2010 I didn't even write down all my feelings because they were too awful. Darling baby Josie was eight weeks old and supposed to be the light of our lives but to be honest, we were in a staring contest for who was going to leave her at a fire station or post her on craigslist first. When our anniversary came around I wrote that I thought it should really be a year worth celebrating because we'd truly created something beautiful... but deep down inside, one or both of us was constantly wishing to just not exist in that house.

Because beautiful or not, Josie was angry. all. the. time. add this to some "supportive" people around me who'd say "Well you're a first time parent, you probably run to her every time she cries and she picks up your neurosis and you trained her to be a monster, it's all your fault, horrible mother, all your fault..." I didn't know to slap them, or I was too tired. But let's just say that anyone who implies blame towards a parent of a colicky baby does indeed deserve some punishment because the odds of us "training" her to be so frustrating starting when she was four days old or whatever are incredibly low. I watched other parents who behaved no differently than us, who wound up with babies that would randomly pass out and sleep through being thrown on the couch and i'd beg "Oh my GOD how'd you GET TO THIS?" and they looked at me all confused and said "isn't that what babies do? you pat them once and they fall asleep?"

We hadn't slept in two months, I had just returned to work, I was still nursing and pumping and to be honest, recovering from childbirth. We hadn't had sex and I really missed it. We couldn't go out for a nice dinner because that would mean I'd be pumping AGAIN. and I knew, based on all our other recent conversations, that even if marc and I did spend time alone it would just be another bickering contest where we compared who'd gone the longest without showering, sleeping, changing clothes, eating with both hands, or talking to other adults. that was all we had to talk about that month.

So I posted about it in some livejournal communities, not here, because I was too ashamed to admit that I wanted 1) the best anniversary ever but was actually facing 2) the worst anniversary ever.

And you know what advice I got from the world that actually really worked?

Lower your expectations. Seriously.

You'll be married for years, hopefully decades. If you have 50 anniversaries, who cares if one sucked? Or a few were forgotten entirely here and there, or celebrated late?

Of course we went into parenting knowing that babies are tough on relationships, everyone says it. We knew. So why pretend now that your year is "just beautiful"? Take it for what it is... something you're going to survive. That's the only goal you need.

Stop making excuses, when you tell someone you're miserable don't say "and I swear I'm not running to the baby every time she cries!" Plenty of experts say that's what you ARE supposed to do anyway. Just say "I don't always like my baby." There. Fine. You'll like her next year. Really this is why I can write this entry now, I can honestly say that I do like Josie much better now that she's almost three, still a high-spirited "I want what I want" kinda kid but in an entertaining, endearing, light up the world kind of way.

Get yourself checked out for post-partum depression. Okay so I did not do this... but so many people were hearing "tones" of mild issues in me, if things had been much worse, I should have seriously considered it. In fact a lot of women should seriously consider it... but that's another entry. Bottom line is that we spend the days after childbirth sobbing in a hormonally-driven mess, and when that stops we think we're okay, but the months wear on and we're still faking to the world (or maybe beyond faking to the world) that we're not okay, it's a sign. of something.

Don't have sex, just cuddle and be intimate in other ways, isn't that SO SPECIAL... I ignored this advice, we had sex. But not "I'm sure this will be perfect and magical!" sex, more like "let's get this over with because I'm tired of cuddling and pretending that we don't need sex and the first step is STEP 1" sex. There you have it. You can read all kinds of books about how to make your sex life more exciting but nobody every brings up "step 1" sex, the kind you have to get your courage up for, and I'm guessing there are several times in life when you need to think about it as a Type. Maybe it's in the kama sutra.

Celebrate your anniversary with a pizza on the couch, and if the baby sleeps for ten straight minutes take one of those minutes to look at each other and say "We're gonna make it, okay?" and then be done with it.

And we ended up going a step beyond that... a local mexican restaurant. But oddly enough the baby slept. And we let her sleep, even though it was daytime and off the schedule that people kept trying to tell me to invent for her. But that's around the time when we did stop fighting for that schedule, and stopped fighting the baby, and ourselves, for that matter. If she wanted to sleep all day we let her sleep all day. If she wanted to be awake for a few hours at night then screw it, we were turning on a movie and ruining the "quiet dark 12 hours" that we'd been enforcing as part of our "strategy". We started cosleeping... she'd wake up at night, I'd roll over, nurse her, and if I didn't feel like picking her up and laying her back down in her bed I didn't. I'd just roll BACK over. I learned to nurse laying down from either breast and maintained a state of semi-consciousness like a mother pig for the next 18 months, just not caring. Josie's nighttime wakeups just suddenly became that... wakeups, instead of extended late night baby parties lasting for hours. And eventually she did sleep all night, even in a toddler bed where we'd just kiss her on the forehead and leave her in the dark. And marc and I liked each other again. Not always perfect. But now when we get a sitter and go out to eat we soak it in and feel renewed, we don't fight over who's got less free time, we just take what we have and enjoy it together.

I think the whole ordeal taught us that marriage has to be about ignoring the pressure a little bit, worrying less about what everyone thinks and more about what you need. After the wedding presents start getting lost, or that frame on the wall about "hold hands every day" or the "always kiss me good night" brick gets thrown out the window, you can get real. For us that meant admitting that we were going to survive, and that was pretty damn good for 2010.