I lay there, shaking from the adrenaline of pushing a living, breathing, squishy, sweet little ball of human out of my body, while my husband looked on helplessly. He cradled our new son, Charlie, while the nurses and midwives buzzed around us at what felt like 60 mph. We were discharged 2 days later, and we were a united front as we exited the hospital doors and proceeded to cluelessly strap our 6-lb miracle into his brand new car seat.
I had heard many a snarky comment from the Mamas who had gone before me, so when my dear husband slept through our baby’s 1am, 3am and 5am cries, I was surprised to find it didn’t bother me. I liked being the sole person responsible for nourishing my blessed boy, and I figured if Daddy was well-rested, Mommy could sleep in! Our system worked for us and eventually we settled into a rhythm and got used to our amazing cherub of a son who began sleeping through the night at 8 weeks.
As maternity leave wound down, I hysterically sobbed every night into my husband’s chest as he threw out every solution in the book to ease my aching heart. Deep down, we both knew the truth- I was going back to work; I had to go back to work. My heart was broken to leave my baby, and his heart broke to see me in so much pain. Not long after, working full-time became my new normal, and still, we carried on as a team. Daddy took the morning shift, delivering Charlie to his sitter as I traversed the 50 miles to work. Mommy took the night shift, rocking baby boy as the breastmilk drunkenness overcame him and his sweet, pink eyelids drooped with sleepiness.
Then one day, I thought about my boys. I thought about our future and I thought about our present. I thought about how I loved my son more than my husband; and it stunned me. How did I get to this point? We had ventured into the unknown realms of parenthood as a team. We had said we would always have a marriage-centric family. We knew deep down, that the success and happiness of our little one(s) would have much to do with the success and happiness of their parent’s relationship. Yet here I was, hopelessly in love with a blue-eyed, bald-headed, toothless little man and his Daddy was coming in second. I never admitted this to my husband. I just pleaded for an opportunity for a date night.
The fateful night arrived, and I eagerly anticipated a romantic dinner filled with adult conversation, a make-out session at our local drive-in and some long overdue sex to cap off our evening, before we inevitably drifted to sleep in each other’s arms. Our dinner was interrupted by friends, the center console dug into my ribs each time I tried to deliver a kiss and needless to say, by the time we relieved the sitter at 11:30pm, the only thing our bed would be seeing, was sleep. Yet, when I awoke the next morning, I felt revived. Our long-awaited date was nothing as I had envisioned, but I was struck with the profound notion that I had been wrong all along. I didn’t love my son more than my husband. I loved him differently.
I never had to love my baby boy, it was never a decision I had to make. The instant he was born, the love was just there. The primal Mama Bear instinct was awakened, and love was something that overcame me. My love for my husband, on the other hand, was something I chose to do every day. I realized that loving my husband would be harder. I would hold him to a higher standard when he hurt me. I would get frustrated with him more easily. I would reserve my anger for him because I knew he could take it. Despite all of that, for each time I overcame resentment, and instead met him with grace, I was making a choice. A choice to look past the murky, ugly parts and instead, embrace the parts that made him the best Daddy and best husband for our family. Nuzzling my face into my snuggly, little bear cub is love made easy. Loving my flawed, occasionally annoying, and oblivious Papa Bear is harder, but the fact that I get to wake up every morning and decide, “Do I love my husband today? Oh, hell yes!” is what makes it so, so, so worthwhile.