2.28.2011

the lack of overwhelm is… overwhelming

I used to feel overwhelming passionate love for the mountain man, like a truck hit me in the chest and took my breath away.

I felt knocked over with love. Like sometimes it hurt.

And after having a baby, I’ve often felt too tired to connect with the Mountain Man in that same way, or like those feeling are somehow disappearing or the love isn’t as strong any more. It doesn’t feel as overwhelming. My body doesn’t ache with love, my breath doesn’t catch.

There were times that I didn’t want to acknowledge the change, that I didn’t want to admit it to myself or say it out loud, I didn’t want to confide in the Mountain Man, because I couldn’t handle it if he said he felt the same way. But I think it’s a normal part of the adjustment to parenting, so I’m saying it.

I have had occasionally panicked moments terrified that he didn’t love me anymore, that he would decide that having a baby was too much work or not what he wanted after all, that he would leave us. Irrational, I know. I have no reason to fear these things, and I know my Mountain Man is intensely loyal and would never leave his family, But when we’re wading through the mud, and when we’re struggling to connect, and when I’m exhausted and overwhelmed, it’s hard not to think about what he could be thinking – that the easiest solution to the current, albeit temporary, struggle would be to start over.

He’s had to hear my fears and wipe tears away and reassure me that he’s not going anywhere. He’s been confused and hurt and probably irritated by my fear. I’ve never before been insecure in our relationship, but now that we have less time with each other and to focus on each other, it feels somehow delicate, teetering, poorly balanced.

And I know that’s not the case. I need him more now than I ever have before. I still love him immensely, but I’m not feeling the love in the same way. It’s more like relief sometimes, calm instead of forceful. It is probably in part because we met later in life, we married later, and decided to start a family sooner. We had less married time together before baby. But we felt like we had the strength of relationship to make it work. Our relationship is becoming deeper, more complex, and more accomplished, But during the struggle that will make us stronger, it’s hard to feel secure in what we had and what we’re building.

I think it’s a feature of the struggles of the newborn period. My focus is so much more on keeping this baby alive, fed, warm, dry, clean, happy and so much less on keeping my love fiery and intense.

It’s still there, we still love each other. It’s just not quite on the top of the list at the moment.

I saw a post that really made me think about where our love is now, and where it will be in the future. It may never be that same knocked-down breathless love again. But it’s going to be more intense, because we’ll have made it through such a difficult time together.

And I realized that it’s not that we love each other any less, it’s just that our priorities have shifted and our time for each other has been reduced. Now I understand why people say that it takes “work” to make a marriage successful. We never had to work at it before, but now we need to make time for each other. We need to be intentional about stoking the fire of our love.

I realize that we’re making sacrifices of ourselves and our relationship in order to care for our babe in the way we think is best for her and our family. Attachment parenting is not easy. Sleeping in a family bed is not a recipe for intimacy. Breastfeeding does not make me feel sexy, and being a SAHM doesn’t always make me feel interesting or relevant. The adjustment to our new roles and the commitment to making the best life for our baby means that we’re sacrificing a bit of the ease our lives knew before. We continue to adjust to it, and sometimes think that a playpen and crib and the cry-it-out method would make things easier. But we’re willing to put ourselves on hold to create a strong, secure attachment with the Pie and allow the best beginning we can give her.

It will be temporary. It’s just on hold. Once the Pie is a little older, a little more independent, things will improve. Once we live closer to the Mountain Man’s work and we have time for each other each day, things will improve. When we look back on this, it will be such a small blip in the scope of our lives, but it will have made us stronger. But while we’re in it, it’s so hard to see out of the murk.

It’s additionally complicated by life with another introvert. We both need quiet time, alone with our thoughts (even if we’re snuggled on the couch together) to unwind from the day, process the conversations and happenings and experiences. We can’t feel whole as individuals without this time to re-set and re-charge, and if we’re not whole as individuals we can’t be whole as a couple. But every moment we need to ourselves is a moment we aren’t connecting as much with each other. We both need a lot of sleep, which further diminishes precious moments of consciousness that could be spent connecting. We love these things about each other, but the very personality traits that brought us so close before could threaten to let separation seep in, between the cracks in our day.

If you had asked me before I had a baby if I would be willing to feel less connected with my Mountain Man after birth, I would have said that there was no chance. But we’re in it now, and we just have to keep ourselves together while we fight through the mud that all too easily could pull us apart. I don’t want to be one of those couples that are together but adrift on our own waves, catching glimpses of each other as we hit the peak before falling back down into our own worlds. I don’t want to come out on the other end, in 18 or 20 years, and find that we have nothing in common or don’t know each other anymore. I don’t want to allow my love and our relationship (or lack thereof) to be defined by our child. It should ultimately be bolstered by our new roles, not diminished by it.

And I think as we continue to adjust to our new roles and continue to find creative ways to connect, and as the Pie becomes more independent and our jobs as parents become less of a struggle, we’ll be stronger together than we were before. But it’s sadly overwhelming to think about what we’re now missing – the intensity that was there, at the forefront of our lives before - that is now in the corner. It’s a struggle to live contentedly in the moment with what we’ve given up.

In the meantime, we make a point to connect every day. I try to get up with him in the morning, which usually involves easing the Pie back to sleep after the alarm has disrupted her slumber without putting myself back to sleep as well. Those few quiet moments together in the morning are comforting. We chat with each other over email or instant message during the day, even if only for a few minutes, and even if only about logistics and deciding what’s for dinner. We email each other cool/funny/interesting links. We tell each other about funny things that happened to us during the day. We make time for a kiss and a hug. We make a point to appreciate each other – he always thanks me for making dinner, I always thank him for cleaning up the kitchen while I put the Pie to bed. He thanks me for taking such good care of the Pie and I thank him for working so hard to take care of us. We tell each other we love each other, multiple times every day.

We’ll continue fighting through the things that could cause us to drift apart – a long commute, a babe who won’t sleep, little time together, work and hobbies and commitments and meetings and the need for some solitude. We’ll continue holding hands, even with our arms stretched all the way out to reach each other, as we push through this phase in our lives. And when we come out on the other side the struggle will have made the love stronger.

I have to believe that we will make it through and be even better. I have to rely on the strength of our love and our commitment to each other and our family. I have to trust us.

6 comments:

  1. sometimes I feel like you might possibly be in my head or a fly on my wall. Yet another post that really hits home for me and I appreciate your willingness to just put it out there. It makes me feel a little more normal - like we're not alone in gong through these kinds of things...

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  2. Hi Kris! I'm so glad that you can relate. Well, as I've said before, I'm not actually glad that anyone can relate, but I'm glad that at least it makes us feel like we're in it together. I feel like the small contribution I can make is saying out loud what we're all afraid to say for fear of being judged or the things we don't even want to admit to ourselves - but I think it's so universal. I am convinced I can't be the only one, that this is all a normal part of the adjustment process, and I want other mamas to know that even if it's not universal, it's normal and OK and someone else is experiencing it, too! I'm sure it will get better. People who are removed from early parenthood are willing to do it again and look back fondly on it, so it must get better, right?

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  3. oh, yeah, everyone goes thru this. don't dwell on it........ this too shall pass (and you will be stronger and infinitely more connected, I promise). it was worth it to come off my computer exile to tell you this (I am the voice of experience, 14 years together with The Husband, 11 years married, 2 fine boys ages 4 and 7). take a deep breath, your husband loves you and that adorable baby.
    best,
    MOV

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  4. thanks MOV - I know it's a phase, just part of the early parenting thing. It's still hard, and even though I know it will be over soon, it feels like forever now!

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  5. Megan, Maggie, Mama,
    Yes! The early parenting thing IS HARD! I am a mother of four. And I still think the hardest transition was from zero to one. I remember the dynamic of our relationship changing and it was hard. That pull to keep on working to connect, though it is different, is what will keep you connected through these times, making those sacrifices like getting up when his alarm goes off. Keep trusting in your us. There will come again a time of intensity with your man...it may be awhile...it may continue to be hard for awhile...but it will come. And all of it will smooth out some when you are able to get more sleep, especially since you have one that is having difficulties. Lack of sleep is huge in our perspective. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your relationship with your husband is inspiring.

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  6. Thanks Kathleen! It is surprisingly difficult, but we're willing to keep each other on our list of priorities. We're even looking to move soon so that the 90-minute commute is more like 15, which will allow for so much more relaxed time together and an opportunity to connect every day.

    Sleep is a huge thing. We both need a lot and aren't getting enough. It's amazing how my personality has shifted with lack of sleep. I'm more sensitive than ever before, insecure, and I take offense to things more than I have have! I'm so looking forward to sleeping through the night again... my 7mo still eats 3+ times a night, but co-sleeping has saved my life.

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