I am downstairs bouncing and walking around the living room with our nine-day-old. I don’t remember our other children being so gassy so early on. Is this normal? Will this stop soon? How quickly I have forgotten. Alas, here I am, bouncing, singing, and trying everything to calm him during this fussy time of night. I feel so alone down here. You are upstairs, knee-deep in toddler bedtime routine, attempting to maintain our life as we knew it nine days ago. But it’s not the same. Things have changed yet again. As I bounce, I think about how quickly this little eight-pound angel changes everything. I smirk with pride as I also realize I showered today, so that’s huge. Bounce, walk, walk, turn around. Bounce, walk, walk, turn around.
I hear you negotiating with one child about teeth-brushing while the other lies prostrate in the hallway refusing to put on pajamas. It’s bedtime for the older two, and you have no interested customers. I hear the wailing from down here, but I’m too focused on this baby to truly hear the strain in your voice.
We’re tired, joyous, frustrated, and grateful. We are so far from where we started.
As I bounce and walk, the memory that engulfs my mind is our story’s beginning. We were in our twenties, both graduate students, living six hours away from our families. We were early in our love, captivated by each other’s presence and lucky enough to be creating our life together on a daily basis. We didn’t miss a day together for a solid year. We were just us—no distractions to our love, no real stress, no jobs, no kids. Just us. It was pure and simple. I was grateful for us: me and you.
The memory is a windows-down, music-blaring, Friday afternoon kind of memory. Classes were finally over for the week, and we were headed somewhere completely unimportant. My feet hung out the window while the sun beat down on us through my open sunroof. Free. Carefree and listless, our love was. I was singing at the top of my lungs while you looked at me like I was crazy. I was practically floating. So were you. We were just us. We probably got Thai that night and watched a movie with a bottle of wine until the wee hours of the morning, just to get up and do it again the next day.
Tonight, however, we will lay these precious babies down to sleep and watch the monitor all night. Completely in love with their breath, their movement, their sleepy eyes. Our sweet baby will wake us up in about four hours with his tiny cry, and we’ll both jump. Foggy-eyed and deep in love, you will get out of bed and change him. I will sit up and feed him. My back is sore, as it has not quite adjusted to carrying a newborn all day long, and for now, I can’t seem to ever put him down. I wait for you to bring him to me, and I think about how proud I am that he made it four hours—this is improvement. I attempt to blink myself awake. I wait in the dark silence until I hear the two of you coming from the nursery. You hand him to me, kiss my forehead, and lie back down beside me. Your warm body next to me and his warm body in my arms make me feel alive and accomplished. We are so far from where we started.
I didn’t know then what I do now. Obviously. I didn’t know then that I had more love in me for you. I didn’t know then that our love would blossom into a family of five. FIVE! We never even dreamed of five. We didn’t know what to dream of, except for our love to never end. My God, I prayed for that. I didn’t know then that I would actually feel nothing but gratitude in a moment when all three children are crying after a long day at home. But I’m also grateful for that weekend love. I’m glad I got to love you so innocently, so purely before our journey became more complicated. I’m so glad we’re so far from where we started. I’m so glad we had no clue any of this was coming.
Tonight, I dream of that love—that for one moment we could go back there to that sunny day eight years ago. Not because I don’t want what we have now, but because we were floating, just you and me. And sometimes it’s so nice to just feel like you’re floating. Simple feels so attractive on days like this. But, the reality is that life is better now. We both know that, but it was a different time and place. Innocent, yes. Emptier, perhaps. But so much fun. So in these hard moments as parents, as I bounce this third little miracle around the living room, I look up to see you watching me. I want you to know that I dream of you—of us, in that car, and I smile. It’s such a distant memory of happiness that doesn’t hold a candle to tonight. I am grateful for our five.
We are so far from where we started. I’m so proud.