It's eight o'clock in the evening, and I'm nursing my baby girl to sleep in our bed. By OUR, I mean my husband’s and mine. I mean OUR marriage bed. But, based on the past six months, the bed may as well belong to my daughter and me--my husband has slept on the couch most nights. He did this for a number of reasons in the beginning--he wanted to get sleep and baby woke often, he didn't want to wake her while getting up for work, he didn't want to go to bed that early, he had some work to get done, etc. Now, this many months in, there's really just one reason--one big one--and he's never directly said it. But we both know he doesn't come to bed because it's easier to sleep alone, because our perfectly innocent babe has all but destroyed our marriage.
Daniel and I met in junior high through our church youth group. I thought he was the nicest boy I'd ever known. We dated long distance through college and when I graduated a little early, I moved to be with him. I met all of his friends and felt so proud that he was loved by so many--he's one of those guys everyone is excited to see because he makes everyone feel important. As an introvert, I was fascinated by the way he could work a room. I felt lucky to be on his arm. We got married in the fall after he graduated, and I loved the newlywed newness of falling asleep and waking up against him.
Less than three months into marriage, we found out we were going to be parents. I took seven tests and then sat on his lap until my laughter turned into tears--this pregnancy was almost impossible. But the Lord was blessing us with a child, and we agreed it was good. We agreed it was also good that we had nine months to prepare and that God didn't design it to be like, "You're having a baby!" and then all of a sudden you swelled up and felt the urge to push. No, we had plenty of time to get ready.
I think back on that moment and the love I felt for my new husband as he opened his chest to me to lean against and laugh and cry simultaneously, and I hardly recognize those teary-eyed newlyweds. In the last six months our eyes have been filled with something closer to hatred than happy tears. Our daughter hardly gained weight in her first five months of life even though she nursed constantly, and as we were sent to doctor after doctor for test after test, we shifted into survival mode. My husband had no idea his offer to do the cooking for the first bit of Edie's life would mean every night for six months because I was busy nursing and pumping and then nursing again with an SNS nonstop and falling deeper into a depression as my baby grew thinner and each test failed to tell us anything. I didn't know how to help her, he didn't know how to help me, so neither of us knew how to ask anyone else for help. It didn't take long for us to feel extremely isolated from everyone, including one another.
By the time she was diagnosed with severe tongue and lip ties and we had them revised, I was angry. Angry at the doctors for telling me I was wrong when I suspected ties before she fell off the weight chart, angry at myself for not knowing my daughter was going hungry, angry at the whole situation for stealing our joy in what was supposed to be the sweetest season, angry at our marriage for not being strong enough to hold together in such a trial. And when it took another six weeks of nursing/pumping/SNS to teach Edie how to nurse properly before she started gaining, I completely fell apart, convinced that putting her through the surgeries hadn't solved anything and I must be unfit to mother, for I was out of ideas.
Six months is a long time to go without having a real, non-panicky conversation with your spouse. It's a long time to go without gentle touch or loving encouragement. So when at six months Edie finally started gaining weight, there was no celebratory kissing or flowers for my hard work. There was just more confusion in place of what had finally been worked out--how do we go about being married again after half a year of not connecting? How do I love my husband when my heart feels so tired from loving my baby so hard out of desperation for her life? How do I pick my life back up and act like I'm not experiencing severe post-traumatic stress from it all? Who is this person I've been sharing a house with this whole time?
It's been two months since our girl started gaining, and I still don't have the answers. We're starting counseling and hoping it'll open a window of communication and understanding. We're loving watching our girl discover the whole world, but we're weary of having any more babies for fear of what it could do to our marriage.
I'm sure when all of this becomes a less fresh memory my arms will ache for the newness of a tiny babe, but first I want them to ache for my husband.
We're just not quite there yet.
Writing & images by guest contributor Jordan Rock of Bare Mama