I had expected that after the birth of my daughter, I would miss ‘me’. My independence, my body, my time, my sleep. In fact, I missed what I missed more was us; my husband and I. Our time together, our independence as a couple. It felt like we were floating adrift from each other; two kayaks tied together, floating along and occasionally knocking into each other.
Becoming ‘us’ had seemed quite easy. I guess the beginning always is easy. There were pub dates and meals we cooked at our respective flats. I had pretended not to be impressed by his car and we had googled ‘how do you slice a mango’ on my phone in the tiny kitchen of my flat. He said ‘I love you’ first, one mid-week morning before work as I passed him some leftovers for lunch. I had the worst food poisoning of my life the weekend I meet his parents, eventually vomiting on the manicured lawn of their friends’ house.
We moved through the obvious milestones at a respectable rate – moving in together, eventually becoming engaged and marrying. The real milestones are the ones that are less obvious – the first time I referred to ‘home’ as our rented house rather than my parent’s house, when we bought a descent set of lounge furniture together, and then when we merged our finances and opened a joint account. I haven’t yet seen a card ‘Congratulations on becoming one financial entity!’
Becoming ‘us’ again after our daughter’s arrival took some time. We always loved her, with every beat of our hearts. We always loved each other, but the newborn phase is hard. I had expected it to be all starry eyes at each other and staring at our daughter in wonder. There were those moments, but there was also the tears, the exhaustion, the terror that comes that knowing another life is now in your hands. There never seemed to be enough resource for us both to be ok. For one to be able to rest, the other seemed to be worked to the point of exhaustion. We both hit this point of utter exhaustion several times.
My daughter was six weeks old when it was my husband’s birthday. The year before I had sewn him a dressing gown out of beautiful expensive merino fabric. I had spent several weekends sewing it. This year, the only way I marked his birthday was to make a simple chicken meal and apple crumble for dessert. Anyone who has ever had a six week old baby will tell you what a herculean effort making such a meal is. My husband ate his meal while I paced up and down the lounge with our daughter, then we swapped.
That night, our newborn daughter was inconsolable. She cried and writhed her tiny body for hours and hours. We rocked her, rubbed her belly and worried. I went to the toilet at one point, and returned to find my husband and daughter covered in her vomit; both looking back at me with matching eyes and matching expressions of shock. Eventually I feel asleep on the couch, while my husband kept going.
I woke in the small hours of the morning to see my husband, passed out on the floor and wearing the dressing gown I had made him. He was laying on his stomach, with his hand outstretched and resting next to our daughter’s little moses basket on the floor. He’d fallen asleep rubbing her belly. Passed out on the carpet, next to his tiny daughter and exhausted wife, wearing a vomit soaked dressing gown. I thought “Happy birthday darling. Thanks for doing life with me.”