Love and Marriage...after becoming a parent

Written Sept 10, 2012 As I watched him walk out of the school building, it was like no time had passed since those first few weeks of dating. Only this time he wasn't a college student wearing his Red Lobster uniform and I wasn't a college student decked out in my AOII t-shirt...shorts...flip flops...bag. We weren't going out after work to Applebee's or Thursdays to Tbombs. We weren't 20 somethings. We were 30 somethings. He was wearing his teaching clothes. I was waiting for him in a mini van. He was on his lunch break and I was taking mine. Most importantly, we were parents. But the butterflies were there...they were the same. I felt my heart jump a little and a smile come across my face without my control. He opened the door to the van and asked what I was smiling about, as if I had just heard a good joke, and I just replied, "nothing". There were so many things I should've said, but the smile continued on my face and it felt as if he knew what I was thinking and felt it as a smile came across his.

As with many things of parenting, I wasn't prepared for the effect it would take on my marriage. I thought we were ready for that. We were different than most couples. I knew Bret would be as involved as I would be with parenting. We would both work to keep the spark alive. We would always have time for date nights. Our love and passion for one another would just be too strong to take any kind of hit. As with many things of parenting, I was wrong.

Our first hit, we had him during football season. Bret is a football coach. It was truly impossible for him to be as involved as me. Even when he was home, I was breastfeeding and not pumping much, so there wasn't too much he could do when it came to feedings, stressful growth spurts, and middle of the night wakings. He was involved as much as he could be and I understood that to an extent. There were times when I resented him...and football. I wanted him here with us, even if he was just bringing me a rice krispy treat while I nursed or telling me it was ok and I was doing everything right (which he did do as much as possible). He didn't understand because he wasn't in my shoes, feeling blessed, yet lonely, questioning every single thing (and in turn researching every single thing), struggling with breastfeeding, then feeling guilt for not being happy 24/7. He was sleep deprived, but not quite as much as I was, yet talked about it as much as I did (we always talk about the fact that I function way better than he does on little sleep). Sometimes I lost site of everything he WAS doing for us. He was stressed because he wanted to be home with us. He didn't know how to help me. At times he wasn't sure how to help Steff. We were both finding our way through parenting, together...yet separately. I remember clearly the worst fight we had. The plan was to go to Lexington (which takes around 45 minutes) to get a new car seat. We didn't know how to time it to have the happiest Steff with good naps. Then college football came on and the realization set in that we would be gone during game time. Then it felt like we were running out of time in the day. I decided that I would just go on my own so he could stay home with Steff...happy baby and happy daddy. I get a call with a screaming Steff (who woke up way early from nap) in the background and Bret franticly looking for the Baby Bjorn, which was not on the hook on the door and I must've moved it since I never put it where it's suppose to go. I didn't know where it was since I hadn't used it in a long time. He was stressed and worried because he couldn't make Steff happy and the Baby Bjorn always worked. I was stressed because I felt bad for leaving, I was on a mission to find the perfect car seat, I knew I needed to get back immediately any way. It was terrible. We had a talk that night. Nothing was resolved, but we both said how we felt. I felt a million tons on my shoulders because everything seemed to fall back to me and I couldn't take the pressure of it any more. He was sad because he felt like nothing he did made Steff happy. I cried a lot that day. In the end I didn't feel relieved. There wasn't a solution and that was kind of depressing. Even though we felt there wasn't an answer, somehow the next day felt new. Somehow just knowing how each other felt took some of the weight off my shoulders.

It turned out that we too fell into the same trap/habits that most husbands/wives/moms/dads fall into. I felt like he wasn't involved enough or doing enough, I nagged, he did less because he felt like nothing he did was good enough or right. We were too exhausted to make sure the spark was still there. We were lucky to get a date night here and there, but it certainly wasn't as easy as we thought it would be or as often. I would be lying if I said I always felt the butterflies and the strong love that I use to.

Just over a year after Steff's birth and exactly seven years after we married and I can say things are easier, we're more like the couple we use to be, but things are different because we are different. Our time apart during our busy season (photography and football keep us both busy in the fall) can be difficult at times, but also makes our time together a little more sweet. There are times where I still feel that pressure on my shoulders, but my brain is working more like a momma's now. Or should I say my juggling skills have improved? More importantly, Bret and I understand each other as parents more now. There are definitely times when we speak a different language, but after a bit of cooling down, we can revisit and understand the other better.

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I know this may sound like the most unromantic anniversary love post I've ever written, but it's not. Even though we may struggle at times, our love has grown and matured. I still get butterflies. I am overwhelmed with love every night he walks through the front door. My heart jumps out of my chest when I see his love for Steff. We are taking time for ourselves and our dates (we've seen more movies in the last month than we did the entire first year of Steff's life). We talk. We laugh...a lot. Our joy has doubled since the days before Steff, only in different ways. We still hold hands. We kiss. We say good night the same way we have for 10 years. You know what, we still dance in the kitchen. To me, this is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and Steff. He may see us disagree, but he also sees us understand. He see's the love. I can see the joy in his eyes when he sees the joy in ours.

Bret, thank you for 10 years (3 dating, 7 married) of ups and downs, big and little "I'm so in love with you" moments, good night kisses, holding hands, "I love you's", dances in the kitchen, spins and dips in parking lots, and everything else in between. I can't wait to see what the next 10 hold for us and our beautiful family.

These are from our anniversary celebration. The day was packed full of family time at the Kentucky BBQ Festival and time for just the two of us at the UK game and movies.

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