Our twins had finally arrived. I never felt so tired and so joyful at the same time, so in love and so overwhelmed. I sat in the hospital bed under the fluorescent lights, tending to my babies and asking every “new mom” question in the book. I was exhausted and blissfully naïve. I had no idea what I was getting into — what we were getting into.
During those early days, several nurses commented that my husband and I worked really well together. He was hands-on right from the get go, despite never having changed a diaper in his life. His first diaper was for my newly circumcised son who made it a habit of projectile peeing on anyone within four-foot radius. My husband woke up with for every feeding for weeks, wiping spit-up, consoling babies, giving bottles — doing whatever needed to be done. He was, and is, a total rock star dad.
I agree with those nurses; we did work well together. Before my kids’ birth, I was warned that having kids could shake a marriage. Maybe we were the exception. Maybe we could glide through the struggles that supposedly came with having newborns.
As weary as we were those first few weeks, a mix of adrenaline and euphoria fueled us. Then, we got tired of being tired. Family and friends no longer stayed over, which meant the social buffer keeping us on our best marital behavior left with them. My husband went back to work and I had to figure out how to do this whole mama thing by myself. But it wasn’t just the learning how to be a mother; it was learning how to parent and be a wife.
Months after having our kids, in the midst of a conflict (likely over something silly), my husband said, “I need you to have more emotional energy for me.”
WHAT? My first thought was indignation. Do you not realize what I’m doing each day? Do you not realize how freaking tired I am? Do you not realize that I have two tiny people clinging to me all day, literally sucking every bit of life out of me?
Yes. He did realize that. But he also knew that we were not okay. We weren’t working together well. We were managing the whole parenting thing, but we were limping through the marriage thing.
We’re not very good at asking for help. If someone offered, we were OK accepting help, but to go out and initiate the asking? That was humiliating. I felt selfish and incompetent. How can I ask for more help when we’ve already received so much from friends and family? How could I admit that I couldn’t do it — that we couldn’t figure it out on our own? But I knew we had reached a tipping point, and help was a necessity we couldn’t live without.
We recruited family to help with feedings and planned date nights in when going out wasn’t feasible — even if all we had the energy for was binging on Netflix. We added days to our shared Google calendar that simply said, “Don’t Plan Anything” in order to release our schedule from extra responsibilities. Eventually, it got easier to leave the kids with a babysitter as feeding times regulated and we accumulated a stock of breast milk in the freezer. Yet answering the tangible needs of new parenthood didn’t entirely address all that was going on in our marriage.
For several years before having kids, we met with a counselor. It started out weekly, and eventually as we learned how to better communicate and understand each other, the frequency of those sessions lessened. But that first year of parenthood was like a storm that rocked our boat in a way we had never experienced before, and we couldn’t see our own way through it. We needed someone else to guide us. Those counseling sessions became a regular part of our routine again. Life wasn’t smooth sailing, but we started to learn how to navigate the storms.
Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. We’re still adjusting and working through what it means to be married with kids, and I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this challenge regularly during various stages of parenting and life. And even though my pride and pursuit of self-sufficiency often get in the way, I’m so thankful that we have help. I can confidently say I have never regretted asking for it.
Warm Pasta Salad with Lemon + Herbs
Yields about 8 servings
1 pound of pasta, such as penne, fusilli, or rotini*
8 ounces fresh sugar snap peas
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3-4 ounces fresh baby spinach
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup sliced almonds
In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and return the cooked pasta to the pot.
While the pasta is cooking, trim off and discard the stem end and string from the snap peas. In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the snap peas and a ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until the snap peas are tender but still slightly crisp. Remove from heat.
To the pot with the pasta, add the remaining ½ cup of olive oil, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, the chickpeas, spinach, lemon juice, parsley, basil, and black pepper. Stir until the ingredients are well mixed and the spinach starts to wilt. If the pasta is no longer warm enough to wilt the spinach, turn the heat to low and put the lid back on the pot for a minute or two, removing the lid to stir a couple times.
Season the pasta with additional salt and pepper to taste (I usually add a bit more of both). When you’re read to serve, top with the sliced almonds. Enjoy!
*You can also use gluten free or whole-wheat noodles.