I didn't mean for it to sound like I was accusing him, exactly. He had done nothing wrong, had actually been doing everything right, and was not, in fact, the reason I was crying my eyes out in the bathtub.
He had come home from work, lifted the seven day-old baby from my arms and sent me to the tub to soak like the nurses had advised me to do three times a day (no one has time to soak three times a day) until I was all healed up. I was tired, and I was grateful for a break. I went.
But as I stood up to leave the room, he stopped me. "Oh yeah, I was going to check with you. The guys were wondering if I wanted to hang out tonight."
I said it was ok, because it was, and that I'd be ok at home with the baby, because I would be, and that was it. But in the space between the living room and the tub, I unraveled. It was as though a piece of my psyche had snagged on the coffee table like a loose thread as I turned to leave, and as I walked away the fabric that makes me up came completely undone.
It started with a thought about how nice it would be to be able to leave the house by myself to hang out with my friends. I thought about how often my baby ate, how long he fed for, how leaving the house without him any time soon would be nearly impossible. I thought about how my husband could just go out with the guys if he felt like it. It wasn't that I wanted to be apart from my baby - I didn't want him out of my sight. It was that, right now, I didn't have the option.
A little voice in my mind: That's not fair.
The string pulled a little more as I foolishly began to reflect on all of the sacrifices I was making that my husband wasn't. Actually giving birth, that was a big one. The sleepless nights, the whole labour thing, my stretched and scarred skin... I mentally drew up a T-chart, with my name on the left side and his on the right. The little voice grew louder and louder, from a whispered taunt into a full-blown temper tantrum. I could blame it on hormones or sleep deprivation, but I know there was some blatant selfishness mixed in there too, selfishness that was seeing a very skewed version of reality. I've given my body, I've given my time, not fair, not fair. We decided to have this baby together; why am I the one who has to sacrifice everything?
By the time I'd settled in the water, I was inconsolable. And I felt completely horrible about it. I'd wanted this baby, prayed for this baby, pleaded for this baby. I loved this baby. I would give anything for this little life, up to and including my own. Besides all that, I had an amazing thing in my husband, and I knew it. These were not things to take for granted.
This was not how it should go. But when I'm being unreasonable, I go all out.
He came to the bathroom door, our son asleep in his arms. He looked concerned, confused. I am great at confrontation - or at least, I am great at not avoiding it. I stampede towards it, in a large, careless way. I said everything I was thinking, even the stuff that didn't make any sense, even the stuff that I knew I shouldn't be saying. I didn't mean for it to sound like I was accusing him. He had done nothing wrong. But it came across that way, I know it did.
The time after having a baby, those first few months, is a time of extremes. I know this. My husband knew it too, I think, and extended a ridiculous amount of grace to me. But we have since revisited that conversation - in a much less dramatic way, but still. It's not sobbing in the bathtub, but it's grumbling to myself in the rocking chair at three in the morning. It's a short answer when he asks how my day at home was. And it always starts with that niggling voice: This isn't fair.
This is the tricky thing about being a parent, about parenting alongside someone else: nothing is fair.
Here, I could go into the fact that there are beautiful things that I get to experience in being a mother that he doesn't. He could add things - lots of things - to the right side of the chart, tip the scales the other way; he does so much every day for me and for our family that are also hard and heroic and exhausting. It's not fair, he could lament as he heads out the door in the early morning while our son cuddles into me for a nap.
But if there is one thing that I've learned in the weeks and months since that day, it's that a mom and a dad shouldn't be separating themselves with a line on a T-chart. This isn't a card game, with a winner and a loser, and responsibilities do not have point values.
Parenting is hard, but if you are blessed enough to have someone to do it with, do it with them. Not against them. Silence the voice that says, This isn't fair, and look instead for ways that you can make life easier on them. Can you even imagine if both people in a relationship were constantly just looking for ways to bless and help each other instead of looking for ways that the other person should be helping them? It might not ever be fair, but it could be even better than that.
I'm working on it.