It was our seven-year anniversary and just a few months before our daughter, Anna would arrive. It had been the two of us for so long, and life was about to change drastically. We had no idea how it would but we had heard so many others tell us what a baby would do to us.
“Your life will never be the same.”
“Just you wait, you’ll never have time for the two of you anymore.”
“Enjoy the moments you have together now before the baby comes.”
All this unsolicited advice could be daunting for new parents but I wasn’t concerned. We were “Travis and Jess”. We had been through high school together, the divorces of both sets of parents, we had moved multiple times from the north to the south, back up to the north, and then down to the south again. If anyone could handle adding a tiny human being to the mix, we could.
We sat at the small booth by the window of our new favorite restaurant, Mama Ricotta’s, and ordered our usual plate to share, rigatoni. I guzzled my water with lemon while wishing it tasted more like the merlot Travis sipped as he sat on the bench across from me. Just a few more months. As we devoured the bread that came with the most delicious oil and herbs our conversation moved from talking about our sweet baby still inside of me to a more serious topic.
“I can’t imagine us ever separating. It would never happen, right?”
“We can’t be naïve, Jess.”
I was taken aback. The man who’s been by my side since we were just kids was actually saying it could happen to us. His words stung. How could he say such things so nonchalantly? Did he really see us going down a path that 50 percent of marriages have traveled?
He reassured me that his love was stronger than ever, which was comforting after receiving the knife to the heart remark.
“But if we aren’t intentional in our marriage we could easily become a statistic.”
I nodded, but more so we could move on. I wanted to talk about our baby again, about how sweet and precious she was going to be, how she was only going to make us grow closer together, and there wouldn’t be any way in the world that she’d ever do anything to make us question our love for one another.
We walked hand in hand to the car. The food had settled but our dinner conversation hadn’t, it still weighed on my mind.
Anna Jubilee arrived right on time. She was the most beautiful baby we had ever seen. We were the typical overjoyed parents who had no clue what to do upon leaving the hospital. The next few weeks were consumed with around the clock nursing sessions, endless amounts of diaper changes, lots of tears shed by all three of us, and napping at random hours of the day. It’s still a mystery to me how much a baby can sleep while everyone else in the house is overwhelmed with exhaustion. With Travis back at work and me home tending to our newborn, most days we were like ships in the night just passing each other by. The intermittent “you doing OK?” and kisses here and there kept us afloat until my younger sister graciously offered to babysit.
We went on our first date since having Anna six weeks after we brought her home. So many friends shared with me how difficult it would be to leave my tiny baby even for a few hours, that I would miss her more than she missed me, that I would be calling the babysitter several times to check in, that I may even cry as I walked out the door.
You know what’s funny? None of that happened. Of course I missed her a little, and, OK, I called my sister once, but I definitely didn’t cry. I may have even skipped out the door delighted to leave home without a diaper bag and a nursing cover. My arms felt a little lighter for a few hours and that was fine with me.
Our date was exactly what we needed. We were tired. We were worn down. We didn’t have much left to give one another before our heads hit our pillows each night. Getting the chance to get away just the two of us reignited a flame that had been dwindling amid the doctor visits and cluster feedings and incessant rocking and shushing to sleep. I really don’t blame the guy, when you come home to your wife in the same pajamas you left her in that morning and the only thing that has changed is the newly acquired spit up stains with which your daughter so lovingly adorned, it may take a lot to muster up the right words to initiate any type of intimacy.
“This is nice,’ I said letting out a deep breath. It had been a long six weeks. Exhaustion still hung over my head but the hormonal fog was beginning to lift. I told him that. He said he noticed.
“I’m not naïve anymore, I can see now how couples can drift apart,” I said.
But I didn’t say this because I see us drifting apart. In fact, I see just the opposite. I love the man even more because he is the father of my daughter. I’ve seen a deeper, more vulnerable side of him I’ve never seen before and it’s beautiful and lovely. But things have changed. We’ve added another person to our lives, and if we aren’t careful, this tiny person can take up every ounce of our being so we have nothing left to give. It’s easy to forget the person who can take care of himself, who doesn’t need me for nourishment. I assume he’ll always be there. And because of the covenant we made over 10 years ago, he will be. But fighting for our marriage, even in the best of times, is a fight we need to have daily.
After an hour or so away from our baby girl we decided it was time to head back. As we walked hand in hand to the car I reminisced on my naiveté just a few months before, blindly thinking we didn’t have to work at this marriage thing, that it’d come easy for us. And in that moment I realized how blessed I am to have a man who is willing to fight for his bride. He opened the passenger side door for me and my heart skipped a beat. I tried to hide the smile that began to curl. He caught me.
“What?” He sheepishly smiled back.
“Oh it’s nothing. I’m just thankful you weren’t naïve too.”
Guest post written by Jessica Jones. Jessica writes because she is the worst at talking. She lives and does mission work in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her high school sweetheart, Travis, and their two young children, Anna and Theo, plus another on the way. She lives on reheated coffee throughout the day, a huge bowl of stovetop popcorn after the kids are in bed, and kisses and cuddles from her Loves in between. You can find her sporadically writing about life and her family’s experiences living among the nations on her blog, Jess Writes Here.