Hubs and I had been “courting” for a good 8 years before we decided to tie the knot. We met at University as fresh faced youngsters, full of flirtatious energy and giggly inebriated chats. As bold as we were in our advances, underneath, we were rather awkward early-twenty-something-year-olds. Voices were raised for wandering eyes on nights out and a frisk in the car park was enough to have us smirking and sniggering.
By the time we were husband and wife, we had broken up once and gone through what we considered to be tough times. (I can’t believe we’re spending two Christmases in a row at your parents!) Marriage threw a few more challenges our way, but we managed to come through stronger … more or less. We bought a fixer-upper house in a beautiful Kentish village, rescued a rabbit, and then bought a Labrador puppy, so everyone could see the natural progression towards the inevitable. Also, did I mention that my parents are Asian?
– Hi Mum, how are you?
– When are you giving me grandchildren?!
It was a very surreal moment when I held that positive pee stick in my hand. Hubs was out walking the dog so I left it on the kitchen counter for him, with a PostIt Note.
Just as the pregnancy excitement was peaking (that first scan is pretty incredible), the morning sickness kicked in. It wasn’t so bad to start with, a bit of nausea here and there, and hubby was more than supportive. He cooked the majority of our dinners and mostly outside on the BBQ so I didn’t have to retch at the smell (the food was good, honestly). I was unable to stand the metallic taste of water but Gatorade seemed acceptable, so he went and bought several gallons of the stuff in order to keep me hydrated. Needless to say, I couldn’t stand the taste of it by the second bottle. (Just the sight of them made me feel ill so we had to keep them covered with tea towels!) My nausea soon turn into full blown Hyperemesis Gravidarum and I turned into a full blown bitch. It was the worst thing I had ever experienced in my life (twice), and the relentlessness of it wore me down. Public toilet water splash back was the lowest point, closely followed by puke spewing out of my nostrils. I hated life, I hated the dog and I hated my husband – so much so that I moved out. I holed myself up in a rental, living off ready meals and watching endless episodes of SuperNanny. Apart from hauling myself out of bed to go to work and to throw up, I didn’t venture outside of those covers otherwise. If Hubby thought I was crazy then, he did a good job of not showing it.
Thankfully after 10 weeks of hell I was able to drink water and eat salad once more. I moved back home and we never spoke of the rental again.
As I became bigger, our relationship became a little more interesting. I couldn’t cut my toe nails. I couldn’t put on shoes. I couldn’t take off my trousers. I couldn’t get off the sofa. I couldn’t pick stuff up. I couldn’t roll out of bed. Guess who had to help me with all these things? Yup, long suffering Hubs! His life of marital servitude just stepped up a notch. Before you start feeling too sorry for him, he found ways to self soothe, with a never-ending repertoire of whale jokes and having a good chuckle to himself. What a twat.
Fast forward a few months into the labour room. There I was hooked up to an epidural, legs spread rudely, while people were fiddling around down there and asking me to try for a number two. Hubby paced nervously between my bed and the hospital bag of snacks. We were excited to go in that morning, waiting for me to be induced. 12 hours later, we were less excited. Then it all happened very quickly and everything you’ve read, everything people have told you, flies out the window. Nothing will prepare you emotionally for that squalling, squirmy bundle placed into your arms. So many feelings explode simultaneously that it’s hard to pinpoint or control any of them. I think my over-riding sense was relief but I had never seen Hubby so emotional. He wasn’t blubbing or exuberant, just … emotional. I then proceeded to have a conversation about torn vaginas with my obstetrician as he stitched up mine. Hubs later likened the scene to “a large octopus tentacle spilling out of a bloody cavern”. The first, and I hope the last, time those words will ever be used in our marriage.
Having a first baby is always going to be a unique experience and a little test (huge assessment) of how well you REALLY work together with your partner. Much of the early days went by in a blur for me and we talked a lot about what an easy baby our daughter was, so I’m thinking we didn’t do too badly, all things considered. It was probably that smug attitude which ended us up with another baby exactly 15 months later, and we quickly found that two under two was a whole different ball game. Some days went by in a blur (those days when I locked myself in the bedroom and hid) but most of it is etched deeply in my memory. The total obliteration of sleep, the persistent crying every hour, the poor feeding … and that was just me. Surely two mature adults would be more than capable of handling a toddler and a newborn. You’d think. It pushed and continues to push to the limits our communication skills, our patience (mostly with each other!) and our respect for personal spaces. The are no uninterrupted conversations, no romantic dinners (unless it’s date day – thank God for date days!), no chilling out in a bar (not even on date days), little time to ourselves and even less time for nudge nudge wink wink (probably for the best). Every day is hung in the finest balance and even a slight change will throw everything out of whack. This will usually result in grumpy babies and a lot of hushed tone bickering between us. Sometimes it is just not acceptable to have forgotten to charge the iPad the night before!
But we are sharing something wonderful and every day has giggles and silliness and laughing and tickling! There are moments in each day that make us smile, not matter how shitty the day was. I’m certainly not one of those people who considers life incomplete without kids, but it is true that we can’t really remember life before those monkeys came along and we certainly can’t imagine life without them now. As odd as it might sound, sharing something so great can be hard too. We both want the best for them, but our definitions of “the best” are not always aligned. And there is always some level of guilt. Often there is just too much admin in life to want to read Peppa Pig for the 4295th time but we do it anyway, as the guilt of seeing a little crestfallen face is just too much.
I know this is the mere beginning. Parents of older children are probably laughing at us right now. My own parents are probably laughing even harder. Our relationship has come a long way since our cargo pants and Nokia 8210 days, and I have no idea what the coming years will bring, but I’m pretty certain that it will be nothing like what I imagine it to be.