So it turns out this Working Mama has a lot more to work on that just work. Turns out this working mama needs to work on her relationship.
I wrote that post on Friday but I could tell – as I was writing it, after I posted it and even while I was responding to comments – that it wasn’t really what I wanted to say. Better said, it wasn’t really what I was feeling. The thing was, I couldn’t figure out what I was feeling and when I tried, that post is what came out. But I missed the mark, because I couldn’t see where it was.
Saturday was a busy, stressful, family-filled day. By the time we got home we were both exhausted. I retreated to the bedroom, wheels spinning, unable to settle down. I opened and began to read no fewer than five books in thirty minutes. My thoughts bounced back and forth like ping pong balls on a championship match table. It was dizzying and kind of sickening. I toyed with the idea of writing but couldn’t fathom what I’d say. I was undeniably and completely stuck in the mud, pressing my foot on the gas as my wheels kicked up all manner of filth behind me. It was messy and unproductive.
Then I pulled down a book I hadn’t read in a long time. It’s a book about Focusing, which is a process that I had read about, and attempted, long ago. It would take many posts to explain what Focusing is (and I plan to give a quick overview and provide a link tomorrow) but for the purposes of this post I will say that Focusing allows one to use their felt sense to identify emotional issues and work through them. I quickly read the introductory chapter of the book before laying down on the bed to finally identify the thorn in my heart.
After about five minutes I’d figured out what was bothering me. I knew I’d hit the nail of the head when the minute I came to that place my chest got tight and I started sobbing, seemingly without provocation. Yep, this was obviously what was bothering me. And rightfully so.
I had stumbled upon some heavy, upsetting shit.
I pulled out a sixth book and buried myself in the chapter on friendship. This book gives advice on how to insulate a marriage from the havoc a child will surely wreak (I will also post more about this book tomorrow). This book was recommended to me before I even started TTC, when I was waiting impatiently to start building the family I’d always dreamed of and Mi.Vida was try to embrace a future he’d never imagined. My therapist told me that even if I couldn’t start building my family, I could start strengthening my relationship for when that family might be a reality. I bought the book and read the first half but Mi.Vida I had never done the exercises suggested within. I hoped that now it would hold a miracle salve capable of closing the wound that had ripped open between us.
Mi.Vida came in and I asked him if we could talk. I told him what I felt, that I missed him. I sensed this intense distance between us and I worried that if it kept growing I might never find my way back to him. I worried that we were growing apart. I feared he didn’t love me anymore. I have never feared that before, not in all our years together.
But Saturday night I honestly felt that maybe, just maybe, he didn’t. And it hurt, immensely.
We talked a lot. For over an hour we carefully chose our words, placing them delicately into the air between us. It was obvious that neither one wanted what we said to do anymore than exist there, in the darkness. Or rather, we were afraid of what our words might do, the destruction they could unleash, the damage they were able to inflict.
The conversation started out tense and tightly wound. We were both so tender, the ache we each sheltered a constant accompaniment to what we said and how we said it. Our words trembled from being kept so long, our sentences the quivering strings of a violin that had never been played but only tuned over and over in preparation for that first note.
By the end our dialogue had transformed into the gentle strumming of a well-worn guitar. We might have been slightly out of tune but the melody was recognizable – a strange mix of familiar and foreign. It’s apparent we are not yet acquainted with the landscape of our new lives as parents but the fortitude of our past relationship has the strength to carry us through this strange new world.
Today felt open and hopeful, like a wound that has been cleansed so it can heal; the pain is still there but the infection that caused it no longer thrives. With attention and care I believe our relationship can be restored to it’s former, healthy self but it’s clear there is much work to be done.
Many words were uttered in the dark last night. Words like resentful and angry, rejected and overwhelmed. Words that have no place in a healthy relationship. Words that must be treated seriously, with strong medicine. Fortunately, I believe we not only have that medicine but the skills to administer it. My prognosis: we can make a full recovery.
Nurturing a relationship after a baby is difficult work, but it must be done. If we allow our partners to fall by the wayside of the everyday drudgery we might lose them all together. Recognizing how abysmal things had gotten between us was a difficult but necessary step. And there is reason to take heart. Other sentiments were expressed last night, convictions of hope and love, attitudes of appreciation and gratitude, acceptance and humor. While it’s clear those feelings, in and of themselves, aren’t enough to carry us through, they are undeniably a good place to start to the journey.