Working Mama Mondays: The State of my Union

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.

20 responses

  1. I, of all days, needed to hear this today. Thank you. I’m at this fork in the road with The Hubs and well, it’s not very pretty. I had no idea, none!, what a child does to your relationship. My daughter is 9 months old and I’m still attempting to wrap my head around this.

    I’m glad you and Mi.Vida talked. It’s a great place to start. Perhaps I should give it a try as well.

    • I’m glad this post helped. It really is incredibly how intense the pressure is on a relationship when you have a child. I will be writing about the book I read tomorrow. It’s really good and I highly recommend it. We plan on doing some of the exercises in there tomorrow night. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

  2. I echo the Thanks. I’m very interested in the book you mention. As I just commented on Friday’s post, we have a not healthy marriage. We’re trying to work on it but it’s tough. We’re not good at talking so perhaps some of those exercises will help us get back on the right track.

    I’m glad you figured out what was bothering you. I know exactly that feeling which you describe.

    • I’m sorry to hear that your marriage is not where you want it to be. Do you think with the right work you can get to a place that you feel better about? Marriage is hard work. I never really understood what that meant until I had my daughter, but now I know. It’s hard, hard work. I guess all relationships can be hard work, and the one you spend the most time in is sure to take the most work. It makes sense.

  3. having a baby has actually not had an impact on my marriage. Our problems are far more deep rooted. But talking about is the only way forward. I am glad you recognized the problem and talked about it instead of just ignoring it. I hope (i am sure actually) it will all work out…

    • It’s interesting that having a baby has not impacted your marriage. I don’t know many people who feel that way. I hope your marriage continues to be impervious to baby-related stresses and that you can strengthen it in other areas where it might need it.

  4. So glad you guys talked. It sounds cliche, but communication really is the most important thing in a relationship. Even the hard, scary feelings aren’t so scary when you can talk about them. Wishing you all the best as you move forward!

    I am interested in the second book you mention. Would you be willing to share the title?

    iclw #13

    • I shared the title in today (Tuesday’s post) and I wrote about the chapter that helped me and how. I hope that is helpful to you.

  5. I find interesting the processes we must go through to understand why we’re feeling a certain way. Many times, I’ve sat down to write a blog post on a topic only to watch something entirely different unfold – emotions that I didn’t even know I was feeling. I hope you and he are able to find a way to be closer again but it certainly sounds like you’re on the right track.

    • Many times I write a blog post to figure out what I’m thinking or feeling. I assume the topic will morph into something surprising. On Friday I think I was hoping that would happen but it never did. And deep down inside I realized that but it took me until Saturday night to realize. I was glad I had something else to fall back on when writing didn’t come through for me. I also hope we can find a way to be closer again. It will definitely take a lot of work but I think we have it in us.

  6. I am so happy for you that you were able to work through this roadblock. I also hope it helps you to know just how universal this issue is. I sometimes get the feeling that my husband and I are working the way that toddlers play, in parallel rather than together. Then every once in a while, we stop and actually notice each other. Those moments are vital but alarmingly rare.

    Although we have only been parents for a short time, I can see how couples get so lost in the business of raising children that by the time they are finally “empty nesters” they have become complete strangers. Hopefully, recognizing this early and working against it can prevent us from taking that route.

    • We also seem to work in parallel rather than together. Maybe because of that we notice we have so little in common these days. It’s hard to find anything we can connect on. It’s hard. Harder than I expected it to be. I just want my best friend back. I just want to joke with him and laugh easily. I just want it to be effortless again.

  7. What a gift, to be able to talk openly like this. I wish my husband would, too … he has a harder time with emotional intimacy, being a scientist … and it’s been a long time since we’ve reconnected around anything besides kids. Our anniversary is coming up … I hope that it’s a chance for us to remember each other again. And I also hope that leaving my job will help us to get a new perspective on each other. Scary stuff.

    Thanks for posting this today.

    • I am very lucky that Mi.Vida speaks openly about relationship rather easily. That has always been our big strength. In fact, this is the first time we went so long without having a good talk. I hope having a kid doesn’t rob us of our ability to talk about the important stuff. It’s definitely going to require more effort than is used to, but then again almost everything does!

  8. I’m really happy that you and Mi.Vida really communicated about what was bothering you both. Relationship experts often rattle off “communicate honestly” as assvice but what I never realized is that nothing can be more brutal than when I communicate honestly with Darcy. It is one of the hardest things in the world to do. Kudos for surviving and healing…

    • It is so hard to do. I find it really difficult to communicate openly without crying, which frustrates me because it hinders my ability to make myself heard in the way that I want. I’m getting better at it but it’s a slow road.

  9. That’s great and so rare. Open communication is so important and for so many a difficult thing. Congrats on pushing through and keeping an open line of communication. success is built on it and impact so many things in life

    • Thank you. It is hard but, as you said, so important to keep the lines of communication open. I know of many so many couples that break up because they don’t communicate. I never used to understand how that could happen but now I see. In the rhythm of the days it can be easily to lose sight of each other. It’s going to take more work than I thought to remain open to each other and communicate consistently.

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