Time passes almost without us noticing. Our lives have changed so much. Our bodies change too, imperceptibly at first but becoming faster and more pronounced with every year. Like a snowball rolling down a hill growing larger and it gathers more snow. One day we wake up, look in the mirror and we don’t recongize the person looking back at us. How did we get so old? There are still days that I believe, deep down, that I am still in my early twenties. Then I bend over to pick up the baby and injure my back for three days. I’m sure that never used to happen.
Like our bodies, our relationships can also fall out of shape if we aren’t careful. The strain of childbirth and raising young children can sometimes have a deeper effect on a marriage than on our waistline. Becoming a mother is the single most meaningful and life changing event I can imagine. Your heart, your soul, your life, and your body are no longer yours. They suddenly sprout chubby little legs and walk around in front of your eyes. You find that you can love someone in ways that you never thought possible. But sometimes it’s all too easy to forget that you promised to love someone else too.
Loving our children is natural. It’s biological. Loving anyone else is a choice. It’s a choice that we not only make on our wedding day, but every day after, and it’s not always easy. To quote the eloquent and timeless poet Meatloaf “Some days it don’t come easy. Some days it don’t come hard. Some days it don’t come at all and these are the days that never end.”
There are evenings when I’ve cleaned vomit off myself more times than I can count, doctored my bleeding nipples, cleaned pee and poop off the carpet, issued three time outs, averted several meltdowns, dried tears, wiped noses, and cooked dinner. I don’t have anything left to give. I’m one carelessly strewn sock or drip of pee on the toilet seat from a nervous break down. Sometimes love is knowing when to go to bed in silence.
Then there are days when it’s easy to choose. There are the days I get up in the morning to find oatmeal waiting for me on the stove, the children happily playing together, the laundry started, the dishes done, and not a tear in sight. There are the times when, without me saying a word, he knows how to be the light in my darkest moments of fear and insecurity. In those moments I would choose him all over again. Knowing how angry I would be sometimes, how little time we would have to spend together once the kids were born, the fights, the smells, the sleep deprivation. I would still choose my life.
Marriage is a journey, not a destination. Sometimes there will be bumps in the road. Marriage is promising to be the one to hold the other person’s hand so they don’t fall. It can be difficult to hold out your hand for another person when you are carrying a diaper bag and a struggling baby, but those are the times when it’s the most important not to stumble. Weeks will go by and I will realize I can’t remember what it feels like to reach out for help. I forget to choose my love.
Even though it may not always come as naturally to me as loving my children, I try to remember to stop and appreciate how lucky I am. Usually when the children are asleep. I try to carve out a little place in my heart for someone other than my babies. I spend so much of my days holding them up, keeping them safe, making them happy, and asking for nothing in return. If I don’t stop and hold out my hand for help every now and then, I will forget that I have another person to love who can offer me the same love in return.