When a new baby is born, it seems that the world stops on its axis. The dust bunnies run rampant, dishes sit in the sink longer than usual, and pure fatigue can trump all niceties with one's spouse. Cooking? Forget it. Who can figure out how to find a moment to cook when every other second is spent figuring out how to be a parent? Everything is put aside.
Sometimes, that includes the father of this little miracle.
In the hustle and bustle of life with a new baby, it's easy to forget that our partners need attention and love too. It's a simple matter to become immersed in baby bliss (and with multiples, perhaps exponentially so), and neglect all else, including ourselves.
At some point in time, he may think, if not ask outright, the question that can stop you in your tracks:
"You love the baby more than you love me, don't you?"
What is a believable, truthful, and real response?
My friends talked about this before my son was born and I listened to their viewpoints, each one different. One friend told me that she would always love her husband first and most because that's what keeps the family strong. Another said that her children would always come first, because they're her children; they are innocent, and dependent, and the center of her life. Another asserted she would always love them equally.
If equal means "of the same measure as another," it's comparing apples to oranges. I love my husband with all of my heart. I love my son with all of my soul. It is a completely different love I have for each, and describing it in words is difficult.
I am a mother. I am a good mother and I care a lot. Too much, sometimes. Worry is my middle name, and I'm much more risk-averse than I was before he was born three years ago. It takes my breath away.
This child of mine, I know him well: his baby smell, now turning into little-boy sweat. His luminous brown eyes: curious, trusting, mischievous. His silky hair, which turns up into little curls if we let it grow. His small hands, patting my back when he hugs me. The addition of our son changed my life irrevocably, and gives me joy that threatens to explode my heart every single day. I always knew I wanted to be a mother, and the reality far surpasses my imaginings.
I am also a wife. I look at my husband and I see strength. Protection. Compassion. Intelligence. Love. Beauty. I see the man who has made this fantastic life possible and is half of the flesh and blood that we have created. This life of ours is not possible without him; like a three-legged stool, any one missing piece would cause it to topple over.
This husband of mine, I also know him well: the look on his face when he tells me that I am beautiful. The breadth of his shoulders, carrying every burden he can take on for our family. His hands, holding our wedding ring, our son, and my heart. My husband is as solid as an oak tree, both in his physical presence and in his capacity to know what is right and what is wrong. He is as committed to me and to our son as long as forever can be. He fell in love with me while I was still broken and injured, both physically and emotionally, and healed me with love and trust. If my first marriage was a twig blowing precariously in a hill of sand, my marriage now is an iron rod anchored in cement.
We also drive each other crazy at times; like two alpha dogs, we snarl and bark at each other and a small voice -- unbidden and unwanted -- whispers that I don't need him, when I am at my angriest. I hush the voice and know it will never win. We have had our moments of struggle, we have argued, and we have driven each other to cold avoidance for short periods of time. Sometimes I am screaming in my head, "shut up shut up shut up" in frustration. But if there is one thing I have learned about real love, it's that it takes work. And plenty of commitment. And not threatening to walk out the door every time the relationship is tested.
Love, with my husband, is a verb. It's a choice I make every day. Yes, the choice is more difficult on some days when we are not seeing eye to eye. No, I cannot imagine my life without him.
The love for my son is a given, a gift from heaven, as all-encompassing as a cocoon; the love I have for my husband is a conscious decision, a manifesto, a way of being. My son tests me too, in different ways, but my love never wanes. When I would fight with my mother as a teenager and tell her exactly how much I detested her at that hormone-induced moment, she would tell me with a smile, "I don't like you very much either right now, but I will always love you." I would scoff; now I get it.
When I see them together, my husband and my son, the choice is perfectly unclear. Do I love my son more? Do I love my husband more? No. Yes. Sometimes. Never. Putting pressure on ourselves to rank order our love for our spouses and our children doesn't make sense; it is separate, and different.
I love them both more than I ever thought possible. That's my answer.
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