Back in 2013 I wrote this post about my two-year wedding anniversary. Ben Affleck had recently won his Oscar and thanked his wife with a “marriage is work” speech. Some people thought it was insulting; others, like me, thought it was one of the most heartfelt, honest, loving and spot-on, partner-thank-you speeches of all time.
Guys, let’s face it. Marriage is hard work. And here is a cliché for you – when you add children into the mix it gets EVEN HARDER. Who would have thought?
Father’s Day is around the corner, and this post is an honest tribute to the best father I know – who just so happens to be my husband. But guess what – sometimes I really want to kill him. Because I’m human. And he’s not perfect. And neither am I.
The first night we had Isla at home we were on our own – no grandparents. No night nurse. No nothing. Just me, Neil, and this tiny human who I was convinced we were going to somehow ruin. As I held Isla in my arms at 3am, tears streaming down my face, I cried to Neil about how we definitely didn’t spend enough time together before Isla was born and that I was certain we had just ruined our PERFECT marriage. Somehow, bringing a child into the world made me completely black out and forget that I ever got frustrated, annoyed, irritated or sometimes-hated Neil. Y’all, relax. I only sometimes hated him. You know what they say – you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone. I had paved paradise, and put up a parking lot. I LOVED NEIL SO MUCH. And this tiny baby parking lot was going to fuck it all up.
Don’t worry – this super-love fest I was experiencing lasted about four days. I got over it in a hurry. And then instead of feeling like I loved Neil like I never loved him before, I felt a protective instinct inside of me that I had never experienced. I had to keep this creature who I had brought into the word alive. That was my sole responsibility in life. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about her in general. But lord help me, I was here to make sure she survived. I was going on seven days of no sleep and Neil finally told me it was time for me to cool my jets and take the night off.
“ARE YOU SERIOUS? I CAN’T LET YOU TAKE CARE OF HER ALL NIGHT!” I howled as Neil held Isla and looked at me like I was a wild animal. Because let’s face it. I was. I hadn’t brushed my teeth or my hair for seven days. And by all night, what I meant was a three hour stretch. Because I was breast feeding and hadn’t figured out the pump yet (which I would eventually master). And Isla was going to need to eat.
“Baby, calm down, it will…”
“DON’T YOU TELL ME TO CALM DOWN!!” Neil’s brow furrowed, which really pissed me off. “DON’T YOU MAKE THAT FACE AT ME!”
“Shhhhh. It’s OK. Relaaaa….” As the word relax started to come out of his mouth he looked like he wanted to take it back. As he should. Never tell a woman to relax. And NEVER NEVER NEVER tell a woman who just birthed a baby who hasn’t slept for a week to relax.
“YOU CAN’T HANDLE THIS. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.” I sobbed. The exhaustion had gotten to me. I cracked. Neil rocked Isla in his arms and I realized I had to let go. I couldn’t stay awake forever to make sure she was alive, every second of the night. So for one three-hour stretch Neil could stay awake to protect the little monster who I wanted to keep safe more than anything. I took a deep breath, wiped the snot from my upper lip and said, “OK. I’ll sleep. But you have to swear not to sleep. And to make sure she’s breathing.” I shuffled off to bed – and turned around to add, “If anything happens – just remember – it’s still my fault because I trusted you to take care of her – and I’m sure you don’t want to live with that.”
Neil did indeed keep our daughter alive for that three-hour stretch. And soon enough we mastered the night-time. And the day-time.
I look back on that first night now and smile. It was Neil’s first moment taking care of not only his daughter – but his daughter’s mother. I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to protect my daughter. And Neil had an overwhelming feeling that he needed to protect his daughter – and his wife. He saw me crack, and he picked up my pieces. It wasn’t in some grand gesture of a push-present. It was in my darkest hour. He put up with my irrational state. He forced me to let go a little. He got me to bed. Most importantly – he knew what I needed when I was completely lost.
Neil dove in head first into fatherhood- wanting to be a part of everything – and he still does. Which is sometimes REALLY annoying. He’s got an opinion on almost EVERYTHING. He questions me. A lot. But the bottom line is – he’s the best friggin’ dad out there. And while he might drive me crazy, he’s always there to pick me up when I don’t really know that I need it. We fight. We yell. I scream. He huffs. But he’s my rock. And as Ben Affleck said about all of this, “…it’s work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather work with.”
Happy Father’s Day!