The early morning light streamed in the window of our hospital recovery room, reminding us that our long night of labor was over. My husband held our hours-old daughter, sat on the end of my bed, and looked at her peaceful face as she slept. We finally had a moment of stillness and quiet almost 24 hours after arriving at our local hospital––bags in hand, waters broken, and ready to meet our long-awaited baby girl.
He sighed and said, “I can’t believe that some men, after walking through it all: pregnancy, labor, and birth, would want to cheat on their wives. It makes no sense.”
“I hope not!” I laughed back. But the thoughts and feelings he was processing, I was too. Right after our daughter was born I was overwhelmed with new love for my husband. I mean, I was really overwhelmed in general and slightly in shock after delivering a baby.
Giving birth was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. In the middle of pushing, I hit a new wall of exhaustion and discouragement. I didn’t want to do it anymore. While the room was filled with voices of encouragement and cheerleading, I struggled to believe any of their words. How do I know I’m actually doing well? I thought. Isn’t that what they’re supposed to say? I’m not even sure if I want this baby.
My eyes were squeezed shut trying to focus and reserve all my energy for the next set of contractions. My husband held my hand and said, “Erin, open your eyes! Open your eyes! Look at me!” I opened them to see his brown eyes pouring into mine. “We can do this. We are going to do this together!” I cried out in desperation as I started to push again, a few minutes closer to meeting our daughter.
Having my husband by my side helped me get to the finish line. Not just in labor but through the entire pregnancy journey. Even though it took several hours to feel connected to the baby and process the new little creature that was in our lives, I felt more connected and grateful for him than ever before.
I hoped our marriage always felt this way.
Enter: sleep deprivation.
In this newborn season of lack of sleep, stress over breastfeeding, and navigating new rhythms it is impossible for either my husband or I to be on our “A game” emotionally. The strain that lack of sleep places on our bodies, minds, souls, hearts––it transfers over into our marriage too. Both of us get up to serve and care for each other and the baby, but it’s easy to feel as if it’s unappreciated by the other.
In survival mode our bodies are focused on helping us get through the next thing––or simply until the next moment we can sleep again––and it feels beyond our capacity to see outside of ourselves. In fact, it most likely is.
When those feelings of exhaustion or overwhelm hit me, I am quick to be harsh or short-tempered with my husband first. As if by controlling him I could somehow control this child who loves to live outside the bounds of our preferences. When my husband would address my harsh words and angry behaviour with spiritual platitudes, or defensiveness, I would feel worse. Unseen and unheard. Our ability to communicate well, which we had developed so much over the course of our marriage, was starting to fall apart.
Although we had eagerly awaited this child to grow our family and serve God, the core of our home now felt on shaky ground.
It is impossible to force newborns (and husbands) to do anything. Seems like God forgot to include programming instructions in the fine print of the marriage certificate and an off-button in the birth package.
But the demands of caring for a newborn are also teaching me that it is also impossible to make myself feel less tired or have more energy to accomplish what I expect. As exhaustion forces me to reach the end of myself, I am pushed closer to the foot of God’s throne in surrender.
When our weakness is met by God’s grace and mercy each day, we receive the comfort and second chances to try to love and serve again and again.
To surrender my expectations of others, myself, and my home.
To surrender my ideas of what I think my husband should be doing.
To surrender to the needs of my child whom God has entrusted me to mother and nurture.
To let go of control involves a death of self, but it also brings true life. When our weakness is met by God’s grace and mercy each day, we receive the comfort and second chances to try to love and serve again and again.
As my husband and I are walking through this newborn season, we are reminded how even as we care for this child, our marriage still needs to be the centre of our home. To be married with a newborn is a reminder we can’t do it all, but also we need to be building each other up each day to love fiercely.
We stood in church recently after a particularly horrible car ride of fighting, my husband standing beside me singing songs of worship. His strong arms held her tiny little body, as she peacefully slept knowing she was safe with her dad who loved her immensely. I realized at that moment that if I want to truly love my daughter, I need to start with loving and respecting her father.
The best foundation we can offer our children is a healthy and strong marriage relationship between us. So in the challenges of little rest, I need to care for myself, but not at the expense of enslaving my husband to all of my demands. I need to offer more grace, listen first, forgive quickly, and comfort the one who has been faithful by my side through it all.