Last Sunday, after fighting naps with vigor all day, Sadie finally crashed at around 4:00pm. Fully expecting her to wake up in thirty minutes or less, Ryan and I turned to Netflix for an episode of How I Met Your Mother. When it ended and she was still asleep, we figured…another?
Finally, at around 5:45pm, as our viewing was turning into a full-on binge, we ventured downstairs to make our dinner. Once in the kitchen, we turned on our actual favorite show –better known as “Our Daughter in the Video Monitor.” We cooked together, and then ate together, all while our princess slept. For a few minutes there, it was reminiscent of the “old” days. You know, when it was just the two of us.
At one point, we looked at each other and marveled out loud, “We have a CHILD. We are PARENTS.” It’s not that we’d forgotten about our daughter in the two hours she’d been asleep, or lost all awareness of her existence. Make no mistake; we’re crazy over that girl. But in that moment it finally clicked for us that we aren’t just us anymore. Cooking and eating dinner uninterrupted is now the exception, not the norm. Binge-watching away rainy Sunday afternoons is not really an option for us these days, as one or both of us is consumed with the feeding, snuggling, entertaining, and lulling to sleep of our tiny person.
I wouldn’t trade our new life as a family, but it would be dishonest of me to pretend that I don’t sometimes miss when it was just us. I feel horribly guilty to even feel that way, let alone admit it out loud. Sadie is the greatest gift I’ve ever received, and I am grateful for her every minute of every day. But somewhere in the crazy mess of lactation consultants and pediatricians, pumping and feeding, onesies and diapers that have made up Sadie’s first weeks of life (all happening at every single hour of the day, mind you) that “us” Ryan and I used to know faded. Instead of asking him how his day was, I tell him all about hers (he listens with enthusiasm, every time). Questions about weekend plans have given way to a nightly discussion of diaper contents and, “Feel her forehead! Does it feel warm to you? It feels a little warm to me!”
When we do manage to begin a conversation that does not directly involve our daughter, I rarely finish a sentence. I could attribute this to baby-related interruptions, such as acknowledging a sneeze with a “Bless you!” or removing Sadie from her swing when she squawks her disapproval at being left in there too long (“For God’s sake, woman, HOLD ME!”) But the fact is I’m no longer a reliable transmitter of thoughts from my brain to my mouth. There’s a disconnect somewhere along the way that prevents me from getting my message across in less than three tries.
We stopped being Jessica and Ryan and became Mommy and Daddy. Promotions, if you ask me, but there is a part of me that misses being his “Hon” and him being my “Babe”.
In what seemed the nick of time, my mom offered (or rather, insisted) to watch Sadie on Friday night so we could have some time to ourselves. Evenings are not Sadie’s strong suit, so I was already wringing my hands by the time my mom arrived. And in a stroke of extra bad luck, something startled or scared our sweet girl into a complete fit of hysterics before we even left the house. I’d never heard such sounds coming from her little body. Being Mommy and therefore Magic, I knew I could swoop in and save the day, but I also knew I needed to step aside, knowing she was in the best of hands. Mom and Ryan had her calm again by the time we left, but I teared up as I buckled my seatbelt in the garage. The idea of my baby being that distraught for hours on end was too much to bear. But dammit, we were going on our date. So I asked Ryan to say a quick little prayer for Sadie. He obliged, both of us aware that the prayer was not so much for Sadie but her neurotic mother.
And then we were off! I had texted my mom before we even found a place to park, and again before I finished placing my drink order.
(It should be noted here that I lightened up quite a bit after said drink arrived.)
Once mom confirmed that all was well and Sadie wasn’t on the phone booking her first session with a therapist, I relaxed a bit. We ordered our food, and we talked. When the plates landed on the table, I had to restrain myself from frantically shoveling my meal into my mouth for fear that I might not get to finish it. As we ate slowly and chewed completely, we talked some more. By some miracle of climate change it was warm enough for us to sit on the restaurant’s patio, and as dusk turned to darkness, we felt like us again.
We didn’t stay out long…we picked up a pint of ice cream at the grocery store for dessert and headed home. Our girl greeted each of us with a smile, clearly nonplussed that we’d abandoned her for two hours. Dodged the therapy bill bullet this time!
We got to be Ryan and Jessica again. I know someday not far off, we’ll be more accustomed to our new roles, and being parents won’t seem like such a foreign concept. Instead it will just be a part of who we are—the most important part, really. For now, we are still figuring out how to be Mommy and Daddy…time for “us” will just make us a little better at it.