Derek held our baby first. I couldn’t. I was shaking from the labor and the, oh so many drugs that had been pumped into my body. Besides I was leaning over the side of the hospital bed puking into a blue plastic container. I couldn’t hold her while that was going down (or rather coming up). Not how I’d envisioned my first few minutes of motherhood. At all. But through the haze I remember Derek sitting on the windowsill of the delivery room looking down at the swaddled package I’d just delivered.
We had no idea that day how raising little people together would change us. Because yes, mothering has changed me and being a father has changed Derek. So if we’re both different as a result, why have I been surprised our relationship has also changed? We simply aren’t the same people we were on that day in the hospital so many years ago.
The parenting life I’d pictured for us before we had kids, involved snapshots of pure happiness. We’ve had our moments that matched my fantasies, but we’ve also had lots of the mundane of family life management. Figuring out hospital bills and mortgage payments and childcare coverage when we’re both working. My dreams for us didn’t include how the stress would shape us or the disappointment or the routine. We haven’t always changed towards each other, the typical spats have made their regular appearances. But we know each other better and respect each other more because of the hard parts.
Together we share something we can share with no one else on this planet: we are parents to the same children. He is the only other person who appreciates their quirks, celebrates their milestones and wants what’s best for them as much as I do. We bring our different personalities, life experiences and opinions into the daily discipline and decision-making, but we can’t out love the other person when it comes to our kids. And my heart wants to explode because of that exponential joy.
When the tantrums come and the disobedience is evident, and I want to shield the world from my children’s poor behavior, I know he loves them just as I do. In the middle of the night when a girl’s up sick and I’m up with her rubbing her back, he stumbles into the living room and rubs mine. When there are decisions to be made about kindergarten and sleepovers and when to get the tween a phone, I am not alone. When there aren’t words to describe how proud I am when a child faces a fear with resolve and courage, I simply need to look across the dining room table to lock eyes with the only other person who gets it. Parenting has made us share these children.
We have both been shaped by the years of raising up kids. And I wish someone had told me on that day in the delivery room when motherhood wasn’t starting like I thought it would or should, that it made total sense that Derek held her first. I’d held her for nine months, cradled her between my hips. He needed his chance too. Up till then I’d been the only one who could care for her. I wasn’t thinking yet in terms of us.
I entered motherhood expecting it to change me. To change him. I just didn’t expect for it to change us.
As a mom to four girls, Alexandra Kuykendall’s days are spent washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. She is the author of Loving My Actual Life, An Experiment In Relishing What’s Right In Front of Me and The Artist’s Daughter, A Memoir. A city girl at heart, she makes her home in the shadow of downtown Denver. You can read more of Alex’s everyday thoughts and connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.