“They just don’t get it. They’ll never get it,” I told my best friend over the phone days after her first baby was born. We were speaking about our husbands, who can somehow blissfully sleep through the baby’s midnight screaming.
I’m positive many women have experienced the same: up for the third time since 7 pm (your new bedtime), feeling as though you’ll never have another REM cycle, looking out the window just wishing the sun would rise already, and then looking enviously at your husband who somehow doesn’t notice that the lights are on and you’re tending to the crying bundle of joy.
Well, the biology of why this happens isn’t really what I’m writing about. I’m writing about the epiphany my friend and I had during that phone call. We were discussing the wonderful feeling of knowing what it feels like to love your own baby. About how nothing we’d ever done up to that point was quite as innate, instinctual, natural, real. How every fiber of your being is now redirected toward the survival and comfort of this little being you created.
Also, we discussed the question: how is it different for our husbands? So, we started to talk about how our husbands have changed after the birth of our babies. Her husband, a wonderful musician, wrote a sweet and powerful love song within days of his daughter’s birth. My husband, an artist, draws our daughter’s portrait some evenings long after she’s gone to sleep.
When they return home from work, they can kick off their shoes and relax into hours devoted to playing with and singing to their girls. It’s not about a huge checklist of housework and babywork constantly running at the back of their minds (the way it is for me, anyway), but about this amazing human that they’ve had on their minds all day.
Then my friend and I understood something: our husbands are courting their daughters. While everything we do as mothers (at least at first) is based on instinct and survival, our husbands are falling in love. That love isn’t based on stress or necessity; it’s based on euphoria. On being enamoured.
That my husband is so devoted to E, and he erupts into declarations of his adoration when she’s not around (in the evenings he will often chuckle and say, “that baby is SO adorable!” when we had been talking about something entirely unrelated), is kind of like when he and I had just met five years ago. It’s like falling in love with your life’s partner.
When he comes home from work and sees me harried and exhausted, he picks up E and kisses my face. He says, ‘Thank you for being our baby’s hero. You are her whole world.”
He has shown me that in that moment, he is in the presence of the two creatures with whom he is in love. He has taught me to back away from my instinctual love and to fall in love. Love for a child (and most especially when they’re babies) doesn’t always have to be about survival. You can sit down, take a big breath, and enjoy the romantic love of being part of your own family.