What Love Looks Like Now (To My Husband From Your Exhausted Wife)

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Dearest You,

The one I fell in love with ten years ago. The one who has held my hand alongside life and excitement and growth; who has held my heart together through illness and sadness and death. The one who has shared with me the most sacred of spaces, as we brought new life into the world, only just two months ago. (Remember, that moment when it felt as though it was just you and I and the whole universe?)

You, the one who has made it all an adventure: I miss you.

I miss you.

I miss you in the way that the branches of a barren tree long for spring; in the way that the sprawling sky blanketed with clouds wishes for a streak of sunlight to break through.

I miss you in the way that a new mother misses the intimacy of the beating heart which once beat beside her own.

I miss you in the way that I am missing myself. I miss you.

Sometimes, in the brief moments when our newest babe is contentedly sleeping, I reach out to hold your hand, only to find that you are holding the hand of our preschooler, his chubby, sticky fingers gripping onto yours in a way that breaks my raw, postpartum-heart wide open with love. Sometimes I reach out to embrace you, only to see that your arms are wrapped up in the hug of our six year old; our walking paradox who needs so much freedom and, yet, even more love than ever before. And in this life and love we’ve created, in these beautifully full hands and arms, I find the reaching for you gets harder and harder.

Sometimes I see you looking at me, and I wonder, what do you see? Do you see what I see? The black-circled eyes; the yoga pants (now on day three); the baby ever-draped across my shoulder; her spit-up, my constant accessory; the three year old wrapped about my feet; the heaviness I gained that I just can’t seem to shake. Sometimes the weight of it all is just so heavy, it feels as though I’ll never emerge. Can you still see me?

Sometimes in the night, when our newborn is cradled into my chest, and our three-year old is nestled into my back, and, at last, there is rest, there is peace, I feel you retreating to find some space to sleep. Sometimes at 3 am when you have become the guest in our home, sleeping alone on the bed where guests rarely sleep, I wonder if you feel the ocean between us. I wonder if your lifeboat seems as rickety as the one I am trying to keep afloat, the waves as massive, their crest as breathtaking. I wonder if your arms are as tired from trying to row on back to me. I dream of ways to find an island for the two of us, just the sand and sun and you and me.

Then the dawn breaks, far too quickly, and I see that you have set coffee with cinnamon on my nightstand, as you whisper good morning (goodbye) before heading out on your separate way. And I realize, it was never an ocean; it is just life’s rolling stream. And I remember, oh God, I remember: This is what love looks like now.

When you walk back into our world, weary from working all day, and in my exhausted haze I cannot find the words to greet you. I can’t find the words to say how much I adore you. When a hug is all I can offer: This is what love looks like now. 

When I round the corner after bathing, and brushing, and singing, and reading, and tucking those two big boys into bed, and I discover you changing our baby girl as she gazes, enamored, at you: This is what love looks like now.

When she writhes and she screams in between us as darkness falls, and you reach out to take her from my weary arms: This is what love looks like now.

It isn’t anything that it used to be. And, somehow, it is everything, and so much more than it ever was.

It is calm. It is quiet. It is steady.

It believes in the spark that feeds the fire. It waits as the embers glow.

It ebbs and it flows, and it grows, it grows, it grows.

It is still our adventure, plus three.

This is what love looks like now.

Always,

Me

 

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