“I miss you," he said to me with tears in his eyes—despite the fact that we had spent the vast majority of the last two weeks together.
Excited anticipation of welcoming our little girl into our home had transitioned into a blur of sleepless nights, mama's sore body, and a precious 5-pound, 4-ounce early-term baby who needed meticulous, measured feedings around the clock.
It was the second time I had seen my husband cry in nine years of knowing him.
A mere few days before Ella's arrival, the center of our world was, well, each other.
We went on errands together, took impromptu road trips, and cuddled a few extra minutes each morning before getting up for work.
Saturday brunch was our jam, especially since we both loved getting up early to avoid a long wait.
We would pile up on the couch every weekend with coffee and dream together about the future.
We would stay up later than we meant to, laughing and talking.
We would walk out the door without a care in the world because we were walking next to each other.
It was the adventures of Nick + Alicia—and I loved it so, so much.
Now, the center of our world is a baby.
A sweet, precious gift of a daughter.
I would not give her up for the world, but I have learned that in order start this chapter of life, I need to grieve the ending of the last one.
It ended abruptly, as our baby girl was so excited to start life on this earth that she surprised us by coming three weeks early.
I started early labor around 3:30 pm on a Friday and went home that evening with tears in my eyes, praying for just one more Saturday with just my best friend.
God answered my prayer; we went to brunch that morning and spent the afternoon shopping for a few last-minute things we would need for baby.
I went into active labor at 8 on Saturday night, and by 3:42 the next morning, our sweet Ella was born.
You hear common platitudes like “Life will never be the same!" or jokes about not getting enough sleep.
I found plenty of great blogs that talked about how tough pregnancy, labor, and postpartum could be, going into detail that is not for the faint of heart.
But nothing really prepared me for how my marriage would change or how fast that change would take place.
Maybe because it's taboo to say anything besides “We are so in love!" or “Can't imagine life without her!"
Or maybe it's because it feels incredibly selfish, even foolish, to long for the days before baby.
Before a baby, loving Nick usually meant being close to him. Doing things together — walks, date nights, making dinner after work.
Now we are in a season where loving each other usually means being apart: Nick holds Ella so I can shower, go on a run, or just do something other than take care of a baby.
While I'm on maternity leave, I do all the night feedings so Nick can sleep and feel well rested for work. We take turns holding her during a crying spell.
Our impromptu way of life has been hijacked into life with a baby, which has it's own impromptu moments that usually involve blowouts or cries for milk when you are about to eat dinner.
And it's all highlighted by the incredible loneliness known by any new parent.
It's not to say that I was naive enough to think our marriage would stay the same.
Maybe I spent so much time preparing for baby that I forgot to prepare my marriage.
Maybe there's nothing to prepare for. You just brace yourself for change.
I remember tears filling my eyes one day as I said goodbye to Nick as he stepped out to go pick up some groceries.
It was something so small, yet that moment needed to be grieved.
Groceries had been one of our “things," and now it was just a chore to get done.
When Nick said “I miss you" over breakfast that morning during a rare moment of peace, we both broke down sobbing—partly out of sadness, partly out of relief.
We both felt so guilty for missing something that went away at the arrival of such a perfect gift.
But with confession comes healing, and we started a new chapter of marriage that day.
I know sweet moments are coming and, indeed, they are already here.
Cuddles with baby, coos and gummy smiles: They are precious moments that reward the hard ones.
Seeing my husband hold and love his daughter is a sight that I will always and forever cherish.
I want to talk about this aspect of post-baby so that, if anything, other mamas (and daddies!) can quietly whisper “Me, too."
I want to talk about it so future parents can know it's something to prepare for—because sometimes the hard things in life are so much harder when you didn't see them coming.
More and more couples are waiting to have children, spending more time as “just the two of us."
And once you have kids, you never go back to that season.
Don't kid yourself that you'll get to go back to that season when the kids leave the house.
I'm only 11 weeks in, but I can already tell that even when Ella leaves to start her own adult life, a part of my heart will always be with her, be cognizant of her well-being.
My house will someday have just Nick and I living within it again, but my heart has permanently made a room for two souls and it will never be the same.
What I'm seeing is that our relationship is the foundation that God has chosen to place another life upon.
To take root in and spring out of.
It's pulling us and shaping us in ways that hurt.
That can feel like we are being pulled apart more than pulled together.
Yes, of course it's hard, but there is no high calling that is not difficult.
Perhaps the days of our relationship before Ella served as building blocks, setting a strong foundation in place that could endure the pulling and pushing, the grind that will shape us into the precious calling of becoming Mommy and Daddy.
The love we built as bride and groom hasn't disappeared—it has simply multiplied.