April Fool's Day 2008 - The day before the grudge began
Once, I was mad at Dustin for 10 weeks straight.
Luckily, the day before the 10 weeks began was just about perfect.
It was April Fool’s Day 2008. Dustin and I spent a lovely afternoon on the campus at University of Washington. We were there to admire the famed cherry blossoms. This became a tradition ever after. Each spring we caravanned to campus with various friends to view the beauty of God’s creations. Thirty, one-hundred-year-old cherry trees line a grassy walkway. If you stand atop the staircase above them you can capture a breathtaking photo of the massive trees frothed in all their blossoming glory.
We did this. In the photo, my very pregnant face is the first indication that Claire would be arriving sooner than later; however, when I look at the picture now I think of the powerful onslaught of hormones that were about to be released with our first baby the next morning. That day, in that photo, I loved Dustin madly, and could never think of being angry at him for longer than an hour. Less than 24 hours later, through an all-night labor and 3 hours of pushing, I was livid. I remained so for two and half months.
Suddenly Dustin could do no right. He was exhausted after Claire’s birth. He was exhausted. He said, “I was standing next to you all night, Sal. At least you got to lie down.” Then, we got home, and he didn’t know how to change a diaper, and he thought I should nurse Claire every time she cried. Can you believe he voiced an opinion on when to feed the baby? Also, during any night waking, he was useless and fuzzy, fumbling fingered. You know what I mean.
So I was mad. But, that’s not all. I just felt mean toward him. I didn’t really like feeling that way, but I couldn’t seem to make it go away. It was like there wasn’t room enough in my heart for the new, encompassing love I felt for Claire and the comfortable love I had for Dustin. I had to make a choice.
I chose Claire.
Oh, how I loved Claire. Claire had made me a mother! A mother! Something that only a short time before had seemed mountains away. I held her close, rocking her in my mahogany rocking chair. I pompously loved her more than any other mother could love her newborn child. My hormone-laced tears would flow freely when certain thoughts crept in. For instance, the fact that she would someday be bigger than a newborn had me in convulsions. I had pitying thoughts toward other women who actually chose to never have children. Who would do that? I thought as Claire and I rocked in our pretentious chariot. I vowed to treasure every. single. moment. I had heard too many older mothers vocally long for the younger days of their children. I would not be one of those mothers. I would value these days even if it killed something else entirely. Possibly even my love for my youthful husband.
Nevertheless, as big and encompassing as this fresh-skinned love for my child was, I missed loving Dustin. I missed feeling tingly with love for him. I missed our late night movies and bowls of ice cream. I missed wishing he would come home early from school. In effect, I was longing for days of yore with my husband just as those older mothers long for a visit to their grown children’s childhood. All they really want to do is hold those small children again and tell them, “I love you even though you spilled an entire gallon of milk on the carpet and it smelled for 8 years until we could afford to replace it.” But, they can’t because the adult children laugh it off now and can’t even remember the incident. So the mothers remain tortured in their longing for resolution to their long-ago outrage.
So, ten weeks into being a mother, I was lounging placidly in our living room as the gray, Northwest sunshine poured in through the windows. I was thoroughly enjoying the delightful rolls of babyhood and patting myself on the back for doing it with such gusto. At this precise moment, I had a thought about my husband who was sitting at the kitchen table:
“He’s going to get older, too.”
Hmmm. What was that?
“Right now, Dustin is young, but someday he will be old and you will be nostalgic for your youthful love just as you will yearn for your babies. Enjoy his moments of youth, too.”
My universe was silent as the powerfully gentle thought crushed through the hormones glazed across my usual forgiving nature. Then, panic bubbled out from inside my heart. I was missing something. I had a front-row seat to Dustin’s first days of fatherhood and I was ignoring it. I was shoving it to the side to make room for my own swollen ego.
I turned my head, just slightly, to see my husband working studiously over his books and laptop. Less than a year into graduate school, a new baby and a hormonally unstable stay-at-home wife weighed on his sloped shoulders. Swallowing the sour milk taste of mother pride, I set Claire in her swing. Slowly. I glided the few steps from the living room to the table. Dustin didn’t even look up. In the past, he recognized my closeness unconsciously and relaxed his tense shoulders for the certain shoulder rub. But, not now. He must be used to not being touched. I reached out to massage his right shoulder. Then I grabbed the left. He started. Just a bit.
He looked up at me, maybe warily, maybe hopefully.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
His face showed relief and fatigue at the same time, “You don’t need to be sorry.”
“But, I am. And . . .”
Again, he looked up.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too, Sal,” he squeezed my hand on his shoulder.
Then, Claire gurgled. Dustin understood the conversation was over and turned back to his work, but I restrained myself. Instead of rushing to be a part of her babyhood moment, I massaged the youth back into my husband’s shoulders until they were no longer sloped. I silently renewed my vow to cherish each moment, but this time I was thinking of my time with Dustin. Only then, did I go to Claire who was happily sucking her fingers.
She hadn’t missed me at all.
University of Washington campus, April 2012 - 4 years after the ten-week grudge