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Think back to your wedding day (or if you’re not married, think back to when you first started dating your significant other). Think about your knees going weak as you stared down that long aisle toward the most gorgeous woman on the planet, dressed in white, making her way toward you. Remember the look in her eyes and the pit in your stomach as you wondered to yourself “how did I get so lucky?” Think about the first few months of marriage, how you lovingly called each other “Mr. and Mrs. so-and-so” and stole kisses and gazed adoringly at each other.
Do you remember? Good. Because if you’ve been married for a few years and you’re dealing with one or more kids, you’re going to need those memories to desperately remind yourself why you entered into this holy union in the first place!
Look, I love my wife. But make no mistake: marriage is a full-time job. It’s work. Every single day it’s work. I know there are some people out there who are married and swear up and down they are Ozzie and friggin Harriet. “We just never fight,” they say with their arms around each other. Well you know what I say? BULLSHIT! Those people are either lying or their marriage is shit. Because any time two people spend that much time around each other, day in and day out, they are bound to argue at some point. And when I say argue, I mean they most likely will call each other every name in the book and genuinely consider the variety of ways they could kill the other person in the relationship without being convicted by a jury of their peers.
And I know it’s not something a lot of people like to talk about, but the addition of a little bundle of joy adds a heap of stress to a marriage.
No one likes to admit that. When you have a kid you’re supposed to send out birth announcements and dress him up in cute clothing. You’re supposed to send happy, smiling pictures of yourselves to relatives and friends. You’re supposed to tell everyone that your lives are finally complete and that you couldn’t be happier. After all, what kind of asshole is going to complain about a cute little baby?
Me, that’s who.
You all know I love Will to no end. But at the same time, I’m honest. And because of that I feel it’s necessary to talk about all aspects of parents, the good and the bad. And as unpopular as it may to express this opinion, kids can wreak havoc on a marriage and drive a wedge between husband and wife that can lead straight to divorce if you let it.
First of all, postpartum depression is a real bitch. MJ has been fantastic about letting me write what I want in this blog. But the only restriction she’s put on me is asking me not to write about her issues with postpartum (until now obviously). But this is a very real and extremely damaging affliction and if you don’t understand it (which I did not) it can really mess with a relationship.
I made the awful mistake early on in my relationship with MJ of telling her that I didn’t believe in depression. I told her doctors simply over-medicate patients instead of treating the root cause. I said depression was just an excuse, a crutch doctors gave people who were too damn lazy to get their shit together on their own. And therapy? Give me a break! Therapy was for the weakest sort of person and I had no respect for someone who needed a quack doctor to put his/her life in order.
I said this not knowing MJ suffered from depression. I said this not realizing she was on medication for it. And I didn’t know she had been to counseling.
Basically I stuck my foot so far down my throat my shoelaces were coming out of my ass.
But when Will was born, I was so happy. MJ had a really great pregnancy and I knew she’d make a great mom. I was so excited to start our new family and I felt complete for the first time in my life. That’s why I was so confused when I saw MJ wanted nothing to do with Will.
I’m not exaggerating either. She was totally emotionless for the first six months of Will’s life. She hated breastfeeding. She hated waking up every two hours. She hated being out of work. She even hated me and Will. She used to tell me she wanted to run away and not come back. She said Will and I would be better off without her. Do you know how soul-wrenching it is to listen to the woman you love more than anyone in this world say she doesn’t want to be with you and your infant son?
At first I was sad and i tried to help her. But the more I tried to help, the worse it got. Then I just got angry. And when I get angry, I pick a fight. I told her it was horrible not to love your own baby. I told her to snap out of it. I told her she was being an idiot and she should be ashamed of herself. Basically I said all the wrong things. Because, as we’ve established, I’m an idiot.
It wouldn’t be until much later that I truly realized what postpartum depression is and how deeply it can affect everyone. MJ eventually took it upon herself to see a counselor and when she took that initiative, I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of anyone in my whole life. It took guts to recognize the problem and take proactive steps and that’s why I’m convinced I married the smartest and bravest woman in the world.
It’s been a year and things are much better now. But while the postpartum isn’t a problem, we still risk all the run-of-the-mill pitfalls of life as a married couple with a child. At times we drift apart and without even realizing it, we discover we’ve gone a week without really talking. Well we talk, but it’s always about Will. Who’s picking him up from daycare? Does he need more diapers? Did that tooth come in? But you can’t fall into that trap. You have to make time for your relationship. Whether it’s just time to sit and talk about anything not kid related or a roll in the hay, making that time is mandatory. It is essential if you want to remain husband and wife and not just two roommates sharing caretaking responsibilities for a child.
MJ and I battle that everyday. Sometimes we win and sometimes it gets the better of us. No better or worse than anyone else out there I’m sure. But marriage in and of itself is a tough job and the relationship needs constant maintenance. When you add a baby to the mix it becomes infinitely more difficult. You fight sleep deprivation, postpartum depression, financial worries, lack of time, the loss of your social life and (unless you’re one of the lucky few) the disappearance of a discernable sex life. My only advice is to keep the lines of communication open at all costs. Because when one person stops trying, that’s when trouble really starts.
And when you’re ready to have a kung-fu spousal battle of death it always helps to remember her in that gorgeous white dress at the end of the aisle.