Babies & Family Bonding

shutterstock_168120020I’ve always prided myself on extreme self-reliance. An almost pathological self-reliance, truth be told. Chalk it up to a mixture of firstborn-child-meets-choleric temperament with a heaping dose of introversion and you have a lone wolf-ette who doesn’t like to ask for help or work as part of a team. Ever. Even in high school the sports I chose were laughably individualistic: swimming, diving, cross country running, discus and shot put (not even joking) and…wait for it…pole vaulting. So yeah, I put the “I” in team.

Then I got married.

More specifically, then I got married, got pregnant, and gave birth to our sleep-averse firstborn child. Fast forward 4 years and three babies and while this one sleeps a whooooole lot better (knock knock KNOCKING on heaven’s big wooden door here) than her older brothers did/do, she is still up for portions of the night/morning I’d just as soon leave to the imagination. And then the sun comes up and the party really gets going because there are three of them. And they all want all of me, pretty much all day long.

I try to divide and conquer the house/my work/their needs/my wants, but 4:56 pm on any given evening will find me frantically texting one hard-working hubby for minute-by-minute updates on his commute conditions. God help him if he texts back while still sitting at his desk.

It’s not just that I miss him during the work day, (and I do! Though perhaps not to the same level of creepy g-chatting intensity seen during our courtship. Ahem.) I desperately need him to tag team this burgeoning child army we’re creating, for better or worse. Today, like so many other Mondays of recent memory, it was mostly worse. I think I let both boys out the front door, barefoot, to tear down the driveway to his still running (but parked) car in hot pursuit of the fun parent. I just sort of stood in the doorway, cradling a fussy newborn in one arm and vacantly patting my unwashed top knot while I wondered what the neighbors thought about barefoot children in 40-degree weather. Probably they love it. But I digress.

If this husband in question were to offer me, in fact, the choice between a shopping spree at Tiffany’s or  a solid month of evenings during which he would be home one hour earlier than usual every day, I’d pick him over diamonds. Truly I would.

I need him in a physical, emotional, and spiritual way that I could never have envisioned four years ago, standing up on the altar all skinny and mascara-clad, full of good intentions and heartfelt vows. I’m still getting back into the mascara habit, thanks to the fraternal (sororital?) correction of my little sister, but I’m definitely not skinny any more. And I probably won’t be for quite some time if things keep going the way they’ve been going (courtesy disclaimer: not currently pregnant). And that’s fine. It’s not what awesome, but it’s fine, because this is what babies do to women’s bodies: they change them. For better and for worse. Mostly worse, but honestly, I don’t mind all that much any more.

So babies change our bodies. And they also change our bonds. I remember naively listening to Dr. Janet Smith’s famous treatise “Contraception, Why Not?” as a college student and nodding along sagely as she spun her anecdotal wisdom about marriages involving children being fundamentally more difficult to walk away from, because you’re not just a pair anymore, but a family. There’s more at stake if the thing blows up. I get that, now. I’d never dream of leaving Dave for any reason, but the thought of walking out the door on our children makes me physically ill to contemplate. There is a bond we’ve literally co-created that physically, psychically, spiritually links us for all eternity. Actually, we’ve got three of them. We’re in real deep.

And I love that. I love how deeply I depend upon him to come walking through the door at night to rescue  me from the scrabbling, sticky paws of tiny monsters who can’t stop touching me for two seconds and who absolutely won’t sit still for a perfectly lovely episode of “House Hunters” at 4:30 pm because mama’s trick bag is not only empty, but there’s a gaping hole in the bottom, but who will beg mercilessly for Curious George the whole time I’m trying patiently to explain the superiority of coffered ceilings and crown moldings. I mean really.

Then comes prince charming, zooming up the street in his noble Toyota Camery and suddenly I am rescued, I am not alone, I am not doing this by myself…and even though I look like a lukewarm mess and 100% of my outfit involves some percentage of spandex, I know he’ll come through the door, kiss me, take a baby off my hands and tell me to go pour myself a glass of wine. Or water, as Genevieve would have it.

Am I enslaved to this man whose life is pledged to me and mine to his? I guess that’s one possible interpretation. But it is a sweet, sweet bondage, forged in the crucible of the delivery room, the late-night runs to Super Target for diapers, the monthly roller coaster of charting and calculating and discerning, and in the endlessly-needy love and adoration of three tiny people who have his blue eyes and my strong will.  I’ve yet to come across a form of contraception that can offer those kind of benefits.

image: Shutterstock

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Jenny Uebbing is a freelance editor and writer for Catholic News Agency. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband Dave and their growing army of toddlers. She writes about marriage, life issues, politics, sociological trends, and traveling with kids here.

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