My husband and I were recently scrolling through old photos on my phone when we came across this little gem.
It was the week before we found out the sex of our baby (spoiler alert: it was a girl). We were at an annual Thanksgiving party we attend with our friends every year. None of those things are really important. What was important was both of our reactions to seeing the picture.
Me: OH MY GOD!!
Will: Oh wow!
Me: LOOK AT US!!
Will: We look so young!
Me: We look so …. Rested.
How is it possible to age 15 years in the span of only two? Isn’t there some law of physics that guards against this? Do you ever accidentally catch a glimpse of yourself and think OH MY GOD WHO IS THAT??!? And not in an “OH MY GOD WHO IS THAT GORGEOUS CREATURE LOOKING BACK AT ME??” kind of way.
Looking at that picture made me have an immediate rush of both jealousy and sympathy for that young, naïve couple. I wanted to jump through that photo and shake them – “Do you even APPRECIATE all that sleeping in on the weekends? Do you even KNOW what a “vacation” with a baby/toddler looks like? YOU SHOULD BE SAVING YOUR MONEY! On second thought, scratch that, you should be going out having shopping sprees and three hour dinners with deserts and drinks and staying in hotel room suites because you are never. Doing. That. Again.”
Oh sweet, young, Will and Ashley. Do you even know what you have gotten yourself into? Here is a peak into what your future will hold:
There will be long stretches of days where you, dear husband, will never see me in anything but sweatpants and an oversize sweatshirt. I will have fantasies of you coming home to me in my pre-child work clothes instead of being greeted, yet again, by a ponytail, sweatpants and yesterday’s leftover make-up. It is true that those days will come again. But they aren’t here yet.
There will be long stretches of days when our conversations consist almost exclusively of taxes, the eating habits of our child, and high blood pressure. When I feel like our lives are on an endless repeat of cook, clean, bathtime, work, cook, clean, naptime, work, cook, clean, work, cook, clean, work, cook, clean. Then Will goes to bed. Then I clean again.
There will be evenings when we barely kiss goodnight before we both drop instantly into that special kind of exhaustion sleep that is unique to having a toddler running around your house. Where touching feet in the middle of the night is sometimes the most we have touched all day.
These are the days of extra exhaustion, extra weight, extra responsibilities, and toys taking up residence where we once hoped to build a dry bar. These are the days of graying hair, less gym time, less date time, less relaxation, and less money.
One cloudy, dreary afternoon this fall, I persuaded Will to help me plant tulips in our “garden” (using this term VERY loosely). I had wanted tulips for forever. We had bought some bulbs at the end of the summer, and a huge snow storm was on its way the next day. It was now or never.
The ground was rock hard and each hole I dug for each bulb hurt. My hands, not used to “gardening” activities, started blistering up almost immediately. About 5 holes in, my arms started aching and I looked at all that was ahead of me and just about gave up. Then I glanced at the picture on the bag of bulbs. The bright, shiny, perfect picture of the most beautiful red tulip I’ve ever seen. I imagined pulling the curtains back in the morning and being greeted with a perfect line of those gorgeous blooms. I took a shaky breath, and dug deeper (both literally and metaphorically).
Now as the winter drags on I think about those flowers all the time. I think about how I don’t even know if they are going to actually come up or not, but the chance that they might thrills me. I read online that there isn’t a lot you can do to mess up tulips – that they are a pretty hardy breed.
And as I am sitting here remembering what it was like to just be a family of two – the glorious feeling of being bored because you literally had nothing to do, those nights that lasted until morning with friends, the trips we took together, the crazy things we did, how freaking young we felt – some other things start creeping into my memory.
Like the night we brought Gia home from the hospital and I realized the ONE THING I didn’t have was a nasal aspirator and suddenly Will was sure her nose sounded “stuffy”. How we both simultaneously started panicking and pacing and his parents ran over with three different nasal aspirators and we called ask-a-nurse and they basically laughed at us over the phone and told us to get some sleep.
Or a couple days after that when Will was changing Gia’s diaper as I was sitting, preparing for the ridiculously complex task of breastfeeding a newborn, and she had explosive diarrhea that shot across the room onto my gorgeous white silk robe I had been given as a post-partum gift and hadn’t even got to wear yet. Time froze still for a second as I looked at Will and then Gia and then Will and then the robe. And then we simultaneously burst into laughter and I shook as I begged him to stop laughing because it was making me laugh and laughing was hurting my stitches and Gia just lay there and looked around the room like explosive diarrhea onto brand new white robes happened all the time and what was so funny?
And I realize that a time is coming when it is just him and I again. Where we will revert back to Saturday sleep-ins and Sunday brunches, where he will wake up at least 2 hours before me and will always order ham and eggs if its available. Where over my citrus cocktail and his frosty beer we will reminisce about the nights where we played board games in the dark with whispers so as not to wake the baby. Where we will look back and laugh at all our “vacation” attempts with a baby and how terrible they were but what fun stories they provide us now.
A time is coming where we will realize that those early months, even years, the really hard ones, were the tulip planting times. They were the times of blisters and sore muscles and feeling like sometimes it would be really nice to just quit. Or take a break. Or let someone else plant the flowers. But we didn’t quit and didn’t take a break and we kept on planting the flowers. And we can already see that the stories about planting the flowers are going to be the best ones. The ones we tell our grandkids about with a twinkle in our eye because this story turns out so freaking beautiful, just like those flowers did.
These are times where we are poor in so many areas but are making memories that will keep us rich for the next 50 years. There are days I think I am living in paradise and days I feel like I’m closer to what Hell must feel like, but no days pass where I don’t think, man, I did something really right to get to have these days with my William and my baby girl.
So to that young, sweet couple in the picture – don’t worry. There will be tulips.