It’s been a tough day here at home, mimicking most days where I haven’t had a minute of alone time and have spent hours meeting the endless demands of a 4-year old while in a spell of exhaustion from the tiny human growing inside of me. You walk in after being delayed by traffic, and cheerfully say hello as I’m standing over the stove trying to not burn dinner while pouring Kennedy a glass of water and keeping the dogs from grabbing the food off the table. I don’t have a second to look up and shoot you a quick smile hello- in fact I’m not even sure I could even manage grumbling “hi” at this point. I know all you want to do is catch up on the day and give me and the baby bump a hug, but you see the chaos and don’t want to add any more stress. In that moment when you are desperate to connect, I just want silence and a minute to myself before tackling the bedtime routine. I can only imagine how often it feels like there is no time for you, for us, but just so you know, I still see you.
The day we got married was one of the happiest days of my life. Surrounded by friends and family, all I saw was you. I walked down that aisle so confident in the decision for us to get married, so excited for what each day would hold, so happy I had found my partner to conquer all of lives challenges with. Walking down that aisle and seeing you at the end, I knew this was meant to be.
Four months after that beautiful day, we found out I was pregnant. With all the happiness we felt, I know we were both naive to what was in store. In those nine months of pregnancy, you watched not only my body change, but my whole being shift as I prepared to become a mom. I know that even with feeling all the kicks and going to all the appointments, you couldn’t fully comprehend the connection that was developing between me and the baby inside me. As the pregnancy progressed and things started to get complicated, it was harder for us to connect on the care-free level we once had. The high-risk pregnancy consumed me, and those nights we shared laughing and cuddling on the couch quickly turned into hours of worry over the health of our baby. You tried so hard to just hold me and make it all better, but this was not something you could fix. And you were scared too. Scared about the health of your baby, scared about the health of your wife. But instead of allowing you in and healing together, I isolated and blamed myself and my body for all that was happening. All you could do was stand there next to me, helpless, as I struggled. But even in those really hard moments where I pushed you out, I promise you one thing, I still saw you.
Then came the day that Kennedy entered this world. Even if we had read every baby book out there, there was no way either of us were prepared for what seeing her face would do. I know you immediately saw me change the moment she was placed into my arms. For the first time you were able to fully see the fierce love I have for my daughter and the immediate connection her and I shared. In a moment, it went from the just the two of us, to our life revolving around our child. I immediately bonded with her, and instantly knew my role as her mom. I know the transition wasn’t as easy for you, finding your new place in our family of three. Where once was just your wife, there was now a baby attached to her every hour of the day. You did skin to skin and changed every diaper, finding pride in every poop that you conquered. I’d laugh as you’d hold her up in the air and sing the Lion King song. You were now a dad, and I loved seeing the new you.
But as the weeks went by and pure sleep deprivation took affect, my worry from the pregnancy transformed and intensified into severe post postpartum anxiety. I was hyper vigilant, and even if Kennedy would sleep for longer than a 30 min stretch, my mind wouldn’t allow me to take my eyes off her. My supply issues and Kennedy’s feeding issues meant that our lives revolved around a feeding and pumping schedule that we had never planned for. While our friends were going on their first post baby dates, you and I were pacing the house in the dark trying to calm our colicky child. Any possibility of connection was muted by the white noise we had to blare to get her to settle. We had a high needs daughter who would only accept being in my arms. You were pushed to the side because her needs became more important than both yours or mine. It was the way life was, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I want you to know, I still saw you.
I saw you get up every time she awoke at night just so I knew I wasn’t alone as I tried to bounce her back to sleep. I saw you call the doctor every time something didn’t seem right, because you didn’t want me to worry. I saw you almost in tears as you had to leave for work every morning, knowing that you were leaving your anxious wife to face the exhaustion of having a high needs baby with feeding issues alone. I saw you as you watched your wife drown in the depths of postpartum, unable to pull her up despite trying everything in the world to reach her. I saw the look of pure joy on your face when Kennedy allowed you to hold her, even if just for a few minutes. I saw you fall madly in love with our daughter and become the man who would do absolutely anything for his family. I saw you.
That first year of parenthood was one of the hardest years of both our lives. We were scared and overwhelmed. Just like Kennedy only wanted to be with me, I inadvertently pushed you away because the only energy I had was reserved for her and her needs. I know how much you loved your baby girl, and I also know you wished you could of shown your wife how much you loved her too. As she began to walk and talk and slowly add a few more minutes of sleep each night, we were able to slowly reemerge. But I was forever changed by the experience. We both were. We were no longer the naive kids we were on our wedding day. We were parents. And even on those days that I am touched out and seem like I don’t have time for anything, I promise, I still see you.
And now I’m pregnant again. I am overjoyed and already love this little boy that is kicking me through the night and making me crave jars of peanut butter a day. But I am also full of worry. I remember how scary it all was with Kennedy. What if something is wrong? What if it’s even harder than last time? A million fears run through my head a day, and I know you are afraid of me drowning again. And in fact some days it may seem that way, my anxiety is strong and the exhaustion from being pregnant and parenting is intense. It has not been the easiest time for us. You want to help, and I don’t know how to let you. You want to experience all the same things I am, but it’s just not possible. You want to hold me and make it all better, but that’s just not reality. I see you radiate on the days where the worry is low and I let you feel his kicks, and I see you scared on the days my mind is occupied or consumed with worry. But I want you to know, that even through these tougher times, and all the tough times ahead, I always see you.
You are a man who is hopelessly devoted to his family. A man who drops everything to be with us and support us. A man who despite having been through so much in his own life, works extra hard to show up for his children and provide them with love and laughter every day. I see a man who isn’t afraid to get on the floor and play, and who glows when he hears his child laugh. I see a man who spent so much time trying to learn how to put his daughters hair in a ponytail so it was one less thing I had to worry about in the morning. I see a man who stops everything to give endless amounts of underdogs and throws the laundry in every night. I see a man who sacrifices so much of himself just so that his family is happy. I see a man who loves his wife even when she is really hard to love, and who would walk through fire just to see her smile on those tough days. I see a man who wishes he could take away all the pain in the world, and does anything he can to alleviate the anxiety his wife harbors inside. I see a man who loves a faulted woman unconditionally, even when she cannot love herself. Even with all the bumps in the road, I still see you.
One day our life will be back to nightly cuddles and laughter on the couch. One day date nights won’t be so few and far between. Time together won’t require so much planning. We will never stop being parents, and I’ll never stop worrying about our children, but I promise that I will always make room for you too. And I promise, even as we re-enter a state of sleep deprivation and grow into a family of four, I will always, no matter what, still see you.