In the past year, our family of four has been through it. And through it again. From the horrific blow of losing a parent, to job rejections, to finding and buying our first home, to working semi-opposite schedules so one of us is always at home with our daughters . . . all while raising a 4-year-old and an almost 2-year-old (both very spirited little girls, I should add). Our life has been so full of new and exciting adventures, and watching our beautiful girls grow up together has by far been the best. But, it’s also been teeming with downs and added stressors.

They say that you’ll really find out who someone is when things get a little rough, and boy, are they right. Things between my husband and I have been rocky these past couple of years, I’ll admit it. We bicker, find things to correct in one another that we once thought were sweet little imperfections, and we sure as heck don’t tell each other “I love you” nearly enough. These are hard times, times where the word “surviving” feels more adequate to describe our lives rather than “living” and times that make you question just about everything. But, I do love him, though. A lot. 

It’s been six-and-a-half years since we said “I do” and nine years of togetherness, but I’m just starting to figure out what love really is.

It’s laughter and fun and all those beautiful adverbs we attempt to describe it with, but it’s often so much more. It’s a lot more when children and life are involved.

Our love is two babies screaming for our attention and glancing at each other in frustration saying, “I’ll tell you later,” knowing full well we’ll both pass out before we get a chance to catch up on each other’s day.

Our love is when we attempt a hasty (and rare) husband-and-wife-only kiss, only to find our smallest, wildest, and clingiest peanut ramping up for a big smooch (or “moochie” as we call them), right as we close in on each other.

Our love is tag-teaming dinner and dishes and bedtime stories, smiling (mostly) through the chaos, but sometimes with tears welling in our eyes that can’t be stopped because life with two toddlers is so damn beautiful and hard and tiring. So. Tiring.

Our love is seeing him light up at an old song we used to listen to, back when our biggest worry was what we were having for dinner or what to order from the draft list, and I light up too, recalling all that is good between the two of us and knowing it’ll someday—probably too soon—be the two of us once again.

Our love is sending texts throughout the day, updating each other on our kids’ bathroom status and most recent food aversions.

Whatever your love is, I hope you recognize it through the unrelenting poopy diapers and sick, sleepless nights.

I hope you remember the love-filled haze that once shielded you from any darkness or worries, when the two of you were falling madly in love.

I hope you remember that love is different for each of us, and that we’re all in different seasons of life, always hanging on to each other through the murkiness that life can become.

And always, always remember: after the darkness and cold of each and every winter, there always comes the newness, the lightness, the sweetness, and the rebirth of spring.

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Maria Gulick

Maria Gulick lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her beautifully-bearded husband and her two very strong-willed, mostly sweet, and always messy, toddler girls. Her loves include writing about the big stuff, charging forward with an invisible illness, and a good glass of Vino.