My husband knocks on the bathroom door, waking me in my bath of now cool water. I must have fallen asleep. Both the baby and the toddler have picked this week to wake up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason.
“Are there any little people with you?” I shout from the bathtub.
“No, I put both of them to bed,” he answers and I unlock the door.
My husband starts to brush his teeth. I use the opportunity while his mouth is full of foam to inform him that since he is back from his work trip, he is on duty tonight and not me. It feels so good to say this because there was a time when I couldn’t.
With our first child, I was the star around which our son revolved.
Until one day, I could not function anymore. My husband offered to go to our son at night, but I refused. Our baby once lived inside me. We had a bond. That puffy-cheeked smile after his feeding was all my doing. No one could do this but me.
The next day, I started crying from exhaustion and my husband insisted that he go. I reluctantly agreed to one night.
“Use the breastmilk with the little picture of the moon on it,” I told my husband as I rummaged through a box full of plastic nipples in the kitchen, trying to find one that resembled mine.
“Pardon?” he asked confused from his spot on the couch, iPad on his lap.
“The one with the crescent moon drawn on the bag. It’s night milk. It will help the baby go back to sleep.”
“I’ll see if he needs it,” he replied not looking up.
“What? See if he needs it! His mother’s own milk?” I stormed out of the kitchen. “This isn’t going to work, I’ll just do it.”
My husband looked up at me and calmly said, “You need sleep. Let me help you.”
He paused and added, “He’s my son, too.”
Sometimes during those middle of the night feeds, with that little baby at my breast, I felt so whole, so strong, like a warrior and a life-giver. I was needed. I was needed like I had never been needed before and it felt good. A part of me did not want to share this with my husband.
That night at 2 a.m., I awoke like clockwork for our son’s feeding. I was drawn to him like a magnet, but my husband already had him in his arms. “Please!” I begged.
“No,” my husband said and closed the door to the baby’s room.
Then it was me crying in the middle of the night.
After that first painful night, I let my husband go to the baby more and more. Soon both the baby and I were sleeping better. With the extra sleep, came a more rational mind. I started to let go and share more parenting responsibilities with my husband. When I got pregnant with our second child, I was relieved. I had finally released myself from the need to do everything. One parent, shining that bright for so long leads to burnout. My husband and I were learning to work better as a team. But those special nights between mother and son seemed gone forever.
So much has changed since then. A few hours after commanding my husband from the bathtub to be the one on duty tonight, the entire house is sleeping soundly.
Then the toddler wakes up. Despite myself, I go. My husband has beaten me to it. Our son wails as my weary husband changes vomit-covered sheets. I thank him but send my ghost of husband, exhausted from his work trip, back to bed.
I got this.
I curve around our son like a dolphin. He flips this way and that. He grabs my hand. He tugs on my bathrobe. The circles under my eyes will grow to full moons by tomorrow morning, but I am right where I need to be. I wrap my arm around him and he releases into my embrace. We fuse together like the maple pod: he the seed and I the wing. I will get him to safety by slowly spiraling through the air.
With our son stabilized, I tiptoe back to bed. My husband whispers thank you into my ear. Our family is a solar system of two stars and two planets. My star might shine a little brighter by biology, but that is no reason to eclipse the light from my husband. I need him so that we can both shine day and night for our children.
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