I want her back, too, I thought to myself, even more sadly.
Inside me, his words stung. I'm trying, I pushed out, so very wearily.
And I am trying. I'm just not that great at being Mama to a baby. I'm not. I mean, actually I'm okay with the baby, it's everyone else in my life that gets less of me. Babies stress me out. They tie me in knots. They drain me. Both of my babies have.
It's not because I don't love them. I love them CRAZY. Not because they aren't both beautiful, and sweet, and funny, and perfect. Just because they are babies, and they're almost always fully my responsibility, no matter what sort of day they're having or what they need or how they or I feel. And I do it. And I even do it fairly proficiently, I think.
But while I'm engrossed in meeting the needs of a baby, my husband doesn't get much from me. I just seem to have very little left to give him at the end of these long days of mothering. Some nights I'm so tired I can barely lift my head and make eye-contact with Al. I serve the dinner and clean it up and help tuck in the kids and then I'm toast. I fall into bed and am asleep within minutes. And I knew it would be this way. I expect Al to understand why it is this way, and I even know he does, but still he suffers a loss, be it an understandable loss or not.
After our talk on Thursday night, I spent Friday in a deep, dark haze, hearing his words, his hurt, over and over again in my mind. And feeling my own pain and my fear. What does he want from me? I wondered. I allowed myself to imagine what he wants - what he expects - and was then forced to face just how far short of his imaginary list of demands I've fallen. I resented him for his imaginary selfishness. He can't ask these things of me. I'm trying to give these kids what they need. They're small and dependent. They need so much. So much! And now he wants more from me. How can I do it all? Why can't he see what he's asking is unrealistic and unfair?
I got angry. I got mad at him for wanting more and more and more from me. I festered and grumbled and panicked. Each minute inside my own head left me more frustrated and hopeless. All day long I ached and I boiled. I can't give him more. There's no more left.
He came home Friday night and I was still hollow and wretched inside. We went to bed quietly.
Saturday started with thick, muggy distance between us. We busied ourselves taking care of the kids and running errands as usual, but without the laughing banter we normally share when we're together. After lunch, Peabody's nap ended too early, so Al put him in the car and drove him around for nearly two hours so he could sleep. As Bean napped, I sat alone in the quiet house thinking.
I replayed the past 36 hours in my mind. And suddenly, I understood.
I want my wife back.
His wife. He wants his wife back.
He's not making demands for MORE. He doesn't want me to do more, or be more. The list of demands I've imagined is my own list. My list of All The Ways I'm Failing My Husband.
Al doesn't have a list. He has a wife. Well, he had one. Me. And he wants her back.
All he wants is just me.
And starting now, I will find a way to give him that.
(I wrote about my first step at 5 Minutes for Parenting this morning.)