Perhaps it's because we are control freaks that my husband and I regularly discussed, as in depth as possible, what our lives together would look like through every, and any eventuality. Perhaps it's because we're realists that we discussed what our divorce might look like too.
After ten years together, we took the big leap into parenthood. In our usual style, we analysed everything we could possibly think of on how it would work; we meticulously picked apart our own childhoods to take the good and dump the bad. We were ready. We were mildly smug about our readiness. We were communication connoisseurs. We couldn't fail.
Baby arrived and our expert exchanges rapidly turned to shit. It was frightening how quickly it deteriorated into utter chaos. You're pre-warned about how it changes everything - the usual guff about no sleep, no social life, etc. However, we just weren't prepared for how it fundamentally changed us as people.
I suppose the most disturbing transformation was mine. I seemed stripped of being able to respond to simple questions, have an inability to think of more than one thing at a time and found it impossible to split myself between 'mother' and 'wife'. I felt so sad that his unbounded pot of patience he once had for me disappeared along with my sense of humour and personality.
I became overtaken by the responsibilities of motherhood, consumed by understanding the meaning of every tiny murmur and grew resentful that my husband wasn't putting in the same effort - in hindsight, it would have been impossible.
The paradox was, I exhausted myself from obsessing about making sure my baby never cried and was stimulated at all times but felt such bitterness towards my husband for not recognising my exhaustion when I so desperately needed him to take over. I begrudged even more that he could switch off at will, letting his body fall into a deep sleep given the opportunity; that he didn't get adrenaline charging through his body at the first sound of a whimper. I hated the fact that my once high firing brain needed at least 30 seconds to make sense of the words being said to me. I despised the fact that everyone else's marriages seemed brilliant and children had truly completed them.
But it wasn't all one way. Everything I did irritated him. Why couldn't I just answer a simple question? Why did I have to make pointed remarks about everything he did? Why was I undermining him constantly when I said I would never do that? Why couldn't I take a joke anymore? Where had the woman he married gone?
We sleep-walked through the first year until baby started sleeping through. Slowly, as if by magic, the fog lifted and life started to feel normal. Friends had said that things would get easier and they did. Then I fell pregnant again.
Predictably the arguments returned; about who was more tired, who had had the hardest day, who should be getting the biggest recognition. Whose turn it was to get up in the night, whose turn it was to sleep in, who's undermining who, who's making the biggest effort. Combined with a frankly appalling sex life, the strain took its toll.
At times it seemed like it would be a lot easier to throw in the towel. Kids require so much emotional energy. We were running on empty and the depressingly textbook arguments had taken us to the brink. What stopped us tipping over was fear. Fear of failing ourselves as parents. Fear of failing our children as parents. Fear that our realist attitude was going to be proved right.
You see, we had both come from 'broken homes' and were unknowingly fighting invisible ghosts that had remained clung around our necks. Ghosts that meant we constantly, perilously tried to stay in control of everything. We were forgetting who we were as people, both projecting ourselves onto our children. We were desperately trying to ward off any potential threat to their happiness, anything that could possibly make them feel like we felt during the bad times as kids and in doing so turned each other into the enemy.
When we were both stood on the precipice, facing the very possible future of creating yet another separated family, we asked for help. This in itself caused tension. The fear continuing to make fools of us. But it worked.
We had seven months of counselling and we both learnt a huge amount about ourselves as people - that we're stronger and more capable than we give ourselves credit for. We learnt how important we were for each other when we found each other fifteen years ago and how important we are for each other still. We learnt how we weren't failing our children and how we can be better parents, better people - break free from the historical hangovers. We did the most difficult thing - we looked at ourselves in all our ugly glory and it was bloody hard, but I'm so glad we did. We're still far from perfect. There are times when we continually bicker and I question our longevity and then there are times when everything falls perfectly into place.
We never knew that by bringing two news lives into the world, we would be creating four new people and we're learning to love all of them equally and unconditionally.
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