“Mommy, talk me,” Auden says from the backseat. “Talk me, Mommy.”
I hit pause on my podcast for the third time and look in the rearview mirror to the backseat where my almost-three year old begs for my attention. Driving used to be my quiet time. Key word: used.
“Talk me!” He says again.
He means that he wants me to make conversation with him to pass the time, to answer his questions—the questions I’ve of course already answered.
All I want to do on this twenty minute drive is chill out, have a break while my kiddos are strapped in and can’t get into trouble, and engage my mind in something intelligent instead of the usual diaper-changing, toy-picking-up sameness that is my life.
I contemplate ignoring him and turning up the volume.
Instead: “What did you eat for lunch, Auden? Tell me.”
Love looks like pausing the podcast.
I turn the bath faucet off with my foot and sink back into the tub, allowing the hot water to come to my chest. My phone is propped up against the wall, precariously close to the edge of the tub, but it allows me to watch the vlog I picked out five minutes before.
The smell of eucalyptus Epson salt wafts up from the water and I figure it will take about fifteen minutes to have an effect on my muscles. These days, my body always feels weary. I work out a few times a week, but not particularly hard, so I know it is the constant picking up and putting down of children that does a number on my back. This well timed bath will do the trick.
Then I hear crying. George is not supposed to be crying, of course. He’s supposed to be asleep. He was asleep. What happened? The boys’ sleep schedule is sacred, untouchable, and tonight it is disrupted.
I wait and listen for Rob to go and comfort him. The crying gets louder. Rob must’ve gone into the garage. Or the bathroom. Louder.
I could leave him. Let him cry it out. I’ve done it before and he was fine. I just want to take a bath.
Louder. He’s getting hysterical.
I sigh, get out of the tub, wrap the towel around my waist.
George calms immediately when I pick him up. He wraps his arms around my neck, legs around my waist, and nuzzles in close. I sit on the rocking chair and close my eyes. George’s breathing gets heavier and I continue to rub his back, enjoying the closeness. For a year, we did this every night after nursing. But since weaning, we do it less and less.
There is something mystical about holding your child as he falls asleep, like you are the vessel from this world to the dream world, a conduit between two realms. My bath will go cold, but tonight, I choose this instead.
Love looks like holding, cradling, comforting.
I look at Rob across the table. He’s devouring the bread I can’t eat and will probably say yes when asked if we want more. Although my husband would never say he’s glad for my celiac disease, he doesn’t complain about getting the restaurant’s appetizer all to himself.
I stare at Rob, admiring the beard he’s trying out, the way his shoulders fill his sweater.
“What are you looking at?” He asks, brushing off crumbs that aren’t there.
We chat for the better part of an hour about his work, about the boys, about plans for the weekend. I remember when going out together was a rarity, in the newborn days, when it has to be. But now every week, we have a date night, and every week it is the night I look forward to the most. It’s a privilege I don’t take for granted, but it’s something we’ve also had to be intentional to make happen.
With two needy children, a house to run, piles of laundry, meals to cook and clean up after—who has time for romance?
Two romantics, that’s who. Rob and me.
We finish the meal, debate whether or not to get ice cream, and head home to relieve the babysitter. We tidy the house, shut the dog door for the night, start the dishwasher—like we always do—and then end the night in each other’s arms—like we always do.
Romance looks different than it did seven years ago, sure, and there’s ebbs and flows, sure. But I decided a long time ago that we weren’t going to be the couple who lost sight of one another once we became parents. That wasn’t going to be our story. Intimacy deepens and changes and course-corrects and molds to what we need in our relationship at a given time, but we’re determined to never let that intimacy go.
We’re teammates, partners, parents, lovers. Now and forever.
Love looks like being intentional.
I dig through my drawer for my blue button-down pajamas, my favorite. Rob and I are planning a movie night on the couch, which calls for all things comfy.
I squeeze and tug myself out of my leggings and wrangle off my sports bra. Finally! I can be free of constriction and free to dangle, roll, and hang. Free to breathe!
My mirror catches my attention, calls me over from its spot in the corner of the room. I scan over my body, my gaze for the most part neutral.
I look at my stomach, which expanded beyond imagination to house my first son, shrank back, expanded again to house my second son, shrank back. I’m 15 months postpartum, and my body looks similar to how I remember it looking pre-babies. Hips are forever wider, of course, and there’s new marks that will never truly fade, but I’m generally the same me.
This far out from pregnancy, and I’m comfortable in my skin again. Gone are all the hormones that call for stretched ligaments and milk production, left with the normal cyclical hormones of womanhood. I feel like myself. And I don’t want to give that up…not now, anyway.
We aren’t pregnant and won’t be for at least a while. The thought of housing yet another human scares me a bit, knowing my body will change again and get big. Knowing my body won’t be my own.
Should we decide to grow our family, I have to know my body will quite literally carry the weight of that decision. Am I willing to put myself through that again? The aches and pains and cramps? The belly so huge that people stop to comment?
The boys were worth it, I tell myself. So this other person—this person who has not yet crossed over from an idea into existence—would be worth it too.
Love looks like growing, expanding.
“Abide in my love.”
That day in church, I feel the nudge, hear the still voice, interpret the feeling.
“Abide in my love” goes through my head on repeat throughout the next few days, and I find myself puzzling about what I think God is trying to tell me.
After I lash out at Auden too harshly, I hear it. “Abide in my love.” I apologize to my three year old and then work on forgiving myself.
One late morning, I barely make it on time to speech therapy. It was such a hassle to get the boys out the door, and I am beyond frazzled and frustrated. “Abide in my love.”
I feel anxiety creeping up one afternoon out of nowhere. Anxiety is a demon that bothers me from time to time and I am discouraged that it’s here. “Abide in my love.”
One evening after the boys are in bed, I crack open a book from a friend. It’s about missional motherhood, and I am encouraged and reminded that mothering can be about living out the gospel in all the little ways. I wonder if I’m good enough, capable enough, for such a perspective to become a reality. “Abide in my love.”
I’m reading through the New Testament again and this week I’m in John. I get to the part where Jesus asks Peter three times: “Do you love me?”
Again, I feel the nudge, hear the still voice, interpret the feeling.
“Do you love me, Anna?”
“Do you love me?”
“Do you love me?”
I do. You know that I do.
“Abide in my love.”
Love looks like abiding.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Love Looks Like”.
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