Taking a Break

Week 19: 5/14/2007

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It's not like things have been so difficult lately. I've been relaxing a little more every day—about work, about the pregnancy, about the state of the universe. Aron and I recently instituted an every-other-Friday night date, complete with Sylvia's beloved, guitar-toting babysitter. I've been stepping back from taking on major work projects, giving me more time and sanity to experience the pregnancy and get ready for the baby.

But we're still the working parents of a real, live almost-3-year-old, and we're still about to have another child. In a world in which being merely "booked" and not "overbooked" can seem like a cop-out, in which "busy" is the most frequent answer to the question, "How are you?", we've come to realize that waiting to reach our individual or family-wide breaking point is not the solution. Just like in taking care of our bodies, what we need, and I wish everyone out there could get, is regularly scheduled preventive care. After all, we don't put off going to the doctor until one of us is in the E.R.

Remembering how we got here in the first place

Being pregnant with Sylvia felt like a constant, romantic reminder of the strong state of my partnership with Aron. We had been together for 11 years by the time she was born--we started dating our (yikes) freshman year of college—and bringing a child into our sphere felt like the culmination of the hard work and touch of magic that are the hallmarks of any happy, long-term committed relationship. While we knew to expect a baby to put a sleep-deprived and time-deprived strain on our marriage, my growing belly didn't feel like something that could ever put real space between us; if anything, it seemed like parenthood would only bring us closer.

We weren't entirely wrong. But while I don't agree with a Freudian theory I've heard—this is Freud third-hand, mind you--that "kids' prime motivation is to divide and conquer their parents"—I will say that even if the only relationship challenge presented by a baby was the lack of sleep and time? Well, that's still a hearty relationship challenge. Add into the mix the increased pressure to have a secure financial future; hormonal surges and other body changes; feeling trapped indoors with a sleeping child....

And then there's the child herself. She is absolutely the love of our lives. Sylvia can astonish us with the ways in which she is so clearly part-me, part-Aron, and the ways she's her own person. Even when she pisses us off, it's hard not to laugh out of pride in her ingenuity, chutzpah, or just plain turkey-tude.

But, as a normal preschooler, she has some habits that are not the most romance-enhancing. Like putting up her hand like The Supremes and saying, "Red light STOP, Papa," every time he tries to say something to me over dinner. Or, "No, Papa. Just Mama," when he wanders into the bathroom where she's on the potty. Or screaming "But I want MAMA" while Aron's carrying her upstairs, flung over his shoulders so she can kick the air, not his thighs.

In other words, Sylvia's heavy-duty Mama preference had been taking a toll on both of us. On Aron for obvious reasons—the constant rejection, even for someone as secure a father as he is, is hard not to take personally. On me, because while I'm sure I prefer being chosen over not being chosen, it doesn't exactly feel like I've won the lottery when I get Sylvia at her clingiest, whiniest, and most demanding. And I doubt it's a coincidence that this stage hit just when my belly got big. It all makes sense, and I don't blame her for a second. But it's still a lot to live with.

And now we're having another. Weekend getaway, anyone?

Just ... us

After securing Aron's sister and her girlfriend as weekend sitters—with some pinch-hitting by his stepmom—we made reservations at an inn in Vermont, about an hour and a half from our home. The last time we spent two nights away from Sylvia was exactly a year ago, when we traveled to Minnesota for our college reunion. This time felt different—it was so purposeful, the just-us time, and we had no distractions from each other. The drive itself was a revelation—dark country roads, some freaky and cool music on the radio, and just... us.

The quiet took some getting used to, as did the idea that we didn't have to do anything. There was no cell phone service or internet, no TV in the room. (Which I have to admit was a momentary let-down for me, but I rose above it when I saw the chocolate-dipped biscotti waiting for us instead.) And by Sunday morning, I was really aching for Sylvia. But the middle stretch reminded me of the wisdom of two nights away, instead of just one—it's enough time to get comfortable, and the second morning I slept until 7:30, not 6 like I'm used to at home. We went on a hike through the forest on the inn's property, one that started out as an hour-long, then we extended to a much longer looping meander through the woods, and at the end, we laid down on a big meadow in the sun, because what else did we have to do but enjoy life?

When we checked in at home, we heard only great reports about Sylvia—that she was happy with her aunts and Grandma, that she road the rides at our town's annual fair she was afraid to when we had brought her earlier,

that she fell asleep with her arms around her Aunt Ellie. But still, when we arrived in the driveway, Syl shrieked with joy.

Since then? In the ensuing week, while still showing a preference, Sylvia's been much less Mama-focused, much easier to convince to hang out with Aron. And it's easier for us to see things as the partners we are, not the embattled individuals we can believe ourselves to be.

That we did this with plenty of time before the baby arrives in October means something else, too—we can still come to realize that my pregnancy really is a romantic reminder of our love. It's feeling more that way all the time.

Join writer Emily Bloch each week as she chronicles her pregnancy.

Next week: The nesting instinct kicks in.

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