13 years. We were just kids when we met, but right away Hank and I were "together." It's a pretty amazing thing, moving through your late teens and entire twenties with someone, and right into your thirties. So much change happens in that time period- I feel like you really get to know yourself so well- and having a partner along for that ride means you get to experience all of that with someone else too. Hank and I sometimes talk about how lucky we feel to have grown together during that time, instead of apart. Really, it would have been easy to do- and like any couple we've had our ups and downs- but no matter what at the end of the day, we choose each other, and that makes all the difference.
I think one of the most beautiful but equally challenging things a couple can go through is having kids together. It's HARD. Life as you know it changes immediately, and suddenly, a new team is formed. And sometimes the kids against the parents, depending on the day! ;) But I can remember the first night we brought Henry home. We had no idea what we were doing. There were tears (from all of us I think), but I also remember this moment around 3 in the morning where we had just changed yet another diaper and found ourselves laughing at this new life of ours, suddenly surrounded by poopy diapers and a crying baby and breastmilk everywhere. One day in. And it'll be seven years this fall! It's been on my mind a lot as we've navigated through these first days home with Olive. I can think back and recall some of those hazy times with Henry, our brand new family of three, and it makes me smile to look back at those youngsters who were suddenly parents. It had been just us for so long, and there we were, figuring out these new roles- not only as Mom and Dad, but as two people parenting together.
As time has gone on it's been such a trip to go from parenting a newborn, to parenting actual KIDS. And now, three of them (we don't have a good photo of the five of us yet, or we'd all be up there in the pic!). We joke a lot now and say how now the "real fun" starts- the hard stuff. The baby stage was overwhelming at times and awfully trying at others, and I can already see up ahead to the big stuff. We have so much to figure out. We have to lean on each other a lot, and sometimes we totally feel defeated at the end of the day after parenting the boys. "Was I too hard on him?" "Did I handle that right?" "Why on Earth would he do that?" And it's a relief to me, every single day to be able to look to Hank for support and to be able to talk things out and navigate this world of parenting an almost 4-year old and a 6.5 year old. Add in our new baby and I feel like we've spent these first two weeks dividing and conquering everything from lunches to burping Olive to trying to keep the boys quiet at bedtime...and I know this is just a preview of our new normal. Overwhelming at times, and kind of crazy...but oh man is it awesome.
So everyday I'm grateful for my teammate, you know? That's how I think of Hank. We're a team. Supporting each other when we need it, high fiving our victories and celebrating our wins, drawing up our game plan, and sometimes drowning our sorrows in a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Ha. And my, how times have changed since becoming parents. We have less time for solely each other, but so much more love in all of it. Date night might mean a Netflix movie and Thai takeout on the couch while the boys sleep in their rooms and the monitor hums along with Olive's breathing in ours. It might mean that so much of our conversation revolves around all three kids, what they're doing, managing our family and all we have going on, but there's so much beauty in that. This is our dream. We're living it. And then in those moments where it's just the two of us, and we're laughing about this or laughing about that, walking hand in hand, and just US- those moments are extra special.
And those special moments help. Amidst the beauty and wonder of bringing home a new baby, of raising two big kids, it can get so busy that you forget your base. To feel overwhelmed or upset with the day or the kids or just yourself, and fail to remember that you're on the same team. But we're building something here. We signed on to do it together. We had this dream, this idea of what we wanted for our future, way back 13 years ago when we didn't know what that first "hello" could lead to. And I look back at all of it and feel so so grateful. Grateful to have this hand to hold through all of it, grateful to be growing right along with my partner as we figure it all out together. So how has having kids changed our marriage? It's changed everything, by bringing so much more to our lives as we've grown our family. More happiness, more togetherness, more love, and now as a family of five it's all multiplied yet again as we embark on this new adventure...together.