Before Poppy was born, the answer would’ve been an easy yes. Back then, it was just so . . . straightforward. Maybe that’s why the challenges Matthew and I experienced during our first several years of parenthood were so difficult for us to face.
They were just so unexpected.
Part of the reason for this was our relative maturity: We met at twenty-six, had kids at thirty. Plus, we weren’t angry by nature; in the old “lovers versus fighters” split, neither of us could claim any affiliation with the latter.
If anything, in the first four years of our relationship, we didn’t disagree enough. Before Poppy was born, chore distribution wasn’t a problem. Matthew worked full-time and I worked part-time and cleaned and cooked. Meals were always on time and sleep was logistically uncomplicated, and our spending habits and social habits were compatible. Which is why, as we entered parenthood, our conflict resolution skills were notably underdeveloped.
Before Poppy, our relationship hadn’t been tested.
Not to say, of course, that our pairing was seamless; we did have a few key personality differences. Matthew was lighthearted while I was serious and driven. He preferred to just get things done, while I was more of a dot-and-crosser. Matthew procrastinated, too, which drove me crazy, and he was easily annoyed by little stuff like traffic. I usually kept my head over the small stuff, but let the big stuff get to me, which I admit was no healthier.
But Matthew was nice. He held me when I cried, and respected my decisions, and listened. Almost half a decade into our relationship, we still chatted late into the night. We still truly liked each other. We were still best friends.
We were among the lucky ones—and we knew it.
Which is why one night during my pregnancy we had a conversation that went something like this:
“You know, they say having kids changes your relationship—that you start fighting more, getting angry,” I said. “What do you think? Will that happen to us?”
We were lying in bed, Matthew on his back and me on my side facing him. The light was off, and in order to see Matthew’s face better, I readjusted her pillow.
“I don’t think it will,” Matthew said, staring at the ceiling.
“Really, Hon? That’s a nice thing to say.”
Matthew turned to face me. “Well, what would we fight about?”
“I’m not sure,” I said. “What is something that bothers you about me? They say that whatever it is, it’ll get worse.”
“Nothing comes to mind.”
“Really? You can’t think of even one thing?”
“Not really. Nothing important. Why? Can you?”
I pulled her arm off of Matthew’s stomach and rolled onto her back. “No,” she said. “I can’t, either. But I do kinda wonder if we’ll remember this conversation later and laugh about how optimistic we were.”
“Maybe,” he said. And then he laughed.
Then our conversation shifted to more immediate concerns.
The feeling of invincibility we shared was, of course, overconfident—maybe even just plain dumb. However, in the years to come, whenever I recalled that moment I realized it was also pretty sweet.
We believed in themselves, and in each other, that much.
Even belief, though, arguably the most powerful force in the Universe next to love and gravity, has its limitations.
It wasn’t enough to keep us from fighting.
Read the rest of the series at Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Novel.