He slipped out of my body in the wee hours of a frigid March morning at almost the exact moment fat flakes of snow began to drift from the starry sky. He immediately snuggled into my arms and began nursing quietly within minutes.
And so it was that Charlie’s personality was first introduced to us.
He has been my sidekick for three months now, and you would be hard-pressed to find a better buddy. He rarely cries and has slept through the entire night since birth, really. He chuffles adorably around midnight, I give him a bottle, and he’s gone again until five in the morning. At that point, I sneak another bottle into his rosebud lips, and he’s out until the other kids wake at seven. His days are spent in much the same cool as a cucumber mode.
Hello. I’m here. But go on about your business, I’ll just hang out here for a while watching you and grin at you from time to time because I like you so much. And if you don’t mind I might like a bottle in a bit, thanks.
He was born and coasted right into our lives as if he’d always been with us. Not so for my previous two children. Life, interrupted was how it felt when they were born. Huge adjustments; long, sleepless nights; it was nearly a year after each of their births before I felt relatively normal again.
But Charlie? Charlie is as calm as they come. It’s like he knows.
His dad and I separated before his birth. The first months of his life have been the most difficult of our lives. But it appears he was born with this knowledge and has done everything he can to make this strange, painful, time easier. Intellectually I know this isn’t the case, but when we’re together on my bed, I meet his unwavering gaze, he flashes his reassuring grin, and I can’t help but think he is wise beyond his months.
Pregnancy may seem like an odd time to initiate a separation at the outset, but if you take a few things into consideration, it isn’t as strange as it initially seems.
It was not an accidental pregnancy. We have always discussed three children. Our family didn’t feel complete after our second child and so it seemed like Charlie was always hovering somewhere in the ether, waiting for us to make him happen. And so we did.
Our marriage wasn’t good or bad at the time. It just was. It was what it was, what it had always been. I had just rationalized the dysfunction away, assuming the dramatic lows of our union were an inevitable part of life — and they are, to an extent — but I was slowly coming to the realization that we had crossed an invisible line, that we were no longer a good team, that there were no longer many good moments.
Clearly I’m simplifying the situation, choosing not to get into specifics as the Internet is no place to publicly play out the painful nuances of an “uncoupling.” But, just as you prepare for your newborn’s arrival by physically scrubbing your house clean, I became intent on analyzing the emotional environment my son would be born into.
The more pregnant I became, the more I realized that while I could wash crib sheets and blankets and sterilize bottles, our relationship was so stained it might not be salvageable. And if I deemed the environment too toxic for a newborn, then it was most certainly no longer suitable for my 5- and 3-year-olds.
While some have questioned whether hormones played a role in my thought process, I can most definitely assure you that I was thinking clearly at the time we separated and continue to thoroughly analyze the possibilities now.
Can the relationship be saved? Is it worth saving? There are no easy answers, as anyone with children who’s ever contemplated divorce knows. It all comes down to one question, at this point: Is our togetherness beneficial to our children or are we happier, more well adjusted parents when we are alone?
He is with me now, my sidekick, grinning and kicking as I write about him. Serge will be here in a few hours to spend the rest of the day with him and that makes me happy. Two parents crazy in love with the greatest little guy imaginable. Our guy. No matter what ultimately happens between me and Serge, he’ll always be our guy, and I will be eternally grateful to his dad for embarking on this parental journey with me.
Photo source: Monica Bielanko