Every now and then, it catches me by surprise.
That feeling, reeling up from deep inside of me, like the surge of those first contractions that led us here, to the path of parenthood that changed everything forever.
I look at you, the man I walked to willingly to pledge my love for a lifetime, the man who has seen me through things that can never be unseen, the man who has made me a mother, the man who perfected the chicken and dumpling dish his grandma used to cook, and I realize that I kind of, sort of hate you right now.
I feel awful about that, of course, but nonetheless, I thought you should know.
I hate the way you seem to have escaped so much of what I have succumbed to in the darkness of parenting, the pressure and guilt, the invisible and visible ways motherhood has scarred me; the world seeming to see my shortcomings as a mother, while applauding your strengths.
Rationally, I know the pressures and guilts you have are pressing on you just as much as mine are. But right now … I may not totally be thinking straight.
I hate the way that everything seems different for you as a dad — from how we are perceived in public to the magical way the toilet paper roll, forever dangling with one lone sheet whenever I happen to use the bathroom, gets changed.
I hate the way you seem to breathe freely, eat freely, work freely, pee freely, and sleep freely. I hate that I am jealous of how you pee.
The truth is, husband, I kind of, sort of hate you in the little moments right now. But I made a promise to you before all of this, and I am making a promise again to you now.
I promise you that I don’t want to give up, that I remember the way things used to be when they felt so easy.
I promise that I wanted this. I really did. It was always you, from the moment I saw you. I knew we would be good together, that you would be the type of father I had always dreamed of having for my children, the kind who would throw them in the air, but also hold them with the tenderest of touches.
I knew, instinctively, that you were the type of man who would always call me beautiful, even after catching our children as they slipped from my body.
I know even writing that, that you will cringe if you read it because, “Do you have to be so graphic??” But I will do it anyways because I know there are other mothers out there who get it, who know what it’s like to be loved by a man so intimately and how easily we can forget.
I promise that I see you, I really do. I see the way you shovel the driveway and hold our babies and fetch me a glass of water when I’m half-asleep breastfeeding and tuck blankets around the big kids when they fall asleep.
I see the way you work without complaint and make green beans better than I do and still check out my ass, four kids later.
I see you when you overlook my unwashed hair, my favorite pair of gym shorts that I bought for 25 cents at Goodwill in college, the way I burn almost everything I touch, and that one time I slaved away making chicken pot pie and forgot to put the chicken in.
I see you offering forgiveness freely and loving deeply.
I promise that I see you even when you don’t know that I see you, when I forget to tell you that I see you.
I promise that it won’t always be this way, that I won’t always resort to seeing us as teammates in the most bizarre game ever created, like we are competing to be the most sleep-deprived people on the planet.
I promise that I don’t always like it this way, either, but part of me doesn’t know who I am anymore. Part of me is trying so hard to hold on that I can’t see a way forward or backwards, and I’m just stuck here, much like my stretch marks are to my stomach.
I promise that this day will pass, that I will become some semblance of myself again. I promise that I can see that day coming, more now than ever, and it gives me hope that our love will be stronger than ever, shining through on the other side of this life we have created together, a life that we are so incredibly lucky to live.
I promise you that I love you, even on the days I kind of, sort of hate you.
And I promise that I’m still here, still trying, and I’ll be here always — even on the days you kind of sort of hate me, too.