We heard it over and over again: a baby is one of the biggest stresses your marriage will have. It was something I worried about more when we were new into the adoption process, but as time passed I stopped thinking about how our marriage would change once we brought a baby home. When we finally adopted Willow, I did not have time to think about anything besides the immediate future in the whirlwind events that followed.
Once we were settled in, though, Nathan and I both realized how much our lives had changed already, and how much things would shift in the future. While I will never say that our lives revolve around our baby, she is certainly a huge part of our day-to-day and every decision we make, from our daily schedules to long-term plans. Only then did I begin to think about how a baby would change this 8-year relationship and what it would mean for us.
By the grace of God, I can say with confidence that our marriage is stronger today than it was just a few months ago. I can in no way pretend we have not had conflict centered on raising her, needing sleep, and just life in general, but I truly believe we are better because of our baby. Here's how our marriage has changed:
- We have truly become a team. I always would have said that Nathan and I were a team, but we didn't always act like it. We often had our own schedules and agendas, and sometimes they conflicted with each other. With Willow we have no choice but to be a team. One of our neighbors told us when we brought her home that it's "two against one." We laughed when he said it, but he was so right. When one of us is exhausted, the other steps in. When one of us needs a break, we have a partner. And when we just need to talk through frustrations - or look at pictures of the cutest baby we have ever seen - we have a buddy to share that time with.
- We recognize each other's needs better. The first two weeks were difficult. In the blink of an eye we went across the state and came back with a newborn baby whom we had never met. It took us a little bit to figure out how to make her sleep, and there were moments when we both felt overwhelmed. All this made us pay more attention to each other. Nathan could hear the tone in my voice when I needed a break. I could see signs when he needed to get out of the house. We gave each other the gift of extra patience since we were both sleep deprived, and slowly but surely things started to get better each day.
- We are cherishing our alone time together more. We have never been good about date nights, and one of my friends hit the nail on the head - when it's just the two of you, every night might as well be a date night! There's something to be said for getting out of the house as a couple even before kids, but after Willow came we began to hold our time together as far more precious. The conversations before bed time, the occasional date night when we leave her with grandparents, and quiet walks around the block as she sleeps in the stroller - all these have so much more meaning now, and I look forward to the time we can spend together with no distractions.
My heart is filled with gratitude - for our baby, for our lives, and for our marriage. While I know it is incredibly important to remain vigilant and keep our marriage first through the years, I am so thankful that we have been made better because of the baby we brought home. Here's to many more beautiful years together!