It was a couple of weeks after our daughter was born that it suddenly dawned on me that my husband and I hadn't had an adult conversation since we'd first laid eyes on her. We'd been so busy discussing nursing schedules, colic, and the best way to get her to sleep that having “our” time just didn't occur to us. Not having much money and being very over-protective and hesitant to leave our daughter with anyone else, we decided to do as much as we could to rectify this situation without having to be separated from our little girl or having to fork over our grocery budget to a baby sitter. We started two traditions that have continued to this day: Dunkin' Donut runs and “Cookies and a Movie” nights. We found that short car trips put our colicky daughter to sleep and gave us some much needed time to talk and reinvest ourselves into our relationship, hence our frequent, morning trips to Dunkin' Donuts. “Cookies and a Movie” nights happened by accident. Once Bunny was asleep for the night (or for the next 4-7 hours) we would snuggle up on the couch with a box of cookies and a movie or a TV show, often too tired to actually talk to each other but craving one-on-one time all the same. Granted, neither of these are the healthiest option, but back when they started we were too exhausted to think of anything else. Since then, we've found other ways to have dates as well. Occasionally, we'll get a sitter. Not once a week like most parents prefer but once or twice a month. Until I got pregnant, we had started trading date nights with some friends of ours which worked out quite nicely. Our kids got to get together to play every couple of weeks and we got some time alone. However, when we don't or can't get a sitter, we find creative ways to be alone while in the house with our little girl--usually during naptime or after bed.
Pregnancy changes things too--more with the second one than with the first. Now, when I have moments, hours, or even a day when I'm not sick to my stomach, I have to think about investing in both my husband and my daughter. I'm not feeling well enough to be reliable as a babysitter for others yet so our date night exchanges have ceased for now. But, at the same time, my husband and I have gotten much more accustomed to our lives as parents and our marriage is thriving much more now than it did back when we had no children or only one child (without adding a pregnancy) to think about. Again, we've learned to be creative. We take the time that we do have together and make it count. This sounds silly, but it means that rather than my husband taking our trash to the dump alone, we go as a family. It means that when we both happen to be home and not working, we take drives as a family because it gives us time to talk. It means that sometimes our adult time is really family time. It also means that naptime is sacred and it will continue to be so until our daughter is in school because, on the days that he has off, I get home from school just in time for lunch and nap and we get to spend two, whole hours together, just the two of us. Since he gets two days off a week, that's four hours of quality time if we choose to use it that way.
When our second child comes along, somehow I feel we'll be better equipped this time. Granted, we've never had to deal with two children and only one between the two of us sometimes seems like more than a handful, but I'm confident that we'll adapt and learn the skills necessary to become the best parents possible to both of our children while striving to maintain a healthy marriage relationship. Do I get to hang out with my husband as much as I did when it was just the two of us? No. But the time we do have together is so much sweeter and precious now that it is rationed. We have our growing pains--arguments, hurt feelings, angry words that came from sheer exhaustion--but we try to use those as opportunities to talk things out and to practice forgiveness and selflessness. I was so pleased when we got pregnant this second time and things started to turn sour for me, that my husband was unfazed and totally relaxed about it this time around. It was a blessing that through the endless days of vomiting, trips to the ER, and new medicines, he was sweet and understanding rather than caught off guard. Throughout this difficult pregnancy and our lack of typical “date nights,” I've watched my relationship with him thrive, and his relationship with our daughter mature as well. I'll definitely take the bad with the good because God really has worked everything together for good in our lives as long as we have stood together and trusted Him with everything. Our willingness to be flexible, forgive, and most of all to look to God has made our marriage strong. And sometimes, that means being creative about our dates. Sometimes, a sleeping baby in the backseat of the car can be more romantic than a gondola trip through Venice. I know, because we've done both!