“Last year my husband and I experienced a number of challenges revolving around life with a new baby amidst a global pandemic. The stress was insurmountable, our communications were impulsive and aggressive (aka word vomit in the heat of tense moments). Neither of us felt seen or heard. But, thanks to couples therapy, we’ve found and nurtured new ways to communicate, which is to write letters to each other once the dust settles after an argument. I included one here, below, so that if communication in your marriage starts feeling like a losing game, you can try it as well.”
– Stephanie Pérez-Gurri
My Dear Husband,
I want to stitch you a quilt of all the sweet and salty things our union has brought us. Like in that scene in Stepmom, when Susan Sarandon gives her daughter a quilt stitched with all of their memories. I imagine you and I are doing the same thing, building a life that is completely unique, savoring the best moments from our past, but also learning from the growing pains, the salt that sometimes lays on our path, and revere that we made it out on the other side.
Birthing our son, for me, was the sweetest endeavor life will ever bestow. He is the biggest, brightest patch on our quilt. I felt sick with love when he was born, my body was so lovestruck, it made my stomach turn. Our rainbow baby, in the flesh, finding comfort on my chest for hours on end. I wanted to melt into his widow’s peak, kiss his feet until my lips dried out, and never not feel his tiny grip around my index finger. Finally, I felt the love between Mother and Child and it was intoxicating. But, as it pertained to us, bringing our son into this world meant something different.
There was always the expectation that our relationship would change when the baby came. We read all the articles on how to keep things “light,” we followed the endless bullet-pointed advice on making sure the romance stays intact. In hindsight, there was nothing that could’ve prepared us for such an abrupt change. How could we have impromptu date nights (like the articles suggested) during a nationwide lockdown and a baby who we feared we could potentially contaminate with Covid-19 if we dared leave the house? How could we possibly want to flirt with each other when I couldn’t keep track of whether I had brushed my teeth that day? The pressure was insurmountable, exhaustion to the point we felt drugged, and our egos, on top of it all, each had different expectations for how we would raise our son.
Communication came to a full stop. I had a tough recovery, thanks to a perineal tear, and felt intense pain coupled with the delirium of exhaustion. Postpartum recovery made me so lonely. Physically, there was no way for you to understand what I was going through. There was no way I was able to form complete sentences. Instead, I just delegated to you. In turn, you felt inadequate in that you couldn’t provide for our newborn at the time (since he only wanted my breasts). The mood between us shifted, we felt consumed by confusion. We realized our relationship was suffering so we sought couple’s therapy.
I admit it was hard not to start out our sessions with You did this and Why did you do that? and a lot of You’re not listening! So ultimately our therapist (or referee) decided we try to write letters to each other. We would write them alone when we’d have time to process our thoughts in a clearer manner, and we would begin the letters with the words I Feel…
A few days later you received an email from me in your inbox. That first email was one of the most vulnerable, cathartic things I’ve ever written. Your response to me was as well. In hindsight, to be seen and heard were the two things we needed from each other, and writing letters was a way to keep it up during the go-go-go of new parent fog and remote working. It’s as if we are now carrying a personal responsibility, to be more in-tune to each other.
Thanks to our letters, we’ve shed our hard skin to come into a new form as parents. We’ve worked hard to make the salt taste sweet, to make every patch on our quilt worthwhile. I’m so thankful I’ve gotten to know every sliver of you last year, to have watched you come into your own as a dad. I want to tell you there is no villain, only growing pains. I want to tell you how much I love you.
Your Pen Pal (aka wife)