Editor's note: This article by Erica Layne originally appeared on her blog, Let Why Lead. It has been shared here with the author's permission.
We sat in a booth in a bustling Mexican restaurant when my husband, Ryan, spilled salsa on my hand not once but three times. We laughed about how awkward that would have been nearly 10 years ago, when we first met.
But that night, we had sons sitting on each side of us, competing to see who could get more salsa on a chip, and a baby in a high chair, waving a floppy hand at the strangers two booths over.
I remember all the nights we sat in the soon-to-be nursery for our first son. As that little life grew inside of me, my husband and I would gravitate to this room, talking about the future, wondering — whether aloud or to ourselves — how parenting would change us, what we’d gain and what we’d give up.
It has changed us.
Sometimes we pit ourselves against each other instead of remembering that we are on the same team. Sometimes months pass before we realize how much we’ve been prioritizing the kids over our relationship.
Sometimes we go days at a time soaping up with tear-free baby shampoo because we can’t remember to put grown-up soap in the shower.
We have given things up.
We’ve forgone the long, meandering drives we used to take on Sunday afternoons. We haven’t seen a movie outside of our living room in almost a year.
As our mountain of responsibility continues to grow, we long for the days of “24” marathons on wide-open Saturdays — blinds drawn, hands held. We regret not taking a real honeymoon when we could have because who’s going to change eight diapers a day in our stead while we skip away to Cancun?
Yes, we’ve changed. Yes, we’ve given things up.
But the better question — the other question that first came up in the nursery of our unborn son — is, what have we gained?
I remember Ryan following the doctor into the hall three separate times during our first childbirth experience because he was worried things weren’t going normally (granted, labor does get a little wacky), but he didn’t want to worry me.
I can feel the weight of his head on my chest when, after a long, discouraging labor, we found out it was finally time to deliver our baby. Those brief moments we shared — him with hope on his face and me with an oxygen mask on mine — will always be a part of me.
I think of our son’s first day of kindergarten and how my typically unsentimental husband took the entire day off at the last second because he promised a nervous 5-year-old that he’d be at the door waiting when school got out.
I think of how our oldest knelt beside his brand new baby sister, sleeping in her hospital bassinet, and stroked her forehead while whispering, “Hi, baby Quinn” over and over.
I think of all the nights when no matter how lifeless we feel after another long day, I start sharing the funny and heartwarming things the kids did that day, and we feel ourselves inflate again — fill with life from the lives we created.
Yes, we’ve changed. Yes, we’ve given things up. And when the kids have moved on to make lives of their own, maybe we’ll celebrate with a marathon weekend spent watching “24.”
But I have a feeling we’d be just as happy to thumb through pictures of when the kids were little. To get lost in what life was like when they didn’t need anyone but us.
Because I will never stop believing that, someday, what we’ve gained is going to feel so much bigger than what we gave up.