The baby is wailing from the backseat, the intensity of which leads me to believe he is near combustion. The situation can only be resolved one way, so I move quickly, twisting into a human pretzel to reach the backward-facing baby in hysterics. I’m contorting my arm behind the driver’s seat where my husband is calmly driving us home, despite the chaotic scene unfolding in the car.
With my arm stretched like Mrs. Incredible’s, my husband notices the gap between us is much more narrow than when safely seated (and buckled). I’m practically breathing down his neck when I catch a glimpse of his expression.
He turns his head slightly - eyes still on the road - and puckers his lips. I can see the dimple in his cheek clear as day - oh how I love those dimples. Undoubtedly he’s using our proximity as an opportunity for a subtle smooch in passing. While working my way back to my seat, I oblige and plant a quick one.
“Ew! Why did you just kiss??” shouts the oldest from the third row.
“Because we love each other,” my husband responds casually.
A standard answer, but one that gives me pause. I go silent as I think through all the car rides with just the two of us. The holiday he drove through a snowstorm to retrieve me from family drama. The road trips we’ve taken across state lines, fueled by corn nuts and twizzlers. The countless drives we took, me leaning over the center console, head on his shoulder, and his arm wrapped around my waist (I was much more flexible then).
A wave of grief washes over me when I reflect on who we used to be, when it was just us. With seemingly endless resources, dates were easy to plan and execute, meals were hot, and relaxation was the normal state of mind. Being a pair allowed for more freedom and deeper connection.
But the wave crashes and recedes back when I remember that love is malleable. Not stagnant, but ever evolving with us through each season of life. Love changes from long, hot dinners to cold, store-bought pizza. From playing hooky for a matinee movie to a single episode of a show at home once kids are in bed. From evening summer strolls through a local park to speeding through Target before we both start yawning.
Love after kids is subtle. A glass of ice water on the nightstand before bed, because he knows your routine. It’s the text that says, “Need anything before I head home?” because there’s always something I forgot. Or a shared embrace in the kitchen at the end of a long day that says, “This is hard, but we’re in it together.”
But for today, in this moment, it’s a quick kiss in the car while I hand off a nuk to the baby. It’s subtle, but somebody noticed.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series "Love After Babies".