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“You smell like you used to smell,” my husband sighed gratefully into my freshly-washed hair when I greeted him at the door after work. As I felt his whole body relax into an embrace of forgotten familiarity, I realized I hadn’t been neglecting just myself.

On that day, our daughter was a scant two months old and in a perfect concert of a sleepless night prior and a dark, cloudy day, she was simply too exhausted to insist on her only sleeping spot – my chest. Backing silently from the lamb swing, I ignored dirty dishes, an overflowing laundry hamper, the kitchen trash and, most painfully, resisted a tantalizing rumple of pillows and blankets, ripe for a nap.

With only one mission, I sidestepped a dust bunny the size of a tumbleweed into the shower. My heart beat anxiously in my ears as doubt and steam engulfed this first solo endeavor as a new mom: “What if the monitor isn’t working? What if she’s crying and I can’t hear her? Move more quickly! This isn’t worth it!”

I hastily dragged a brush through wet tangles and when, miraculously, still she slept, I picked up the blow dryer for the first time in two months.

I unearthed scented body lotion from the depths of my still unpacked hospital bag and slathered it on for the first time since becoming a mother, lamenting how not so long ago, I deemed anything so frivolous a priority. I flossed my teeth, since I found that in the bag too, which was embarrassing.

Still asleep?!

Racing quietly to my neglected makeup bag, I completed a process in three minutes to which I formerly devoted 15. Just as I rolled on my favorite perfume, I heard the rumble of my husband’s car in the driveway.

Admittedly, it had become a sound of relief rather than excited reconnection at the end of a long day.

In a moment of panic, I threw down the mascara wand and surveyed the mess that can only be made by a new family. With a bag of trash in one hand, I greet my husband apologetically.

As a tumble of defeat spilled from my glossy lips – “Dinner isn’t ready. I haven’t even started. The trash …”

I trailed off in bewilderment, because my husband beamed as he pulled me to him tightly, trash and all. I’ll never forget that feeling.

In a haze of sleeplessness and responsibility, where night mixes with day, the couch becomes a bed, and priorities are eternally shifted, I don’t think he even noticed I had been missing until I came back.

A good man and an incredible father, he deeply appreciates my life’s work and that it rarely naps cooperatively in a swing. But when it does, I make sure he knows I am still me. For us.

Courtney lives with her two children and dutiful husband in Fayetteville, NC. She writes for a local lifestyle publication and always showers for MOPS meetings.

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