When I was nine months pregnant I read a romance novel.
I will continue with the mortifying details.
I could not put the book down. Where my usual array of history books and political fiction allows for the odd break to feed a child or break up a fight, this selection required full focus. My brain kept saying walk away, but my heart was dancing in leaps and bounds far beyond the norms of a regular, healthy marriage. The problem was returning to reality.
When I awoke in a bed somehow not surrounded by a sea of rose petals, I was genuinely disappointed. I barely managed to get up, practically crushed by the fact that my husband, who was busy taking carpool and helping in practical ways, hadn’t found the time to ensure my morning got off to a glorious start.
When he suited up and went to work, my heart sank further at the realization that this would not be the day we jollied off to a picnic overlooking the sunset while sipping champagne and basking in soft giggles and coy smiles.
Not today, not tomorrow and not the day after that. Not with a bris to attend, a parent-teacher conference to sit through, an insurance broker to meet and, oh yes, the task of earning a living.
Alas, I couldn't help but blurt “Let’s go ice skating!”, momentarily overlooking the fact that I was nine months pregnant.
This was pretty much as romantic as I get.
I was putting all my cards on the table.
“What the Heck?” was the response on my husband’s face. Clearly, he was creeped out by the new-found passion in my eyes. A passion which only yesterday was directed toward struggling to get a night of comfortable sleep. “I’m going to go to work now... ” he said slowly, carefully picking up his bag with great caution before slipping out the door for relief and freedom away from his crazy wife.
Snap out of it! I kept trying to tell myself. But as an overnight, hopeless romantic, I was a lost cause. My mind kept racing back to the romantic prose that had infiltrated it, depicting everything around me not as it was, but as it could be. I was lost in some dreamland parallel universe where people never get mad at one another, and even the stressful aspects of life only bring couples closer.
So when a discussion about who was eating where on the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, and where the guests would sleep and how we were going to deal with the carpet install at the same time, failed to lead to gazing into each other’s eyes, I was yet again distraught.
Where had we gone wrong? What happened to those powerful feelings standing under the chuppah? The very feelings evident in the characters of my book several years after marriage and babies.
As I sat on the couch, phone in hand, trying to google if my book had a sequel, my husband went about clearing the table. “Give mommy some space,” he calmly asked our two-year-old as she came hurtling my way with a toy stroller. And then he took the girls to bathe so I could sit down and finish my tea in peace while still dreaming of a world that seemed so far away.
My frustration only heightened during bed time. Bringing water to a thirsty toddler for the seventeenth time felt even more annoying than usual. Finally the moment of quiet at which the universe restores some favor to parents came. But by then all we wanted was some peace and quiet on our own, and surprisingly not each others company.
Was romance dead?
Where was our shared nightcap? I thought as my husband stepped out to a meeting. Shouldn’t we be waltzing to soft music now that the kids were finally not running around our feet? I dreamed, as I prepared my husband’s lunch with just the right amount of mustard.
Surely there was a more romantic way to spend our evenings then sweeping rice off the floor, preparing for the morning stampede of lively children. And as I finished writing up that email I had promised to help him with, I turned around to find my better half looking concerned.
“Everything OK?,” He asked as he finished reciting the evening prayers and returned his siddur back to its place as I had asked him to do on several occasions.
And then, in a moment of clarity often not afforded to pregnant women, I realized everything was fine. I somehow not only returned to reality, I embraced it. Romance was not dead. You just have to find it and hold on for dear life. It was there all along, channeled not toward sunsets and truffles (although those are nice too sometimes), but a life of purpose and meaning.
A shared life built on strong foundations that will only strengthen with time as we work on being more in tune with each others needs. The small things we do to bring mutual joy to our daily lives. It is the future we are building together, and the children we are joyfully raising.
Maybe I’ll try escape to another fantasy world one day. Rest assured that this time, it will be a round trip.