About a month ago, when we were still in Zagreb, Dave and I decided to go out to dinner; our first dinner date since before we left Australia. Being overseas, on a tight budget, and having no one to mind Isla had prevented us from doing this earlier, however we didn’t want this to stop us, so we decided to adapt and take Isla along with us. Dave had just finished up a big project, and we wanted to go out and celebrate.
We donned our best clothes, got Isla ready for bed, and at 7pm we popped her in the pram and headed out.
Isla was exhausted, so we’d anticipated for her to fall asleep in the five minutes it took to walk to the restaurant. We arrived as planned, and upon checking, we saw that she was wide awake. Disheartened, but not defeated, we reserved a table, and proceeded to walk around the city, exploring areas that we’d yet to discover. We chatted, held hands, and patiently waited for Isla to nod off. We looked into the pram 45 minutes later, to find her hugging her blanket, peacefully asleep. It is such a gratifying feeling when you succeed in getting your baby down for the night!
We walked back to the restaurant, ordered our food, and had the most wonderful discussions about everything and nothing. The restaurant was quietly busy, the pace relaxed; the sun was setting, the light ambient. Our meal arrived, and halfway through our dinner, I asked Dave a question about work that I’d been waiting to ask him all night; one that I knew would spark an exciting and long conversation. The words were barely out of my mouth when we saw two little feet kicking the blanket off, and a little squeak as our girl decided to wake up.
When a baby wakes up, there is a tiny window of time where they can be put to sleep again with a few rocks, a few pats, or a replacement of their dummy. It is a split second that mustn’t be missed. You never know when it’s going to creep up on you, so you always have to act quickly. We looked at one another and immediately started rocking the pram, silently communicating to one another to figure out how awake she was, willing her back to blissful sleep.
After about 30 seconds we realised we’d missed the window: Isla was up. We sighed, and resigned ourselves to the fact that Isla was crashing our date, and that our night was going to have a different focus for the rest of the evening.
We picked her up, and upon the request of the young girls sitting at the table next to us, handed her over for a cuddle. And, oh, did she lose it. She absolutely bawled. Not just a sad whimper, or decent cry; no. A colossal meltdown that not even a look at herself in the mirror (her normal calming-down technique) could comfort.
Five minutes of walking up and down the street later, she’d settled. It was in those five minutes that I felt like I’d had a revelation. Here I was, trying to calm down our child, who was making the biggest commotion, who had interrupted our long awaited date night. Instead of feeling frustrated, or angry, or disappointed, I felt overwhelmingly happy.
Having a child completely changes your life. It’s one of the first things people say when you’re expecting or have just had a baby. And as they get older, and they learn new skills, they reinforce that same sentiment over and over again.
Isla has changed our lives in many ways that I anticipated. We don’t sleep in the same capacity that we did prior to having her. My body has changed, and is no longer just my own. My relationship with Dave is different. Our identities and roles within our family have changed. I expected those things.
What I didn’t expect was the magnitude of change within myself. I didn’t expect the huge amount of love I feel, both for Isla, and for Dave. A renewed love for Dave, seeing him be such a doting father to Isla. The love that I have is overwhelming. It’s a stop-you-in-your-tracks, take-your-breath-away kind of love. It fills me with awe that this is the way my parents feel about me, and gives me a whole new understanding of how we are loved as children of God.
Many of the changes we’ve experienced have affected the ways we did things before Isla. We could mourn the end of the way we do date nights, but why not try and celebrate these new rituals, these new ways of doing things? So we sat Isla up in the pram. We shared our meal with her and we continued chatting, while we played with her, taking joy in watching people’s faces light up when they watched her. We meandered back to our place and bought ice creams on the way, to eat at home. It was a beautiful date night.