Early in the morning on Wednesday, January 29 we welcomed our beautiful, sweet daughter, Nellie Blanche, into our family with great joy and relief. She came to us a day early, but slowly, and the long labor, particularly the extended pushing phase, left me rather immobile with an injured pelvis. After an extra day at the hospital we were more than ready to get back to our house, our own bed, and especially our own food.
However, the cooking (along with everything else that couldn’t be categorized as “nursing the baby”) fell on Justin’s plate. Although I’d made a lot of progress over the days since Nellie’s birth, I was still spending most of my time healing in bed. While I could highlight any of the meals he thoughtfully prepared, from a rich, fortifying beef stew to the homemade pizza we’d both been craving, what I was most reminded of this past Valentine’s Day were the iron rich smoothies that appeared at my bedside each day.
Because I had lost a lot of blood (again, thanks to the five hours of pushing), I needed to replenish my stocks with as much iron rich food as possible. I also felt a nearly constant need for replacement calories, which didn’t give my personal chef many breaks in the kitchen! One of our first days at home, I awoke from a nap to discover a pint glass of smoothie that Justin had prepared to meet both my iron and snacking needs. A perfect picture of true love.
His iron rich iteration was far from the electric tree-frog green and candy heart pink appearance of smoothies one finds in cookbooks and magazines, a natural consequence of blending dark green leafy kale with red strawberries, molasses, nuts, banana, yogurt, and juice. Anyone who’s taken an elementary school art class knows that such a palate of colors can only yield brown. However, unlike the mixing of tempera paints, the smoothie retains all the characteristics of the colors that went into it, making it surprisingly tangy, bright, and unbelievably nourishing.
It occurred to me that this smoothie looked a lot like true love. Perhaps it was because I was feeling a bit beat up and unattractive myself, but I was thinking that, as we wade for the first time into the waters of parenthood, our gestures of love won’t always look pretty, elegant, and orchestrated. Real life love does not track like a Hollywood romcom with dramatic “stop the airplane!” moments or ironic romantic dialogue recited by well-coifed lovers. Rather, it makes itself known through more common but extraordinary gestures that communicate a continuous and loyal partnership, deep caring, and consideration.
Needless to say, Justin and I did not exchange valentines, boxes of chocolates, or flowers this year. Those things would not have communicated our love for one another nearly so well as the gifts we did exchange – small actions that each allowed the other to get the things we needed (sleep, food, exercise, support). Valentine’s Day or otherwise, as I look forward to this new stage in our shared life and relationship, I’ll always trade the metaphorical truffle for a full cup of iron rich smoothie.