"Come closer," my husband, William, says to me now that our three children (all under the age of six) are finally asleep.
I unzip my oversize hoodie and pretend that I don't have 15 extra kilograms on me and that my hair is reflecting the light because it's healthy, not greasy. As I attempt a sensual stride toward him, he stops me and says, "Wait, you have a little chocolate on your skin."
I look down. Did I have chocolate today?
He licks his thumb and reaches for me.
Just as he's about to make contact, I scream, "Wait! That's not chocolate!"
Surprisingly, we didn't give up on the evening. After all, we had scheduled it in our shared Google Calendar.
I'd like to say this was the first and last time I'd discovered excrement on my body, but sadly I can't. This was more or less the pattern of our lives from the time our eldest was born 10 years ago until our youngest turned about 3. That and stepping on that squeaking Sophie the Giraffe, running our hands raw cleaning bottles, and overstuffing nappy bags until both our backs were forced out of alignment.
And then a monumental shift happened. It started the day we gave away our high chair.
It was at the end of a long day and I was diddling around on one of those local mums groups on Facebook when I saw that a neighbour had asked whether anyone could donate their high chair.
At first, I ignored it. I couldn't part with any of my baby things! I scrolled down and got caught up in a different thread in which various mothers were weighing in on what the source of a mysterious rash one parent had posted a picture of could be. "Penicillin allergy?" I suggested and went to close my laptop. But then something stopped me.
Sam, our littlest, was newly three. When we took him to restaurants, he sat in a regular chair or on a banquette. Did he really need that tray anymore? I was sick and tired of banging my hip into it each time I went to retrieve a fork. But still, what did that mean for our family if we didn't have a high chair at the table? I felt a twinge of sadness realising that even though we called Sam the baby, he didn't really fit the description anymore. We were morphing as a family, and I didn't know what to expect next.
"We're giving away the high chair!" I proudly called out to William and told UESmummy78 that she could pick up a Peg Perego chair from our lobby tomorrow. The funny thing was, once I committed to getting rid of it, I could no longer stand the sight of it. Even though I had choo-choo-trained bites of chicken and spoonfuls of peas into all three of my children's mouths in that chair, suddenly this useful object where we had captured many precious memories had transformed into an eyesore.
That was my first taste of the rapture that is giving away baby things. Piecemeal, we made our way through the replica of Buy Buy Baby that existed in our home.
We took apart the crib and gave it to a cousin, then I dropped off a breast pump I barely used at the doorstep of a first-time mum. You know how they say doing good feels good and that you get more than you give when you do a nice thing? There is no truer statement of fact, as far as I'm concerned.
As we parted ways with the piles of child-related equipment that clogged our hallways and closets, donating to charity and to friends, I was ecstatic.
Suddenly, I had room in the apartment, empty cubic feet that could be filled with my things. Black sweaters. Leather handbags. High heels! Where a double stroller had regularly defied the laws of physics by parking in our narrow coat closet, now I had ample space for longer-length jackets, felt baskets for hats and gloves and a tidy row of rain boots. Our hallway closet, which had previously housed a retired mobile, a sit 'n' stroll and two breast-feeding pillows, now held neat stacks of extra linen. Extra, I said!
My husband, thankfully, was on board with the purge. Otherwise, I could imagine us having a real problem.
I didn't just shed baby gear over this period of time. I also shed the kilos. It took nearly two years of grueling diets and weekly gym sessions I never grew to enjoy, but I did it. I look like myself pre-baby. If you saw the X-ray version of me, you'd find stretch marks across my abdomen and a bra that is working overtime. But those are my secrets.
Let me not give the impression that my house is now an all-white sanctuary of peace and quiet. I have backpacks strewn across the foyer, iPads that seem to have legs and something I like to call the Lego carpet. And, I still want to lose 3 more kilos. That part I expect will never go away.
But. We aren't tired every minute of every day. We are a couple, not just parents of the same children. Best of all, we have sex in the morning sometimes – spontaneously.
For William and me, shedding the baby accoutrements helped us find ourselves again. Beneath the clutter we found the rested, bathed and energetic people we were before parenthood. We even got our voices back - our actual normal-sounding voices where we didn't add an "ee" to the end of every word (i.e. "Let me help you with your shoesies!").
We are aging right alongside our children, but there is a paradox at work. We are getting older, yes, but feeling younger. In the words of Justin Timberlake, we're bringing sexy back.
Friedland is a nonpracticing lawyer, author and mother of three who lives in New York City. Her second novel, The Intermission, will be published in July.
The Washington Post