There’s a bond between mother and child that transcends almost any other relationship, as if the child recognizes from the first moments of its independent life that she is still somewhat an extension of mom, and that true safety can only be found by getting as close as possible to the womb that birthed her.

Amy Stem-Faulk, my partner of more than 20 years, has brought four brand new people into the world. Not only did she host their arrival party, so to speak, but she was the primary tour guide and teacher from their earliest awareness.

And while you might think that after four kids a mother might grow tired and distracted, becoming less able over time to provide all the necessary support and emotion, I’ve seen that the very opposite is true. It seems that each of our four kids has been practice to get my lovely wife to the point where she is the consummate caregiver and support to every member of our family — including me.

The biggest change, over time, for both of us, has been an increase in patience. When we were young, we both often had our heads in the clouds, and were often more concerned about our own happiness and desires than was healthy.

To some extent, the same can still be said of me. It’s something I work on, one of many ongoing battles I wage to become a better father and husband. A work in progress, right?

Yet my wife has found a place of serenity in the storm. With our children, despite their fervent and sometimes harried behavior, she can see beneath the struggles and occasional inconveniences to enjoy their growth, potential, miraculousness and unbridled joy, and encourage those parts of their personalities to bloom even further.

Hers is an example I try hard to follow.

Recently, our youngest child, baby Juniper, was sick with a phlegmatic cough and runny nose that left every piece of adult clothing smeared with mucus and spit, breast milk and sweaty hands. The illness translated into many sleepless nights for the wife, as she is the only parent at the moment who can offer the physical comfort of a night-time feeding when all seems wrong in an infant’s world.

We exclusively breastfeed, and so there’s little I can do at such times other than commiserate and offer kind and supportive words.

It was late on one of these nights when the baby was writhing restlessly back and forth on the bed, crying and hiccuping, bemoaning its misery to the universe. Selfishly, I was mildly irritated by the fracas, and flopped over to see what if anything I could do to stem the flood.

In the half light of our ever-present night light, I caught a glimpse of Amy that caused my heart to do somersaults. With her heavy-lidded eyes swollen from lack of sleep, she still held onto a beatific smile and soothingly rubbed our inconsolable child’s back and chest, loving baby June through the pain and discomfort and even in the throes still finding the heart to enjoy our littlest child.

We’ve a been together a lot of years, but that night it was as if I was seeing this wonderful woman for the first time. I fell in love all over again.

I’m a lucky man who sometimes forgets his gifts, and this is something else I’m working on. But simply playing on the same team with Amy, and working with her to raise these four kids as best we can, makes me an infinitely better, stronger man.


James Faulk is a writer, cemetery worker and family man. He can be reached at