My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for a while now, and it just hasn’t happened yet.
It’s really okay with me either way – it has to be, right? I don’t have a choice in the matter. I’ve reached the place where I can be happy with either path – baby or no baby.
However, when I think about the baby path, I do get a little nervous. It brings up the last experience for me, and maybe that’s why I’m not pregnant yet. You see, going through pregnancy, birth and postpartum issues is a beast all on its own, but when you add in marital issues it takes it to another level.
I learned some things as a result of what happened with my husband and me, and I would like to pass those lessons on to other expecting fathers.
My last experience was very isolating. My husband was in a funk about his career – or lack thereof. He had been promised a lot of thing by his employer, and they all fell through. Not only did they fall through, but then his paychecks were bouncing. They parted ways, and it wasn’t a pretty departure. Then he ended up working three jobs just to barely support us, and we had to cancel our health insurance because we couldn’t afford it. The girls got on Medicaid, but we didn’t have any coverage. I was also working as much as I could from home at the time with an infant.
We were STRESSED, and that didn’t help anything.
During this time, instead of coming together, he just kind of retreated. When I would reach out, he wouldn’t respond much. He just went about his day, and he never really talked to me. He didn’t engage with our new daughter at all. He wouldn’t change diapers, and he wouldn’t help me at night or on the weekends at all. He barely held her. He got angry when I needed water or food while I was nursing, and he approached the situation with all the ways I was doing it wrong because I should be able to just take care of myself.
I don’t know if he realizes or if I expressed adequately how much I appreciated how hard he worked during that time. I tried to tell him, and I know I did a couple of times… but there were many days when I sat and thought about how grateful I was that he was working so hard so that I could stay with our baby who desperately needed me. But I don’t feel like that was ever returned – that deep appreciation for my experience. I felt like my experience was ignored and unnoticed.
When I asked for help, he said he was too busy. When I asked for hugs, he said he was too busy. If he actually helped me or hugged me, it was done with complaints almost the entire time. This still happens…
I felt… alone and very unimportant to him on top of dealing with an infant, nursing constantly, and the roller coaster of hormones. Men, please just realize that hormones are REAL. They are not an excuse, and we don’t enjoy them either. Hormones ran amuck with me, and I had zero postpartum depression. I had just normal postpartum, and it was a challenge. See this article about daymares. It took a full 18 months to fully feel like my regular self again.
So, what could he have done instead? What do I want for next time? What would help me to trust that we won’t break with another baby?
- I need some reassurance… maybe a lot of reassurance… that when I’m struggling to open my eyes because the baby is sucking the life out of me, he is going to pick up the slack and take care of the kids and not be angry with me.
- That when I’m so nauseous I can’t even speak, he’s going to explain it over and over and over again to our toddler who is going to ask 50 times in a row why I’m not speaking to her and what’s wrong with me.
- That when I’m not sleeping starting at 20 weeks (because my ribcage is malformed and they start burning around this point) and I’m burning and sore, he’s going to hold me while I cry or whine and look at me with love and understanding and not be angry.
- That when I have doubts that I can handle everything, he’s going to be there telling me that I’m doing better than I think I am.
- That when my feet hurt so much I can’t take it anymore, he’s going to squeeze them, and he’s not going to be annoyed with me because I need him.
- That when I have the baby, he’s going to be happy to stay with our older child while I’m in the hospital so she’s not scared.
- That when I’m nursing, he’s going to just bring me water happily because I’m physically sustaining his child without any comments about how I should have thought about that before I started nursing.
- That when the next baby refuses to let him hold them for any length of time, he won’t give up, he’ll keep trying and interacting with him/her because that helps me feel more secure and less crazy.
- That when I need help, or a hug, or a kind word, I won’t have to beg for it. I won’t have to convince him to help me or even just to hug me “because he’s way too busy to do whatever it is that I’m asking”.
- That I know he understands how physically altering and difficult it is to grow a human being and then completely change your whole life to fit around that tiny person and how I will suffer before I’d make our children suffer, and he appreciates that down to his soul.
- That when I need to take a shower or a break, he’ll work with me and the baby so that we can do that successfully without the baby screaming the entire time.
And I promise to communicate better about what I’m going through. I didn’t adequately explain how much I was struggling.
But guys – here’s the thing. She may not know how to say it. Assume that she’s having a rough day, every day, and ASK HER about it. Treat her gently and kindly. Try to just listen without telling her how to fix anything. She needs to know that you understand her feelings before she can move on to anything else. The baby storm is temporary, but if you approach it as a team, you’ll get through it with minimal scarring.
And always, always, always get her some ice water with a smile, even when she doesn’t ask. This will go a LONG way.