Tuesday, November 12, 2013

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What Goes Through A Husband’s Mind When His Wife Is Pregnant?

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When Mel was pregnant with Tristan, our oldest, we went to the bank to deposit a check. This was 2006. We were both twenty-two and living in Provo, Utah. The bank wasn’t a far drive. Just a few blocks. And once we got there, they were closed, observing some obscure bank holiday that we hadn’t considered. Mel was about three months along, with only a small bump below her navel. She’d started shopping for maternity pants, but we hadn’t gotten any yet. She was still wearing her normal jeans, but she’d had to stop wearing a belt. For the most part, the first three months had been like every other month in our two years of marriage up to that point.
But as I saw Mel walk up to the bank door, tug on it, realize it was closed, and then tug on it again, and again, and again, I started to wonder if there was something strange going on. She leaned against the glass, cupping her hands round her eyes, to see inside, making sure that there was no one in the bank. She was crying as she walked back to the car, a reaction that seemed extreme and I wondered if she’d hurt herself tugging on the bank door.

She opened the car door, sat next to me, and before I had a chance to ask what was wrong, she said, “They’re closed because they’re stupid. They don’t even care. They don’t even care.” She kept repeating that phrase, over and over, while pounding her fist into her lap. She was really crying now, full on tears with snotty boogers and deep sloppy inhales and exhales. She wiped the snot from her nose with her sleeve, a barbaric action for Mel, something I’d never seen her do before and made me feel like the two of us were witnessing some war crime, the killing of innocent woman and children, but in fact we were only parked outside a closed bank.
“What’s going on, babe,” I said. I laughed a little, trying to lighten the mood, until she looked at me with slanted, wet eyes, her face red and flushed, as if I was now part of the problem.
“Don’t be a jerk. These people are closed. I’ve got so much to do. I’m so tired. And you’re laughing at me. Laughing at my pain.”
She looked away from me, her fists at her sides, head leaning against the passenger window. It was late fall; cool outside, so her snorting breath fogged the glass. Her hunched shoulders, tense body, irregular breathing, and boogery face reminded me of the lowbrow horror movies I used to watch. Mel was changing. She was turning into something different. Something irrational. Something I didn’t know and didn’t understand. I got a little scared and thought that perhaps I could reason with her.
“You know, Mel. They’ll be open tomorrow. It’s no big deal.”
She turned, looked at me, her face flushed, eyes red and wet with tears, and said, “No big deal! That gives me one more thing to do tomorrow. One more thing. I’ve got too much to do. Don’t you know that I’m pregnant? Do you even care about our baby? Or me?”
“Well, yeah!” I said. “I know you’re pregnant.” I chuckled a little. A prideful chuckle. “I put it there.”
I smiled at her. I thought I was being funny.
I was not.
She stared at me for a long time, her lips drawn in a tight line.
I was really frightened at this point. I had no idea what to say, so I said what I was thinking, which was probably the worst thing I could have done.
“Don’t you think you’re being a little irrational? The bank is closed. It’s not the end of the world. You don’t need to overreact.”
I looked at her straight-faced, with sincere and stern eyes, that I felt confidant would defuse the situation.
It didn’t.
“You’re a jerk. Did you know that you’re a jerk?” she asked. Then she threw her hands up in the air and yelled, “I’m having a jerk’s baby.” 

I didn’t know what to do, so I just faced forward, both hands on the wheel with a white knuckled grip, eyes set forward. I don’t know what happens to soldiers when they encounter an experience that brings about post traumatic stress syndrome later in life, but I image it is similar to the terror I felt while trapped in a car with my angry pregnant wife.
Eventually, I started the car and drove from the bank. And as we drove, she started to calm down as I tried to understand what the hell had just happened.
Slowly, she went to go back to normal, as thought the transition was only temporary. Like the clouds broke and the sunlight had released the daemon. We were almost home when she turned and looked at me, exhaled loudly, and said, “I’m hungry. Turn around. I want Taco Bell.”

I’m exaggerating. Let’s take a step back. Mel didn’t really look at me with a big snotty monster face. And she didn’t scream irrationally, or tug at the bank door, or beat her fists while talking to me. But she did cry because the bank was closed. And she did call me a jerk, and say that she was having a jerk’s baby. And she did want to take a trip to Taco Bell once we were almost home. And I did get scared because her actions were way out of character. For the most part, Mel is a levelheaded woman, with a smile on her face and a bounce in her step. And I did say she was over reacting and laugh at her, which makes me a jerk, so she was justified in calling me that. 
I spend 500% of my life exaggerating T-shirt

However, when I try to explain to people what it is like to live with a pregnant woman, I often tell them that it is like living with a possessed woman. And in the moment, it felt a lot like what I just described. They say that memories fade with time, but I think that my memories get exaggerated. They get twisted and warped by emotions, and sometimes the fish gets bigger, and my memories become larger than the moment that created them.
But I suppose this is all expected. TV and movies often comment on how crazy a pregnant woman can be, and I always seem to find their descriptions relatable. 
--> But what I really didn’t expect was how having a pregnant wife would help me to realize I was an asshole.

You would also enjoy, Another one… (Why do discussions about having babies make my husband nauseous?) Part I.

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Clint Edwards is a tutor coordinator at Oregon State University. He is also the former co-host of the Weekly Reader on KMSU and a graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University. His writing has been listed as notable by Best American Essays, and has been published in The Baltimore Review, and through The University of North Dakota, Boston College, Emerson College, The University of South Carolina, and Minnesota State University.