Wednesday, November 13, 2013

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

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If you have not read What Goes Through A Husband’s Mind When His Wife Is Pregnant? Part I, you can do so by clicking here.

I assumed what happened at the bank was an isolated incident. But then it happened again when I asked Mel to water the Christmas tree. She said, “Don’t you know how tired I am? Do you even care how hard it is for me to bend over?” And again when I bought her a steak and she didn’t eat it. I got angry because of the cost, and she got angry because I didn’t realize that a pregnant woman’s taste in food can suddenly change, and a craving can turn to repulsion in a matter of moments. Before Mel got pregnant, our only real fight was over having a baby. And once she was pregnant, we seemed to be fighting about everything from the temperature in the room to who should push the cart at the store. We went from a strong couple, to one that fought over petty things, and I honestly wondered if our marriage would survive Mel’s pregnancy.
Right now we have two kids. I will admit that the first pregnancy was the most eye opening. Probably because I didn’t know what to expect. By the second, I was a little seasoned. I knew to expect mood swings and neurotic behavior. But I have to say that I have found neither experience enjoyable.
I think part of the problem was that Mel was a tolerant woman, and I was unwittingly demanding. She was always willing to compromise, which, more or less, meant that she was going to let me have my way. Early in our marriage, we watched the shows I liked: The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Arrested Development. But never did we watch Gilmore Girls or Friends. I told her I couldn’t stomach them, when in fact I could’ve. I just didn’t want to, and I knew that I didn’t have to. So I had my way. We ate where I wanted. Listened to the music I picked. Set the room to cold so I could sleep, rather than warm so Mel could be comfortable. 


I chose the first two places we lived in: an affordable first-floor condo where we could hear everything the upstairs neighbors did, from washing dishes to making love; and a small two-bedroom house that was near where I grew up. Behind the house was a hay field, and we always seemed to be having problems with pests: mice, ant, and sometimes demonic-looking goats that were owned by a neighbor who couldn’t seem to mend a fence. But we stayed there because the rent was cheap. In my mind I assumed we were compromising because I’d shown her the places before I signed the lease. But I never let her look for a place. I never asked her opinion. I just told her that this was it. We’d found it! And she accepted it. Early in our marriage she was not comfortable telling me her thoughts like she is now. And I was not interested in asking for them. But once she was pregnant, she was much more willing to speak her mind. She was uncomfortable and irritated and more than happy to let me know about it. The problem, if I was to call it a problem, was not that she was moody. She just wasn’t in the mood to let me have my way. I interpreted this as her being bitchy, and pregnant, and derogatory this, and derogatory that. But in fact, I was more like a spoiled husband who suddenly wasn’t spoiled any more..  

Evil Goat
I never really wanted kids, or pets, or anything that was dependent on me. I’d meet other people’s kids and they’d drool, or poo, or cry, or some other obnoxious thing, and it drove me nuts. But like Mel often does, she broke me down and we had a child. I will admit I really love them. But strangely, I still don’t really like other people’s kids. I only like my own. I am telling you this so you will understand that one of the major reasons I was so miserable during Mel’s first pregnancy was because I didn’t really want a child. In many ways I felt cornered into it. And it is only in hindsight that I realize I was probably just as irrational as she was. I often looked at crying babies and thought about how horrible it was going to be.
Every time Mel wanted to spend money on anything baby-related I’d let out the Republican. “Ugh…do we really need a car seat? All those safety studies are just propaganda to sell items to unwitting people. The government has no right to tell me how to care for my child! What they need to be doing is cutting off that guy I saw in line at the store using food stamps while talking on a cell phone. If he’s got money for a cell phone, he has money for his own damn food.” Or “Why do we need a stroller? I can just carry the damn thing.” I have since changed my feelings about carseats, strolers, and food staps. But at the time I felt like what I was saying had real validity. And each time I said something asinine and irrational, Mel’d look at me much like how I looked at her the day she cried outside the bank. Her eyes seemed to say, “Don’t you think you’re over reacting?” Only she had the good sense not to say it. She must’ve wondered what she’d gotten herself into. Why did she marry this this man? Why had she wanted to have his baby so badly?
It’s only when I think back on these moments that I realize something had taken over my body, also. It was a mix of fear, confusion, anxiety, and uncertainty. I attended classes full-time and worked nearly full-time, and I recall having tightness in my chest most days. And I recall waking up in the night, sweating, frustrated, and confused. It always came down to money. I really didn’t know how were going to do it. Everyday we needed something new: a crib, baby clothing, maternity clothing, prenatal vitamins, bottles, booties, bassinet, Baby Ernestine’s books and DVDs, tub toys, crib toys, living room toys, Vitamin E lotion to prevent stretch marks, and so on. 

I remember unwittingly saying the jerkiest things to Mel because I was nervous about money. “Come on Mel, your feet aren’t that swollen. Don’t make this out to be more than it is. You can go into work.” Or “Why do we need maternity pants? Just wear some of my pants. You’re pregnant. Doesn’t that give you the right to look like an overweight hobo?” I recall thinking that I was being funny with that last comment, but it sent Mel running for the bathroom. She locked the door and wouldn’t come out for a good hour.  When I think back on this moment, I realize that my wife is a saint for putting up with my lack of compassion for what she was going through. She was the one growing a baby. She was the one with swollen ankles and confused hormones. She was the one who got up seven or eight times in the night to pee, only to crawl back in bed and realize that her sciatic nerve was now giving her lower back pain and she couldn’t, for the life of her, get comfortable. I was just worried about the check.

You would also enjoy, Student Loans vs. Home Ownership: (How I became a home owner through the help of my wife)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.