Mel walked across our living room, her stomach larger than I recall with our other two children, her hand on her lower back, her face one of soft sorrow, eyes longing for the baby to be out. She was due in less than thee weeks. This was to be our third child.
Mel eased onto the living room floor, laid face down, curled her legs into her stomach, and stretched her arms forward.
“Downward dog,” I said.
“Isn’t that the downward dog yoga pose?” I said.
“No. It’s not.” She said it sharply, like she had said most things in the past week or so. “It’s the child pose.” Then she exhaled, loudly, and I couldn’t tell if she sounded exhausted because of the pregnancy, or just irritated by my question.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“No. I’m not okay. You should know the answer to that right now. I’m tired and sore and I want to lay here. Like this.”
There is a lot of focus on Mel right now because she is the one carrying the baby. And I admit that it’s rightly so. I’m not the only person asking her a lot of questions about how she’s doing: Are you still feeling tired? Does your back hurt? Do your hips hurt? Are you excited to be done? Are you still not sleeping well? And so on…
I can say confidently that the answer to all of these questions is: Yes.
Pregnancy is hard on a woman. There is no doubt about it. And I suppose, naively, I assumed that pregnancy would get easier with each child. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. I think this pregnancy has been the hardest on my wife. I’ve told her as much, and she thinks it’s because she’s over 30 now. “I’m getting old,” she says.
With all the pain, hormones, body changes, and so forth, I feel a little overshadowed as a father. I’m not saying that my pain is greater than Mel’s. But what I am saying is that, even though I’ve been through this before, I’m still freaking out about having another child.
And I’m not sure how to deal with that.
I’m in my 30s now, too. And I’m not the kind of person to let Mel take on the getting up in the night duties alone. I’m getting to the age where I bitch if I go to bed after 10PM, and I have to be up before six. I was chatting with one of my college students the other day, and I told her that someday sleeping in would mean getting up at 7:30 AM. She looked at me like I was crazy.
She will learn.
I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to handle having a baby around again. It’s not like I’m in college anymore. And I’m not in my 20s (this was the case with both Tristan and Norah). I can’t get away with sneaking in a quick nap on the bus, or in the hallway between classes. I have a real job, with real responsibilities. If I were to put my head down on my desk to take a nap during the day, I’d probably get a strong “you need to act like a professional” talk from my boss.
I worry about how we are going to afford another child when we struggle to make ends meet with the two we have. I worry about unexpected medical bills and unexpected needs.
Every child we’ve had has had complications. With Tristan, Mel had Preeclampsia. And Norah was born with under developed lungs and ended up spending several days in the NICU. Both times I was a nervous wreck, worried about my wife and child, and feeling helpless. Like I wasn’t much good to anyone.
I worry about what having a baby at age 30 is going to do to Mel’s confidence. Regardless of how Mel looks, I will always find her beautiful. She is a wonderful person, sweet and compassionate. We have been together for almost 10 years now, and every year she becomes better and stronger and more wonderful. But the fact is, having a baby in her 30s might change Mel’s body in ways she’d rather it didn’t. And I worry about how that is going to make her feel. I wonder if it will rock her confidence in ways that I cannot predict.
I don’t want that for her.
I wonder how the kids are going to adjust to having a new sibling. In anticipation of the baby, Norah (age 4) has already become meaner, more demanding, and whinier. She’s started to wet her pants again and demand more attention.
Tristan (age 7) has started moving in the other direction, becoming more reserved and insecure. He spends more time to himself, and cries more than ever when frustrated. They both seem to know that something is coming, and while they say they are excited to meet a new sibling, they obviously know that is going to change their little lives forever, and in ways they can’t define.
I think a lot about the next several months, and how our sex life is going to be slim to nothing. And I wonder if, with three kids, it will ever go back to what it once was.
Mel is burdened with physical and emotional pain that is obviously greater than my own. This is true. But I’d still like it to be known that I am a bit of a wreck of emotions and empathy. I feel helpless at times, and at other times I’m just confused.
Sometimes I’m just in the way. I feel like I should be war-hardened because this is my third child.
I should be a man about all this.
And in some ways I am. I have a good idea of what’s to come. But I also know the reality of having a baby, and that has granted me more anxiety than comfort.
I feel like I don’t have the right to talk about all this with Mel because her pain is greater than mine. I don’t want to be a burden. My father is dead, so I can’t talk to him about it. Sometimes I talk to other fathers, but oftentimes that feels like I’m breaking man code. Like I should be stronger and not so dependent.
So it’s come down to this. To me writing about it on my blog.
Thanks for listening.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley