Pregnancy on Mars

I know I’m about to blow your mind here, but I’m going to say it anyway. Men experience pregnancy VERY differently than women do.

Bwahahahaha! Such a ridiculous statement, but lately I’ve been banging my head against the truth of it pretty much every minute of my time with my partner.

It’s hard to imagine how unaffected he is by this pregnancy, when it colors pretty much every moment of my life. It’s not just the waking moments either, this pregnancy dictates my sleep as well. I am constantly thinking about it, reminded of it, experiencing the effects of it, made uncomfortable or hindered by it, celebrating it, terrified of losing it, overwhelmed by the responsibility of it. It’s almost always on my mind. The few times I am able to focus on something else are at work, and usually a little (or big) kick from my baby boy brings my attention back to the fact that I am, in fact, 33 weeks pregnant.

This pregnancy feels like my whole life right now, except I still have to focus on all the other things, like my students and classes, my daughter, my partner, my responsibilities at home, everything else a working mother has to do every day.

I want to include my partner in this process. I want him to feel connected to his son in whatever small way he can. I know it can’t be the same for him, when he doesn’t feel him kicking constantly. I reach over and place his hand on my belly when I know he’ll feel some noticeable movements or hiccups. Most of the time he pulls away the minute he feels a kick; he never lets his hand linger there to just experience his son moving around.

I try not to read too much into that. I have no idea what this experience is like for him. Is that one little movement enough? Is he scared to become too attached? Does he feel so stressed out about the coming transition that enjoying a simple moment bonding with his baby boy is impossible? Does he not think anything when he pulls away, except that he has other stuff to do?

I think I’m doing a pretty good job of not judging the way he’s reacting to things. I know I don’t understand, and I also know that he doesn’t understand all my fears and anxieties about something going wrong but that he still tries his best to respect those feelings and support me through them. I try to do the same with him.

The harder part is being understanding about what feels like a lack of support toward me as I deal with the stresses–both physical and emotional–of these last seven weeks. So far I haven’t let this pregnancy slow me down at all, but since I went back to work I’ve noticed the fatigue setting in. I’m still trying to exercise frequently but I’m noticing that I have to slow down some and take more days off (I’m always unsure if I’m using my pregnancy as a crutch to get out of exercise I am capable of or if I’m respecting my body’s current limitations–probably a combination of both). I’m also getting less sleep because of a (much) earlier wake up, coupled with more heartburn and more night peeing so I’m trying to respect how fatigued I feel in the evening by heading to bed early and doing less after school..

I’m also trying hard to keep up with my responsibilities at home. I’m still doing the lion’s share of the afternoon/evening parenting (MV does all the morning parenting–I don’t even see Osita until I pick her up from school). I’m still washing dishes and cleaning up and doing all the laundry. I definitely ask for a bit more help here and there, mostly just small requests to grab something from the other room (once I’ve climbed into Osita’s bed at night I am pretty loathe to climb back out again). Mostly I’m doing what I’ve always done, and at this point I’m okay with that, thought I think once October hits I’ll be wanting to slow down even more and then I’ll need Mi.Vida to step up.

Mostly, at this point, what I really need is emotional support. I need Mi.Vida to seem interested in this pregnancy, to ask me about how I’m feeling or what I’m going through. A perfect example of what I perceive as a lack of support happened yesterday.

I called Mi.Vida in the afternoon to just check in and see how his day had been. Because of a question he asked, I mentioned how hard the night before had been (see my Last Night post for details) and as I tried to explain how overwhelming the responsibility of making these decisions can be, and how scared I sometimes feel, he basically shut down and immediately said he had to leave. Now I had called him at work and I assumed he really did have to leave quickly to speak with someone in his office, so I didn’t think much of it. I also know that he works in close proximity to other people, without walls to provide privacy, so I didn’t expect him to offer love or support right then, as co-workers would hear and it would be awkward. So at the time I was totally okay with how he reacted, but then later when he came home, he never followed through or checked in with me about how I was feeling. It was obvious I was upset and crying during the earlier phone call and he never even mentioned it, let alone asked if I was feeling better. He didn’t acknowledge it at all.

And that felt, if not hurtful than at least dismissive. It felt like he didn’t really care about me and that my distress wasn’t something that registered on his radar, even when he heard or saw specific evidence of it.

Last night I ended up writing him an email asking for his support and saying that I really needed him to take the initiative to check in with me at the end of the day. I said I was writing the email because I was bound to cry if I brought it up in person and I didn’t want to put that pressure on him, especially when my tears were probably as much hormonal as they were my actual reaction. The reality was I wasn’t angry at him as I wrote the email, just a little hurt and unsure how to proceed (and I’m glad I wrote email because I was sobbing the whole time–I can only imagine what a mess I’d have been if he were there). I felt I couldn’t really expect him to know what I wanted or needed so I wanted to let him know before I let my feelings get hurt. I hope the email relayed that sentiment but I could tell it kind of upset him. At first we got in a little passive aggressive tiff about something unrelated and then he sat down and said he knew he had to support me more and that he’d have to start stepping up in the weeks and months to come. But instead of seeming grateful to know how he could help me, he just seemed resigned to some horrible fate that he’d much rather avoid if he could. It was clear he was not looking forward to offering more of himself to me personally or to our family and yet again I had the sneaking suspicion that he was ultimately unhappy with his life.

I know this transition is going to be hard for him and that he’s scared of what’s to come. I’m trying hard to shelter him so that the whole thing happens as smoothly as possible, but there is definitely a part of me that feels resentful that I have to support him so much when I’m the one who could really use the support. Yet again I find myself wishing he would just step up and do what he needs to do, but like always, he seems unable, or unwilling, to do that. And honestly? I don’t know if I have it in me to be the one making things easier for him, when I need someone to do that for me.

Ugh, I feel like I’ve written a version of this post a million times before. I feel like I always feel some disappointment in my partner, and that doesn’t seem like a good foundation on which to build a relationship. I don’t really have much hope that he’s ever going to change, at least not significantly, but I’m resigned to accepting who he is at least for the next two years. Maybe by then he’ll be willing and able to change. If not, I guess I’ll have to decide what my next steps will be.

13 responses

  1. I’m going to be really honest here….but what makes you think that MV will ever change? I think that women too often think that we are going to change the man that we are with, but in reality, we just get frustrated because it never happens. I’m sorry that he is not supporting you like you need him to. 😦 Frankly, you shouldn’t have to shelter him from anything. You guys should be a team going into the birth of your second child, your wedding, etc.

    • This is a very good question. And the reality is, I don’t think he will change. Not really. I do feel like I want to give him opportunities to change over the next two or three years so that when I’m forced to make the really hard decision of whether or not I can stay with him, I’ll already know that I gave him the chance to change. If I don’t tell him specifically what I need, I can’t expect him to do it. But if I do give him that guidance, and he STILL doesn’t do it, I will know (better) what I need to do.

      I’ve worked with my therapist a lot on this and I finally understand that my options are basically to stay with him as he is or leave. I just want to make sure I give him the best chance to be what I need him to be so I can make that choice knowing he’s had a chance.

      • I guess I have a slightly different take on this (and you know I’m going through a lot of the same stuff…)—you’ve mentioned several times that MV seems unhappy with life. Could he be depressed? If so, and if he is amenable to treatment (therapy or medication) then that really could make a big difference in his mood and behavior. And if that IS the case, then “sheltering” him makes sense, too.
        I know you can’t change anyone. And the stereotype about women trying unsuccessfully to change their partners stripes is there for a reason. But I agree with you 100%– if you care about the relationship you DO need to make clear to him what you absolutely NEED to have in order to stay with him; maybe you need to say it multiple times in multiple ways, to really give him the best shot of deciding for himself to make a change. Because no one wants to tear apart their family without thinking she’s given everything she’s got to keep it together.
        I’m so sorry you’re going through this, it sucks, especially when so much else is causing stress in your life. Hugs.

      • This is also a really good point and one I’m not sure I’ve considered completely. I’ll definitely bring it up with him and see what he says. I think he’d definitely benefit from therapy, whether he’s clinically depressed or not but I doubt he’d go regularly. The thing he feels most deprived of is time. Asking him to give up an hour (plus commute) of time a week would be more than he would ever agree to. But it’s definitely worth a shot.

  2. You think in 2 years you may leave. And you are pregnant with a second child. WOW. SUPER HORMONAL!!!!
    Does he know what the standards are and the timeline for performance? Have you asked him what his standards are for you over the next 2 years? Did he really really want a second baby or just agree because he loves you and just wanted you to be happy?
    Or is he figuring on a 1 – 2 year exit plan too?
    I think you are being VERY hormonal in this post. I think you really do love him and want to stay with him. I think you got all worked up, and blew your fuse in this post.
    Being married is VERY hard. Pregnancy is super extra hard on men because they really do not get it…. most of them at least.
    I recommend extra chocolate and extra kindness for and to both of you.
    This miracle baby will become more real for him in time, your hormones will eventually stop messing with you. Remember the Oxycontin produced when you deliver will help both of you through the process of bonding with your son. Be sure to encourage him to hold his son and smell his son’s head…. it really will help.
    In the meantime, know you are not alone. Wish I could be there to help, let the grands do as much support as they are able to do. and GOOD LUCK!

    • Please know that I’m not PLANNING on leaving my partner in two years. But I realize that I can’t possibly make a decision about whether or not that MIGHT be the right move until at least two years from now, because I recognize that the next two years will be really difficult, so we need to get through those before we start talking about how happy we are together.

      It’s not that I don’t love my partner, but we constantly have the same issues and I don’t know if ultimately they will be issues we can move past. Do I WANT to stay with him forever. ABSOLUTELY. Do I plan on fighting hard to keep our relationship together? ABSOLUTELY. Do I realize that any work I’m willing to do may not be enough. YES. We’ve been to couples counseling MANY times before and it doesn’t always solve our problems. We BOTH have to be willing to change. Me just changing my expectations is not enough and it’s not fair. But I’m willing to entertain that possibility if the only other alternative is leaving.

      • Sorry I wasn’t clear. You sound like you love him very much. And like you are overwhelmed right now. Which makes total sense being pregnant, back on the job with students, having a young child at home, dealing with a man who loves you but has trouble showing you support in his actions. Very tough. Also sad & common.
        Added to this is that in our culture among two gender parents the role models are not equal sharing of parental and domestic duties. Even in same gender partnerships often one parent takes on more of that load. It is tough. It is not fair or good for anyone involved. I wish I had magical information that would make it easier…but I do not.
        My best shot is to keep communicating your needs and listening to what his needs are and how he thinks these conflicting needs can be eased.
        I think the fact that you tried a different format (writing) of sharing your needs is great. He may find it easier to process when not faced with needing to respond off the spur of his cuff.
        Know that you have lots of support…and based on other comments you are so not alone with this. I would have benefited from such knowledge when I was in your shoes.
        Thank you for blogging so clearly and well. Hold on to the fact that you two do love each other.

  3. Sometimes I think you’re writing about me and my husband. I’m actually working on my post in regards to some of these same issues. I won’t comment all here because then my post will be boring for you to read, but I will say, this pregnancy has been more of a struggle than my first in so MANY ways. Physically it has been easier, but in my relationship it has been MUCH more challenging. You’re not alone. Yes hormones are playing a part, but there is some real stuff that needs to be discussed between you and your partner. Maybe using a counselor as a mediator might help get all the info out there. I know my husband and I have been successful at opening some discussions through that. Good luck….and know you are not alone! HUGS!

  4. I think we all think the second time around will be easier. (Pregnancy or adoption I mean). It turns out that it can be more difficult and I think that’s probably because there is already the stress of raising one child and juggling everyone’s needs. Hang in there.

  5. Wow, this sounds incredibly stressful and difficult. Good for you for initiating these hard conversations about what you want and need from MV! And for doing it in a way that was productive, rather than venting.

    It sounds like there’s other things that would be helpful to get clarity on, too. Like why he pulls away when you put his hand on your belly. Or how he’s actually feeling about your request for more help–your description included lots of things about how he seemed to be feeling, but it doesn’t sound like he said much directly. What are his fears about what life will look like when the baby comes? Is he “unhappy with his life”? And, if so, is there anything that could be done that would make him happier (and therefore give him more energy to contribute to your family)?

    Thinking of you guys, and hoping things become clearer.

    • I like this comment a lot. Sometime we project what we think our husbands are thinking based on past experience, but unless we communicate with them directly, we don’t know why exactly they react a certain way. You may be right that he is fearing time constraints, etc. But the best way to handle this is to ask him directly using non-confrontational words. “I feel that you aren’t happy our son’s impending birth and are focusing on worries and anxieties.” It’s better to keep communication open.

      Good luck!!

  6. So, I had a different response than a lot of your readers. Maybe I don’t know enough history or maybe I am just too optimistic, but I think some of what you described is normal. You said it yourself…pregnancy IS different for men than for women. First of all, B has had a hard time getting excited about feeling the baby move until just recently. He always says, “it’s just so different for you than it is for me.” Also, you said it yourself…it’s in our minds ALL of the time, it’s not the same for them. But all that being said, it is concerning that you feel you’re having the same conversation with him all of the time and that he seems so discouraged about his ability to change. Most concerning is that YOU feel discouraged about his ability to change. Have you thought about couples therapy? B and I have gone through it twice during times of major transition and it has been so, so helpful for us. It’s given us tools to get through hard times. And we only had to go for about 3 months each time. Keep us posted…

    • We’ve been to couples counseling. Many, many times. Generally it really helps us when we’re struggling to come to an agreement about something; it helps us to compromise. It’s much less effective for these kinds of issues. We’ve worked on MV helping more around the house and more with Osita for AGES and those issues never improve significantly (or at all). I doubt it will work this time, though I do believe MV would benefit from therapy himself. Our time together is focused almost entirely on him, because he has so much to work through. But he would never sacrifice the time to go alone. I’ve asked him many times and he’s just not interested.

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