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.