One of the most unsuspecting challenges of pregnancy thus far has been its impact on my marriage. I had this vision that my husband would be overjoyed at the news and would seamlessly step into the unknowns of parenthood with me day by day, hand in hand.
Things didn’t unfold quite so beautifully: “Sean, I think we got a positive! We need to go to the pharmacy right now and buy two more tests to triple check!”
His answer: “Seriously? It’s a work night and it’s almost past my bedtime. Can’t this wait until the morning?”
We laugh at this now, but I didn’t find his lack of enthusiasm funny at the time. Don’t worry – he was indeed excited, he’s just not so graceful with words sometimes.
Soon enough the confirmed news brought immediate joy; we tried to wait until the traditional 12-week mark to share the news, but we couldn’t keep our lips sealed. After the secret was out, the celebrations were overturned by morning sickness, and it was the start of a new tug-o-war between us.
I became a mother instantly; my body was changing. I was already connecting with our baby, feeling his kicks and hiccups and hearing his heart beat. I grew fascinated with the little miracle growing inside of me. On top of these physical and emotional changes, new military orders came in, which meant I had to leave my career as we picked up our lives and moved across country. Suddenly I found myself not only transitioning to motherhood, but transitioning from career woman to housewife, too.
For my husband, however, so little had changed. He maintained his career and his body. While I was reading baby books, he was playing video games. While I was interviewing pediatricians, he was enthralled in his usual work. While I was researching and organizing a baby registry, he was off at the gym. You get the idea.
This was foreign to me. Just because I am going to be a mother doesn’t mean we have to lose this team approach, does it?
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that he wasn’t contributing. He did retrieve a McDonald’s fish fillet and chocolate shake for me when I absolutely needed it, sat with me at the hospital for four hours when I fell down the stairs, and tried to make it to every doctor appointment his schedule would allow.
But in his eyes, not much should change for him. As he explains it, he is purposefully continuing what he is doing so that I can stay at home and focus on our growing family. He wants nothing more than to take on the breadwinner role if it means that our son grows up under the care of the woman he married rather than babysitters. To him, this is important, this is his contribution and this is his role.
I respect that. I feel blessed by that. But I also feel overwhelmed by that.
I fear that the breadwinner role translates to “babysitter dad,” aka the dad who is only around for fun things and expects mom to keep working while he gets to come home and kick his feet up. The dad who doesn’t understand what his wife really does all day, and expects dinner to be served promptly and the house to be clean to a crisp. The dad who grows distant as a husband because his wife is covered in baby poop and always too exhausted for date night, and he doesn’t understand why.
It’s not that I don’t believe in the breadwinner dynamic – it’s just that it is completely opposite of what we had built our marriage upon. This abrupt change is likely what drives these fears in me – fears of being respected, loved and valued as a housewife, as that is not the woman he originally fell in love with. He fell in love with a career-driven woman who would sometimes make the bed and cook dinner only half of the time.
So, what is going to happen to us? Well, obviously, a hell of a lot of adjustments and trial and error. But why am I even sharing this? Because the more I confided in my friends, the more I realized this is normal. This is common. Yet, when we turn to the Internet and open those baby books, all we see are images of expectant couples smiling and holding each other blissfully.
While pregnancy certainly is a joyous, beautiful time, less discussed is the fact that it does come with growing pains. But these growing pains are a good thing.
They are making us stronger, wiser and closer. We are communicating until we’re blue in the face, and we are putting to practice the dreaded concept of compromise. We are more mindful of how important it is to give praise and affection even in the smallest of ways. We are fighting, but we are learning how to forgive quickly while keeping resentment at bay. We are more vulnerable than ever as we learn how best to help each other through pain and fear. We are holding hands with a tighter grip, because we know that these changes come with significant reward.
Our love is growing, quite literally.