Last week, my wife wrote about our journey to parenthood. It was a bumpy road, to say the least. I wanted to add a response to each blog from my point of view. Links to my wife’s blogs will be in each section title.
Yes, we tried for a long time. Yes, all those things people say to you do not make you feel good. In fact, they have an opposite effect. People knew we were trying, and while I truly believe they meant well, saying a lot of those things leaves you feeling inadequate. My wife said she never cried when she got her period. That didn’t mean each cycle didn’t begin with an awkward silence and wondering. Wondering can lead to blaming. I never accused my wife of being the reason why were childless. I blamed myself. Toxic masculinity has a way of creeping into your brain. You start blaming yourself for your lack of being able to produce a child. Now, I did get tested around 2013, but I also turned forty that year. The next year I was diagnosed with palindromic rheumatism. I was already on the low side of average, so my brain kept telling me it was my fault and that my age and medications were hurting our chances even though I could not find any scientific evidence for that. That’s how strong and prevalent toxic masculinity can be. Plus, who do I talk to about this? It’s not something we as men do even though we should. In fact, the day in April that we tested, I knew someone in the waiting room. We didn’t discuss it at all; in fact, we talked about everything but why were there. However, I did appreciate that he was there in that he was willing to do whatever it took to take his family in a new direction. It was unspoken, but we were both rooting for each other. I did have one friend, who knew that we were trying, discuss his struggles with me, so of course, I did open up about ours. That helped tremendously. Also, the good people at Audubon Fertility made us feel that this was an issue that we, as a team, could overcome. They never lied and didn’t promise us anything. Even on the day of conception, they were getting us mentally prepared for attempt two. It is their honesty, not the fact that we did get pregnant, that makes me recommend them to anyone that listens. And any guy reading this, remember you are not alone, and it doesn’t make you less of man to ask for help!
One last thing, the day of conception I was a quiet, nervous wreck. I don’t think I’ve actually told this to Mrs. Nola Nerd. And when you think about it, there really was no real reason. I had been practicing for that moment since I was a teenager. Yes, it is awkward and not comfortable. It’s also very clinical. Breathe and give it the old college try.
And the day we found out, there was no awkward silence. We both cry loudly.
The pregnancy was normal pretty much until we told everyone….so about a week. Then after that, I felt I was on the reality show Wife Swap and the season lasted nine months. Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple was there, but she wasn’t. At first, she was sick all the time. Slowly, though I started to notice that she didn’t have crazy “hormonal mood swings.” She wasn’t having any swing in her mood whatsoever. She was constantly down. I wasn’t worried that she would hurt herself or the baby. I was worried she wouldn’t care if something did happen to her or the baby. She wasn’t excited about announcing the baby. In fact, she didn’t want to tell anyone. I wanted to tell the world. After the first trimester ended, I thought she might start to feel better physically which would lead to her feeling better emotionally. Actually, “emotionally” is a poor word choice. I was hoping she would become emotional.
I have dealt with depression and anxiety my entire adult life. I remember one time, a friend who meant well, told me to buck up and get back on the horse. I’ve been thinking about that phrase lately. Depressed people are not down or sad. We are stuck in a fog and can’t see our way out. To extend his metaphor, there is no horse to ride. And if there were, you wouldn’t know how to ride it until you get therapy or medication. It’s not a simple process.
Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple wrote that I confronted her with tears in my eyes. This is true. What she didn’t say was that I manipulated her. I put her in a situation where she couldn’t make a scene. One in which she had to confront the problem quietly and talk to me honestly. In education, we often are told to ask leading questions or structure our lesson so that the students figure out the problem on their own. I tried to do this with her. I knew that if I came on too strong, she would resist and shut down further. If I mansplained, she wouldn’t talk to me for a while. Luckily, she understood I was providing her a lifeline, I was not fixing it for her. I couldn’t. I could only just be there.
Thankfully her medical team of the OBGYN and psychiatrist understood. Also, my teaching schedule included study halls at the time my wife taught her AP classes. I’m certified in social studies, so she didn’t have to worry about that class. The courses I couldn’t take over our administration worked out for us. Also, our school system worked with us in setting up the best leave of absence plan that we could have used.
I wasn’t always perfect. I did push sometimes. I forced her to do the registry one day. She did it and was engaged, but I noticed no cute items were placed on the registry that day. They were the functional needs. However, she eventually became more excited and started putting the cute stuff on there. I did the same with the nursery. I pushed to get it ready; Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple did it when she was ready.
While she was put on an antidepressant, she was not put on anti-anxiety medication. She rarely had the panic attack that most people associate with anxiety (the one that looks like a heart attack). Her panic attacks where quieter. She would zone out in the scary silent seizure way. It took some time to recognize it.
A lot of things that we usually do for the blog, we didn’t get to do. First of all, by assuming Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple’s responsibilities along with my own, I had no time or energy to write anything. Talking was rough for her, so podcasts were out. Even if we could write or podcast, we would come back to the problem of not being able to do anything for the blog. It’s hard to write a blog about not doing things. Two of our most popular blogs each year is about Pensacon and my hometown’s Mardi Gras parade. We couldn’t attend either due to the issues she was having. Truthfully, Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple was a prisoner in her own home for nine months.
Did it hurt that she didn’t want to reach out to me for comfort? You are damn right it did. However, this was bigger than my hierarchy of needs according to Maslow. My wife was making me a tiny human and was miserable doing so. So yeah, I missed Richard Thompson in concert (twice) this past year. Who cares? It’s not like I won’t mention it when he comes again near here. 🙂
Since men have it easy during pregnancy and birth, I truly believe hospitals buy the most uncomfortable sleepers for men in the delivery and postpartum rooms. However, women are making us tiny perfect humans so I won’t complain anymore about it.
The process of birth for me was just getting out of the way of all these smart, powerful women in the room, including my wife. I just did what I was told. When Miss Nola Nerd Baby made her entrance into the world, it was the most perfect moment of my life. Everything was in its right place. She was gorgeous. I could go on and on with how great she is!
For the first five days, I tried to do everything I could so my wife could get some rest. Our baby was born on a Thursday; I was going back to work on a Wednesday. Then we had our first trip to the hospital on Tuesday.
If I could punch one person in my life, it would be our first ER doctor. He mansplained what high blood pressure was. We repeatedly told him it was preeclampsia. Our hospital’s web portal had it spelled out for us, so it was on his chart. We had a 5 day old with us in the ER. The nurse that asked why we showed up still makes me confused. If your blood pressure is near 200/120, aren’t you supposed to go the hospital? However, after that experience, we were taken care of fantastically. Thankfully, Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple’s OBGYN advocated strongly for her. We weren’t mad we had to go back after the first three days stay, because sometimes medicines don’t work. However, I really didn’t care for the way the on-call weekend OBGYN looked. He was very knowledgeable, but he was physically like a cross between McDreamy and McSteamy. Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple thought I was overreacting.
Before the birth of our baby, we would talk about how silly it sounds when people would say fathers were babysitting their own children. No, that’s called parenting. I know I’ve already made one of my hardest parenting decisions when I took our baby away from her mom. It was heart-wrenching. On the drive back to the hospital, Pearl Jam’s Wishlist came on the radio. I pulled into the parking lot and had an indie-movie cry in the parking lot. I had realized that if Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple had just gone to sleep instead of wanting to go to the hospital, there would have been a high chance I would have been a single father. If we wouldn’t have induced early, I may have been just single.
As far as taking care of our child, it wasn’t that hard. Our baby lets us know when she is unhappy. It’s all about paying attention. I didn’t do anything special. I was just being a parent.
Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple is still working on getting better. In fact, in the time between the publishing of her last blog and this one she had her medications changed again. She has a great general practitioner who truly listens to her and works with her on getting her better.
And we have our perfect little girl.