Pregnancy hasn’t been a breeze. I guess it’s probably not a breeze for anyone, ever. Rachel had a really rough first fifteen weeks marked by a whole lot of nausea and vomiting, and it made me feel so helpless, and – yes – partly to blame. When I could hear her in the bathroom hunched over the toilet sobbing and throwing up and coughing and spitting, I was like “I did this to her, this is my fault!” But I understood that sometimes morning sickness happens, and she understood it too, and we got through it. She was seriously such a champ in riding out the first trimester with such a good attitude. I tried to love her well then, and seeing her “take one for the team” has inspired me to redouble my efforts to keep doing so. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1) Rachel needs to feel emotionally safe. Even more emotionally safe than ever before. What she is going through is – to put it bluntly – traumatic. It is. You have something growing inside of you. You’re always thinking about it. And if you stop for a moment to get back to doing life, it reminds you by taking from you – oxygen, food, and all kinds of energy and thought. Or by kicking you. All of this tires you out, runs you down, and leaves you very feeling very vulnerable. Plus, if it’s your first baby, all of these feelings are so new and you get freaked out really easily. The insides of your body are stretching and straining, hormones and chemicals are rising and falling and basically going haywire, and you have random weird pains all over your abdomen and nether regions. It’s super scary. Mommy has no clear idea what all is going on inside of her, and just wants Baby to be okay. I want that too as Daddy, but I’m not experiencing all of the super heavy physical and emotional stuff that Mommy is.
And so I have to be extra thoughtful and sensitive in what I say, and how I say it. I don’t want to pile on to her emotional load in any way, but instead just want to help her offload some of it onto my shoulders by being supportive, understanding, super patient, and simply a great listener and friend to her. I need to avoid coming across as judgmental or questioning her decisions or choices (Note to self: don’t say stuff like “Chinese takeout and froyo AGAIN tonight?”). I need to reassure her in subtle and obvious ways that she’s physically beautiful and altogether lovely, that I’m always going to be here through thick and thin (you know what I mean), and that I’m strong enough to love her and keep pursuing her heart through all of these changes.
In this environment, she can rest against the stability I provide. She can let her guard down and just be herself without having to fake it. And she can keep her own heart soft without having to harden it simply to get through. Honestly, don’t we all want to live and love and grow in an environment like this? It’s freeing.
It’s without condition.
It’s how family should always, always be.
2) Rachel needs practical help with her responsibilities and tasks, and I need to be available and eager to pitch in. Before pregnancy, we sort of both knew our roles in terms of who took care of what. Of course, we’d always offer the other a hand, but I’d say that we had a good system in place to avoid unnecessary stress and stay on top of life (as much as is humanly possible). Since pregnancy, I just have to do a lot more. Rachel would love to contribute in exactly the same ways as she did before, but on some days she physically and emotionally cannot. She just can’t.
I need to not think to myself, “Dangit, I’m totally exhausted too, and now I have to do all of these other things as well?!??!” or “What the pez, she’s been lying on the couch all afternoon and we have so much to knock out!” or “Holy crap man, we just stopped for a bathroom eight minutes ago and she needs me to stop again!” I need to think to myself, “Wake up, you shortsighted goober. Remember the promises you made at the altar. Your wife is contributing in gigantic ways every minute, every hour, every day by CARRYING YOUR CHILD IN HER WOMB.”
Rachel is shouldering pretty much everything in this pregnancy. I did very little to start the proverbial ball rolling, and I’m doing pretty much nothing to feed or take care of Baby over these nine months. I haven’t read any books on parenting yet, nor have I gone to any newborn-related classes. I haven’t even built a crib. I will do those things, but I haven’t yet. My contribution so far has been like 1%.
And so I need to keep my eyes open for ways I can serve her. And not just when she asks, but sometimes before she asks. And not just tackling things so her needs are met, but also working to remember her wants. When we were dating, I didn’t love her best by focusing on her needs. I loved her best by catching glimpses of her wants and surprising her with them. The things that made her eyes light up, or made her burst out into laughter, or made her heart melt. That stuff matters so much, and conveys love more powerfully and reassuringly than anything else because it reminds her that she isn’t an obligation or a responsibility, but a joyous treasure. Now even more than before, I should meet not just her needs, but also her wants.
This takes hard work. And time. And a lot of intentional thoughtfulness. And margin. If I’m doing life at 100% (or 110% – which is my norm) I am going to be irritable and annoyed when she needs me. And this has happened (although I hope she hasn’t noticed it because I try to push it down and always do the noble thing). I need to allocate space – and purposefully make more space – in my life to have room to be thoroughly patient and loving at all times.
I’m thinking I need to do this so much more over the last three months of pregnancy. Because it’s going to get harder as she gets more uncomfortable in her own skin. I need to be ready. I’m spending way less time on Twitter and Instagram, even for work purposes. I’m following my favorite sports team less (which is a singular joy to me, like food or conversation or Netflix is to others). But these are small potatoes. These matter so little, comparatively speaking, to what lies before Rachel and me. These, and other matters, are going to fade in importance as Baby gets ready to burst onto the scene.
I’m ready to rise up and be the husband I’m called to be. These aren’t just words. I know I have a strength deep down given to me from God to do this. I haven’t done it perfectly, and I know I will fall a bit short as these months elongate in front of us before we can celebrate Baby’s birth. But I’m determined to do my best. I mean, what is more important in life than this? When I consider all of the other out there that vie for my attention and affection, nothing should even come close to the priority of my marriage – and the miracle of the blessing being formed and finished inside my bride.