My wife is pregnant. It’s kind of the worst.
It’s not that we weren’t trying. We were. But we were completely unprepared for how pregnancy would affect us. It has been incredibly difficult for my wife, and those difficulties have impacted me as well.
It started with some unexpected emotional responses. We were on vacation in the early stages of our pregnancy, and during that vacation, we had a hard time connecting on a number of levels. When we arrived home, the first thing Shannon wanted to do was take a pregnancy test. And there it was. First try. We were so excited! But on some level it didn’t feel real.
As time went on the anxiety crept up. What does this cramping mean? All perfectly normal for the first trimester, but when you’re making a tiny human, you just really want everything to go well. Your first doctor’s appointment is around 8 weeks, which seems like an eternity to find out what’s going on.
Somewhere in there the morning sickness started. It was really more evening sickness. Along with that came fatigue. My wife would wake up feeling mediocre at best, eat, try to work, and fall asleep for a bit in the afternoon exhausted. Then she’d wake up, eat, start feeling nauseous again, and retire early.
As you can imagine, that doesn’t leave a lot of time to spend on your marriage. I did my best to support her and help her with anything she needed while she was up, but it’s hard to have any sort of physical intimacy when your wife feels like she’s going to throw up all the time. When she was asleep I just tried to go about my life normally.
At our first appointment, we heard our baby’s heartbeat. It was amazing! Our baby was alive and healthy and we had proof of that in that moment. But when we got home, we did not have proof of that anymore. But we held out hope for the magic of the second trimester. We heard that the nausea and fatigue went away and it was supposed to be the “honeymoon phase” of pregnancy. It hasn’t been for us.
It’s been amazing to see the baby, find out its gender, and all of those things that come along with the second trimester, but Shannon started spotting in the second trimester. The nausea and the fatigue were slow to subside, and are still not completely gone. The worst was the anxiety. That blood has to come from somewhere right? The doctors couldn’t figure out what it was, but they told us it wasn’t any of the 3 scary things that we should be worried about, so we just shouldn’t worry about it. But it’s blood. That’s not normal. Shannon was constantly in fear for our baby’s life. She knew logically that the doctors said it was fine and every other time she panicked it worked out, but anxiety took a hold and made it really difficult for her to go on in her daily life. Even now when we can feel the baby moving, it’s still easy to get nervous when the baby doesn’t move for a couple hours. Can’t the poor kid take a nap?
I think this experience has taught me that I buy a lot more into the stereotypical “bottle up your emotions like a man” category than I thought I did. I didn’t want to let Shannon see how much this was impacting me as well. I figured she had enough to worry about. But the moment you stop communicating and being open and honest in your marriage is the moment you stop moving towards each other. I think that is a tendency that we have in a lot of our relationships, not only with our spouses, but also with God. And that’s not okay. We can’t just strengthen relationships when it’s easy to do so and leave them hanging when it’s not.
I thought that preparing to be a dad would draw Shannon and I closer together, but I allowed the difficulty of the situation to drive a wedge between us in all areas of our relationship. I thought it would be fun and exciting, and while there have certainly been moments like that, I’d say it’s much more often been difficult, painful, and discouraging for me.
I don’t want this entire story to be doom and gloom. I’m having a kid! Let’s have a cigar or something! And while there has been a lot of strain on my relationship with Shannon, it is by no means on the rocks. We still love each other very much, and we desire to move toward one another.
But that is the difficulty. For the past few years, we’ve grown accustomed to moving towards each other in specific ways, whether they are building physical, spiritual, emotional or intellectual intimacy, or all of the above. Suddenly, those ways don’t work. Everything is different for her, and I’m wondering how to pursue her well.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this entire situation is that I’ve been a sort of fair weather fan of my own marriage. When things are easy, pursuing my wife is easy. Loving her is easy, and building our intimacy is easy. When we face difficulties and strain is placed on our marriage, suddenly it’s hard. Suddenly I have to be much more creative and tenacious when determining the best way to move toward and care for my wife.
And the truth is that I don’t know the best ways to do that. I try. I try to care for her well. I try to pick up stuff around the house so that she doesn’t have to. I try to remember to refill the humidifier or get her a fresh ice pack when she’s got a killer headache. I try to reassure her when she says she feels like a terrible wife because she is unable to care for me in certain ways because of her pregnancy. I try to remind her that God is in control when she feels anxiety, and no matter the outcome, we will be okay. Jesus is bigger than anxiety. He’s bigger than the object of your anxiety, which, in our case, is losing our baby. He’s bigger than the life changes that don’t look the way you expect them to.
As Shannon and I continue moving through this difficult time period, it is my responsibility to continue to pursue her and love her as Christ loved the church. It is my responsibility to remind her of the gospel. The gospel is not an abstract ethereal message that gives you good feelings. It is real. It is practical. It applies to whatever difficult situation you may face. This is just the first of many times I will need to remember that as I become a father in addition to a husband.