As a husband, the first pregnancy was stressful because I had no idea what to expect. I was so focused on THE PREGNANCY and THE BIRTH that I didn’t plan well for FATHERHOOD. 9 months of pregnancy, 17 hours of labor, 10 minutes in the delivery room and 18 months later I have found that parenting is currently like herding cats. It is starting to dawn on me that Kate is pregnant again as we finish out the 1st trimester next week and there is a tiny bump forming in my wife’s belly. It reminds me of our wedding…all that planning, and 4 years later I can’t remember the menu or the toasts. Just snippets of information. 18 months after Max came out of Kate smiling I can’t remember half the things I was doing prior to that, luckily I have this blog to refer back to…wow…I was a worried dude.
Right now I’m just looking at the house and thinking, “I need to get the fixes done before winter and at some point we’ll have to swap the nursery and the guest room around.” That’s it. Seriously. That’s my thought. Hiring a contractor to fix a roof and swapping out furniture.
Now…as far as worries? As a newcomer to saying out-loud that I am living with GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) it is safe to say I am worried about everything. I’m as scared to get my haircut today as one might be to go skydiving. I’m stressed about hypothetical things that may never happen. What if…what if…well that’s GAD. So you do some breathing exercises and tell your brain to quit fantasizing and then you’re okay. Except a few things that won’t go away…and I suppose won’t because they are human nature.
- Am I a good husband?
- Am I a good father?
- Will the baby be healthy?
- What will the birth be like?
- How will I perform as a husband with 2 kids?
- How will I perform as a father with 2 kids?
Those are the nagging questions that are the deep drums to my orchestra of anxiety. So I have separated them into categories of things I can answer/address -and- things that are fantasy. This way I can focus on living in the moment.
- I am a good husband, but I can’t rely on that knowledge…I have to keep on working at it as my knowledge of my GAD has caused me to rely on my wife in situations where I do not feel comfortable.
- I am a good father, but I need to be more involved with Max when I’m not working as my attention is about to be split 3 ways and I need to learn how to “spread the love” to my whole family.
- So far the baby is healthy, the answer comes in time.
- Who knows what the birth will be like, but we will have an excellent support team.
- I have no idea what a 2 kid household dynamic will be like. When in doubt pamper Kate.
Those thoughts in mind, I suddenly got this creepy feeling at the office yesterday that I should go home…immediately. I was wrapping up a project at the end of the day so I didn’t feel terrible leaving a few minutes earlier than I usually would. When I got home I found that Kate and Max were still at the grocery store and my first thought was, “Sweet! Some time to myself!” Then I looked at the house and asked myself, “When do you think was the last time Kate had time to herself?”
There was a stack of dishes completely covering the counter by the sink, Max had thrown food against the cabinets, and there were toys everywhere. I realized I had walked past this almost every day to plunk down on the couch with my beer and talk about how hard my day was, sitting in a leather office chair talking to clients and answering emails. “Why are the dishes stacked up like this?” I looked in the dishwasher and all the dishes in there were clean. It all made sense. Max makes it impossible to load or unload a dishwasher because he tries to climb inside, grab the steak knives, etc. So the clean dishes sat there to be dealt with later. Then a full day of feeding Max, our meals, cooking, etc. had happened…and with nowhere to go, all the dirty dishes ended up on the counter by the sink. So I set out to emptying the dishwasher, then rinsing the dirty ones, and loading the dishwasher again. “There! Done.” I turned on the dishwasher and realized the kitchen was a mess so I picked up all the toys, cleaned up all the surfaces, took out the recycling, and made everything sparkle. Now I tackled the family room: putting all the toys away, fluffing the pillows, and making it look like two adults lived there as well as a child. The dining room got some sprucing up as did the foyer and before I knew it I had reset the entire first floor of the house to “nice.” That was when Kate came home.
She was ecstatic that I had done these things and confessed that she had broken down crying before heading to the grocery store. She was exhausted and overwhelmed. That’s when it hit me how much tougher this pregnancy is on her. The first go around she was home alone and could do things at her own pace, nap when she wanted/needed, and it made it very easy for me to pamper her. This time around she is fending off a clingy 18 month old who tears through the house like a Tasmanian devil while she tries to maintain a household, paint a new body of work, prepare for teaching (which starts in 2 weeks), and grow a human being in her uterus. Yeah…I think its safe to say that Kate is slogging it out in the trenches and needs me to step up more. GAD be damned…Ryan is here.
Kate made dinner (though I offered) and I put Max to sleep; something I have grown to treasure and has become our special time together where we read, sing songs, trade Eskimo Kisses, and calm each other down. After dinner I demanded Kate go to the couch and scolded her when she got up to get a drink of water. “Just ask and I’ll get you whatever you want.” Peppermint Tea and water did the trick. As the teapot boiled I cleaned up the kitchen and put away the food. We watched the Olympics for a while but mostly Kate just half-napped. At 9:30 she went upstairs to bed and apologized, I told her not to apologize…she needs her sleep. And that was that. To cap off the night at 11:00pm I emptied the dishwasher for the second time in one night, gathered up any glasses from the family room, cleaned the kitchen, cleaned Max’s high-chair, and fluffed the pillows in family room again… successfully resetting the house back to “nice” before turning off the light and heading upstairs to bed.
So Dads…first pregnancy, second, third or whatever…step up. Your partner is growing a human being. A human being!!! You are growing a poop. Do anything and everything you can to help your partner get some rest, some time to herself, and help her feel like a person…not a machine that makes babies, cleans, cooks, and fends off catapulting yogurt and spinach bombs. If you are the stay home Dad…you still gotta step up. You aren’t growing the baby. What was on the menu at my wedding? Who knows…who cares. It was 1 day in a lifetime of being married to my best friend. This is 9 months of a lifetime of being a parent. Step up, suck it up, and do more. You being there to take care of her means more than any gift you could bring home…but flowers wouldn’t hurt.