Monday, January 13, 2014

"I'm tired of you being pregnant."

Heather, post-coddling
Heather is, as she would put it, “bleeding out of her vagina” and wanting to be coddled.  These are always tender moments for her—populated with fuzzy bathrobes and movie marathons on the couch—and normally I accommodate.  Saturday, I curled up against her aching back, hoping that sometime soon Evie could massage it with emphatic kicks, stroked Heather’s hair a little, and got up to get her Motrin.  I felt like a good wife.

In one of these weakened moments, Heather confessed that she was tired of me being pregnant.  We’ve been butting heads recently about how much coddling I expect now and in the near future, as I contend she’ll need to step up her game as it gets harder for me to climb off the couch or pick up groceries.  She feels she’s done a fine job thus far, and my response is that, yes, but in movies, the husbands/partners/gay-best-friends-who-help-single-moms tend to be doting throughout.  They put up with limitless hormonal abuse and seek reassurance from similarly-abused men.  Her response is that those are movies.  

Fine.  Be difficult about it.

It’s funny, though, the way those portrayals make an impact.  We had our first birthing class last week, and of course the three other couples were all straight.  I was uncomfortable (standard where groups of strangers are involved), but fascinated, too, to witness their gender dynamics.  In all three couples, the women tended to be subdued and sincere, with the men playing the jovial support role.   Asked why they were interested in the class and learning about natural birth, they all unconsciously rubbed their wives’ backs, saying, “Oh, I just want to support what she wants.”  I was flustered and cut Heather off, but I kind of wish I’d heard her response.  I imagine her honest answer being along the lines of, “Well, she insisted on this homebirth ridiculousness, so that’s what we’re doing.”

The pregnant ladies were all instructed to get on the floor, on hands & knees, to practice pelvic rocks.  This involved alternating between arching our backs “like Halloween cats” with tailbones tucked in, then bending with tailbones up.  It was, to me, incredibly embarrassing, since the partners sat in their chairs and watched us squirm around.  Heather whispered to me afterwards that I hadn’t arched my back enough, and she got a pretty thorough talking-to thereafter about using more encouraging language.  I was comforted, however, that the whole group of us had to practice Kegels together—Sarah, the instructor, noted that it was good for the men’s prostate health—and the room was filled with silent, invisible clenching while Sarah counted off squeezes. 

Even though I didn’t feel I had much in common with the other preggos, there was a part of me that smirked, knowing that, as put-together and polite as they were during class, probably all three had some combination of yeast infections, grotesquely enlarged areolas, stretch marks, snoring, and unrestrainable bouts of rage.  As I explained it to Heather, there are simply occasions when the evil inside me has no legitimate cause or target and the pressure has to be relieved.  I wonder if these ladies have turned their husbands into cooperative, jolly slaves with their Cyclops-like power, shooting death rays from their eyes… only with substantially less provocation or threat than the real X-Man would demand.

How to serve a pregnant woman in style
Heather has been harder to manipulate with death rays, more often shaking her head at their absurdity than shaking in her low-heeled boots.  I appreciate, in our day-to-day life, her hardiness and thick skin, but there are surely moments when I’d like her to fall into the “Whatever you want, baby” stereotype.  What do I have in mind? she asked me.  “I want you to tell me to stay on the couch while you make dinner or get me drinks, and I want you to ask if I need a pillow for my back every time you see me shift in my seat.  I want you to give me complete control of the remote.  I don’t think I should ever have to make room in the bed for you.”

So we’ve made a deal.  Once I hit seven months—a month from now—we will move into full-time coddling mode.  For now, when she comes to bed, I still have to scoot over.

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