[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from an anonymous Warrior Mom who wants to share her story. It’s an important one about partner support and how it feels when your child’s father isn’t supportive or emotionally present during pregnancy—and beyond. If you’re living this now or have lived through it, this mom wants you to know you’re not alone. -Jenna]
We were going to be so happy. We had everything planned out.
Before my husband and I got married, we knew we wanted children—three, to be exact.
When we got married in early fall. We figured we would give it a year or so before we started trying. Then, Christmas happened. We were walking around the mall, doing Christmas-crazed things and got to the courtyard where Santa was sitting on his throne.
He was the perfect mall Santa. Real beard, genuinely interested in each child; real Miracle on 34th Street stuff. We stood there, transfixed as child after child left the platform smiling with hope for the end of the month. “I want a baby,” I said simply to my husband, without looking up at him. He took my hand, “I do too.”
We planned to go off birth control at the beginning of the year in anticipation of having a slow start since I had been on the pill since middle school. We could hardly stand the anticipation. We were in love with a baby that didn’t yet exist.
New Years rang in and I was pregnant by February.
I was exactly one day late on my period when one morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn and took a test. It was immediately positive. I stood there looking at the stick and then in the mirror at myself. I looked so young. Was I brave enough to do this?
Of course I was. I was a brave girl and I had a strong partner by my side to help me through all of this.
I tip toed into the bedroom where my husband still slept soundly. I poked him repeatedly until he stirred and opened his eyes. I showed him the positive test, “I’m pregnant.” He nodded and rolled back over to fall back asleep.
At first I laughed it up to waking a sleeping man to tell him his life is about to change. I would have rolled over too to get a few more moments of sanity before life shifted.
Then, something happened.
Then, it became the complete opposite of funny.
My husband turned into someone else.
I had a horrible time with morning sickness my entire first and half of my second trimester. I would be sick all day, every day. I had terrible aversions and basically had to go to bed as soon as I got home from work, which I went to every day despite how I felt.
He showed little to no concern and would even question me why I was so lazy lately.
Even then, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt; so far all this baby was to him was something inside of me that made me sick and fatigued.
I asked him to get prenatal vitamins for me one day when he was driving home. He rolled his eyes at me.
I asked for new bras as my body grew out of proportion and in random places. He all but refused that and told me to just wear sports bras since they are elastic.
He went to my first OBGYN appointment and then suddenly could never get off work to go to the others.
As my body became to pop out, as this baby began to stretch me, I went out and bought two maternity shirts and a pair of jeans. He told me that was fine but that should last me the rest of the pregnancy.
Most of the time I ended up wearing one of his shirts and yoga pants.
I never, not once, felt beautiful. I never even felt excited. I felt that I was being punished for something that we had both been on the same page about from the start.
He started working longer hours, picking up extra shifts, playing video games as soon as he got home.
When my cravings began, he was unaccommodating. I was in the way; I was annoying; I was carrying his child. I stayed in the bedroom most of the time, clutching my stomach and whispering to this child. Telling her that it would be okay. That we would get through this just the two of us. That things would be better soon.
I became extremely depressed. I felt that I was being robbed of something wonderful, that my time as a pregnant woman was slipping through my fingers.
When my water broke one night, he was downstairs playing a video game. I ran to our master bathroom and screamed for him while leaking amniotic fluid at an intense rate into the toilet. I called for him for maybe two minutes straight before he walked into the bathroom. He handed me my phone and went to go get the hospital bag and towels for his car, since it was clear that this was not going to stop. I called my OB and he told me to come in.
I waddled out to the car by myself as my husband made himself some coffee. He took the wrong way to the hospital, literally driving by two other hospitals. I shouted at him, asking what the hell he was doing. He turned on the classical music station because he was “so stressed out.” He never asked how I was feeling during the pregnancy, and continued to not ask me while I was in labor with his child.
We finally made it to the hospital and went to check in. The wheelchairs were next to the front desk. I motioned to my husband to get me once since the leaking stopped mostly while I was sitting but he pretended not to notice.
I waddled to the elevator, leaking the whole way, and then up to the third floor and down a hallway to “wait” for my room. He trailed behind me. No arm was extended.
We made it to the room and things got going. The beginning going-ons of the labor aren’t clear in my mind. My epidural didn’t work so I focused on taking the pain of contractions. He just wasn’t there. He wasn’t holding my hand, wasn’t whispering encouragements into my ear. Most of the time, he was pacing in the hallway.
Despite all of this nonsense, our child was born into the world.
The next morning, I woke in extreme pain from my c-section. They made me sit up, then swing my legs over the bed and stay like that for a bit. Then, I had to walk to the nurses station and back. Then, finally they brought me my baby in her little plastic baby box and told me to walk with her, using her as stability, as far as I could. It was basically just me at this point. When he was in the room, he wasn’t really in the room.
As I walked, close to blacking out from the pain, I remembered what the nurse had said, “Use her for stability.”
Fine. I will.
Near the end of that day in the hospital, my husband declared that he was going to our house to take a shower and get a good night’s sleep. I was appalled. My family was appalled. The nurses were appalled. My little sister, the saint that she is, volunteered to stay the night with me. She helped sit me up. Handed me my baby. Walked to the bathroom and then helped me stand up after.
I felt disgusting and isolated from what was really happening. I hardly remembered that I had even given birth to a child because I was so afraid of what was going to happen when we were sent home.
The next morning, I was going to be sent home. They told me to take a shower. I called my husband and waited for him to come back to do this because it was going to be a ridiculous ordeal. He didn’t come, so my little sister stood in that shower stall with me. She pulled off my dressings and held me by the shoulders as I tried to clean myself off.
When my husband did return, he had forgotten to bring me fresh clothes so I was released from the hospital in the pajama pants that happened to be in my hospital bag and the tee shirt I was wearing when I was admitted. I had no coat and it was freezing so I wore his hoodie.
When we got home, our house was filled with friends and family who had made food for us and wanted to hold my baby to give me a break.
My postpartum depression had already started to rear its ugly head so I had a hard time with any of it. I hid in the nursery, trying to nurse her, trying to pump. She kept screaming and he would come in and ask me what I was doing. Why wasn’t it working?
I sat there as my party went on downstairs, covered in hospital smell and colostrum, sobbing as my baby screamed against my engorged breasts.
The disconnection went on for months after. He went back to work almost immediately and I was left alone with the baby most days. She had colic and wouldn’t sleep for longer than 15 minutes at a time. I tried to bring her into bed with us, but he refused. For the first few weeks of my child’s life, I slept downstairs on the couch with her either in the swing or on my chest. She still wouldn’t sleep well but at least this way I was close to the kitchen to make her bottles. When I asked if perhaps he would take a shift one night, he informed me that he actually worked so he needed the sleep.
I finally got her to sleep in a routine before I went back to work. He declared that all the daycares were too expensive for us. So, we enlisted one of his relatives to watch our child during the day while we both worked. I would drop her off and pick her up every day. One day, the caregiver called me at work and told me my child was crying constantly and appeared to not feel well. I was unable to leave work to get her so I called him to see if he could do it for me. He unexcitedly agreed to. Two hours later I get a phone call from him. I could hear her screaming in the background. He told me I had to come home. That he couldn’t do this. I explained the situation to my boss and she let me go early.
When I got home, she was in the crib upstairs screaming and he was downstairs playing video games loudly. I noticed immediately that the bottom shelf of her changing table had been cracked in half. When I asked what had happened he told me that while changing her diaper, she screamed so hard that he kicked the changing table.
That was it. That was enough. I got the card of a divorce lawyer and told him to do the same. It was one thing for me to be doing this on my own, but it was another thing to have him floating around, ruining motherhood for me the same way he ruined pregnancy and birth.
That finally got through to him. He fell apart and asked me what he was supposed to do. He said at one point he understood why his own father had left him as a baby.
I took a deep breath, and a lot of wine, and I told him what I needed him to do.
I started small. I gave him small jobs.
First, making the bottles. He was in charge every morning to mix the bottles. I would not stand in there and instruct him or criticize him. It was solely his responsibility.
Next, bath time. Again, I left this opened ended. All I required was a clean baby at the end. How he got her that way did not matter to me.
I then finally morphed bath time into her bed time routine. He put her jammies on, he read her a story if he wanted, and then put her to bed in the crib.
After a few weeks of this, I found my husband again. The monster that I had endured for almost a year left my house. My baby would smile at her father now when she saw him. She would calm if he held her and walked around the house at three in the morning.
Eventually, he allowed her to go to a daycare in town. He bought me new clothes for my changing body type.
The routines that I set up for him when she was born are still the routines he is in charge of as she enters elementary school.
I don’t write this for pity, because we survived.
I don’t write this to scare women, because you can only be scared of things you don’t understand.
I write this because here, in this postpartum depression tribe, we often talk about how long it takes women to become a mother—how they struggle with assuming the role, the responsibility, the chaos.
But, in my husband’s case, it took him a little over a year to finally become a father.
To this day he admits that he was a monster to me, to us; and I will always hold resentment towards him for it.
But, warriors, this is what they mean when they say you have to fight for your family. You have to have the divorce papers, the car keys in your hand. You have to be ready to give up and say screw this. But to look down at those things you hold and drop them to the floor and brush your hands together to start fixing things one bit at a time, is the true definition of fighting for it. It is the true definition of bravery and grace.
And those are the very two things every warrior mother needs in her pack.
That’s amazing that you were able to break parenting down for him in small chunks and that he responded to that. What an inspirational story. Thanks for sharing it!
I totally get it. I went through pregnancy almost all on my own. He was living in another state and kept pushing off moving to be with me. I had a rough pregnancy and was not put on bed rest but was told not to do anything. When he finally showed up there were only 2 months left to prep for birth and get on t he same page. My son was almost a year old when we finally got in sink. Especially since he was aginst breat feeding and that’s what I did. It is hard to adjust to a new life being pregnant and having a baby. It does take time to get through all the expectations and hormones and really figure out what you are doing and what you expect from others. There can be a light at the end of the tunnel some times you just have to make it yourself.
I really needed to read this today. Thank you for sharing.