Romper

My Partner Took Care Of Me During My Pregnancy & It Was Humiliating

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover

When I think back on the conversations that my partner and I had prior to me becoming pregnant — about how we would deal with this new adventure we were embarking upon — it’s either laughable or depressing, depending upon my mood. Despite the fact that many people sail through pregnancy with a smile on their face and a song in their heart, I was not destined to be one of them. Instead, pregnancy rendered me so sick as to be nearly nonfunctional for the better part of 10 months, and my plan to work two part-time jobs “as long as I could handle it” was quickly replaced by a new one: binge-watching Netflix and vomiting into a metal bowl that I kept next to my bed at all times. In fact, I was so sick, so uncomfortable, so completely wrecked, that I often required a copious amount of care. That care was supplied by my weary and exhausted partner; bless her. I have prided myself on self-sufficiency for about a decade, so to suddenly find myself completely reliant on someone else during my pregnancy was utterly and completely humiliating. I was miserable.

Pregnancy symptoms are a crap shoot. Some people get a lot, some people get a little. Some people get the really, really nasty ones, some people get things that are annoying but manageable. I was not lucky. For starters, my “morning sickness” started literally 48 hours after my positive pregnancy test. And it never really stopped (I did get a brief break at the very beginning of the third trimester, but it didn’t really last), eventually earning me the hyperemesis diagnosis. On top of that, my allergies went completely haywire, and essentially, I constantly felt like I had a very bad cold. I also had the worst heartburn of my life, restless leg syndrome, and assortment of odd aches and pains, and my personal favorite: lightning crotch. Vomiting spells on good days were triggered by smelling pretty much anything, and on the very worst days, by moving my body at all.  I often couldn’t go into our kitchen and prepare food for myself (because I would just puke) and many days I couldn’t even make it down our stairs.

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover

And so, my wife stepped up. If she hadn’t, I’m legitimately not sure what would have become of me and our baby.

It challenged my very concept of myself. If I wasn’t a strong, independant woman, who could do anything on her own, who even was I? Once, I had bragged about hiking 20 miles. Now I was getting winded walking to the bathroom. Asking for help constantly shook me to my core, and it challenged my marriage in ways I never thought possible. There were days when I wondered how in the hell either one of us was going to make it through.

As a person who is typically fairly independent, it is difficult for me to describe how awful it felt to have to rely on another human being for what some days amounted to round-the-clock care. During the majority of that time, she was also working full time. So she would bus home from her stressful job, and then have to deal with whatever state I happened to be in that day. I felt completely useless, and as much as I tried to remind myself that growing our baby was doing important work for our family, I couldn’t shake the feeling that she was working her butt off while I was doing absolutely nothing.

In the mornings, I couldn’t move before I had eaten, otherwise I was sure to puke. Many pregnant people manage this by keeping granola bars, or other easy to grab snacks, near the bed for first thing in the morning. That helped me sometimes, but often it would backfire, and whatever I had been eating regularly would become a trigger for the relentless nausea and vomiting. After yet another night of little sleep due to nausea, heartburn, leg cramps, and a seriously overactive fetus, getting out of bed to go downstairs was a task I was not often up for even if I was able to choke down a protein bar or a handful of crackers.

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover
Sometimes my cough (from being suddenly allergic to our three cats) was so bad I would pee my pants and vomit at the same time. I would then need her help stripping the bed, because trying to do it myself just left me dry heaving, shaking, and sobbing.

So my wife brought me breakfast in bed. She did this almost every morning, for almost my entire pregnancy. After that, she would make sure I had snacks available for the day — snacks chosen from the ever-rotating list of things I was able to eat — and then hurriedly got herself ready for work. By the time she stepped out the door, she looked tired already.

By the time she returned home every evening, I was completely exhausted from trying to fend for myself during the day. Sometimes our housemates were able to help out, but they had their own work and their own schedules as well. So she would come home, physically and mentally drained, and be greeted by a miserable pregnant wife who just needed help getting a glass of water, or who just needed more of that one kind of popcorn they only sold at the gas station. Sometimes my cough (from being suddenly allergic to our three cats) was so bad I would pee my pants and vomit at the same time. I would then need her help stripping the bed, because trying to do it myself just left me dry heaving, shaking, and sobbing.

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover

All of her kindness and care was incredibly generous, but emotionally I just couldn’t handle it. I felt guilty for “making her” do all of those things, and I worried that eventually she would come to her senses and leave me. I was in a constant state of shame and self loathing, and even now, I’m a little embarrassed to admit just how bad it was. It’s not that I don’t want you knowing that I was that sick, it’s more that I’m uncomfortable admitting that I ever needed quite that much from someone else. For me, rather than being a magical time, pregnancy was utterly humiliating.

It challenged my very concept of myself. If I wasn’t a strong, independant woman, who could do anything on her own, who even was I? Once, I had bragged about hiking 20 miles. Now I was getting winded walking to the bathroom. Asking for help constantly shook me to my core, and it challenged my marriage in ways I never thought possible. There were days when I wondered how in the hell either one of us was going to make it through.

But then, very slowly at first, something began to change.

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover

Eventually I stopped hating myself for needing help. I can’t put my finger on exactly when the feeling lifted, but it was sometime very close to the birth of our child. Maybe it happened while I was in labor? I started to feel like, rather than being a failure for having to lean on my partner, I was just one of three people — her, the baby, and me — and we were all leaning on each other. Learning to let go of my own shame and guilt allowed us to deepen our relationship all over again. It gave me the emotional space to feel how loving it was that she was constantly making me smoothies and helping me get dressed. And then suddenly we were caring for a newborn together, and I was recovering from a hard labor and a c-section. It was then, in the hospital with our brand new tiny person, that me letting go of my pride helped us to all become a family.