A Father's World When Expecting a BabyJeff Stimpson |13, July 2003
My wife Jill and I are expecting a baby, and so far I feel fine. My back aches when I bend over to pick up my socks, but I think the pain is caused by my chair at work. My temperature is constant, although sometimes I wake up chilly in the morning if Jill has all the blankets. I have hangnails. My gums are strong. I'm retaining little of anything, including water.
So far this pregnancy seems tougher on Jill. She says she's hungry all the time. Her body feels cold even as she sweats. She dreads the night she won't be able to roll over. Parts of her body ache for the first time since adolescence.
"Oh, yeah," recalls her mother, who remembers almost nothing, when told about the pain.
"Your body's working hard," her cousin tells her. The same cousin, mother of two, says the stuff about this being a wondrous experience for the body is baloney. "I thought it was just weird," she said.
That's an honest comment. Much as I'm looking forward to dancing at my child's weddings, I don't believe I would ever have had a baby on my own. But, as couples are in this together, I'm starting to think of the pregnancy as "ours."
"Oh?" says Jill. "I find that interesting, in that I'm the one who's going to blow up like a watermelon. I'm the one who's going to be constipated. I'm the one who's not going to be able to roll on my side and have to lie there, praying for a few minutes of unconsciousness."
"I'm the one who's going to have to live with you," I say.
The road to pregnancy was twisty. We were blessed just as we quit our jobs and are about to move to a different city. And the city is New York, where prospective landlords prefer that one husband and one wife and one baby have at least one job between the three of them.
Before any of this fell on us, however, Jill pushed for the baby. We did the shots, the check-ups, the consultations, the tests in dark rooms and the other things in dark rooms. Something worked, because one of our last check-ins with the doctor contained the word "positive," now Jill can't stop eating, and I get no sympathy.
"You have no idea what it's like," Jill says to me.
"You won't have to go through pregnancy," says a friend.
"Get off the phone," says my sister.
I feel this is going to get rougher on the father, particularly one that people suspect doesn't have the cigars armed and ready on their launch pads. A co-worker said that his wife also supplied most of the motivation to produce their daughter; he said he didn't tingle until he laid eyes on the little girl. He seems to be tingling now. He calls the little girl "Sugar." I liked the girl, too. Unlike some co-workers, she never cries in the office.
I'd like a girl like her. Or a boy like the kid on "American Gothic." I'd like a kid who will still watch "Seinfeld" until almost the 22nd century. A kid who, years from now, will stop the car at a pit beef stand on the way to his or her second wedding.
Otherwise what's the point of our being pregnant?Jeff Stimpson, lives in Queens, N.Y. with his wife Jill and their baby son Alex. Stimpson writes twice a week for his essay Web site, JeffsLife.
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