My wife went through pregnancy hell. And so did I, though my issues only surfaced years later. To all the dads out there: pregnancy may be tough for you too, and that’s okay. If I made it, so will you.
I remember the apprehension and nerves when my first child was born. She was on time, and her arrival – and our time in the hospital – was much faster than I had expected.
We didn’t know what was normal and what wasn’t. We experienced surreal emotions, joy, a change of pace, preparedness and self-doubt all mixed together.
My assumed role in the birthing process was to fan my wife with a folded yellow card.
This task wasn’t part of my prenatal dad training. It was instinct, an immediate action plan that also functioned as a “look-busy-the-boss-is-watching” moment.
I reasoned to myself that it kept me busy while it kept my wife cool. In hindsight, this was the equivalent of me telling myself to go boil water. Yes, fanning my pregnant wife to keep her cool in an air-conditioned room was just as useless as it sounds. But there was nothing else I could do.
My Wife’s Pregnancy Hell
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I witnessed my wife battle a war with uncontrollable nausea with our five children (or six if you include our miscarriage). She had a condition known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum – an extreme, rare form of morning sickness that went on for months.
In that article, I noted how my wife was hospitalised for severe dehydration with each pregnancy, a repeating cycle spanning ten years.
Each time I saw her drastic weight loss, sunken eyes and felt her sense of abandonment. Metaphorically, I was back in the birthing room and did everything I could to keep her cool.
We went through this without any real support from family, church or friends, many of whom misunderstood her condition. Sadly, most people dismissed my wife’s situation as either fake, exaggerated, or merely a passing phase of the pregnancy.
With my wife bed-ridden for several months on and off, I functioned in the role of both mum and dad. I did this alongside my overworked, underpaid, full-time job as a store manager.
My mental health was of secondary concern to the pregnancy hell we faced. My determined wife persevered through her trials.
My Pregnancy Hell Resurfaced
Years later, we were forced to stop and consider the impact that these events had on my health. We discovered that my reoccurring chest pains were the direct result of stress and anxiety.
My wife had recovered, but I wasn’t doing well.
The chest pains were declared a symptom of an undiagnosed social anxiety disorder. That disorder was something I learned that I had likely inherited from my unstable and highly dysfunctional childhood home.
Add to this my wife’s pregnancies and hospital stays, my full-time work, and my care for my wife and our toddlers – and I was drawn back into some old self-destructive patterns.
I leaned on the self-medication I had learned from years of couch surfing in my teens. I numbed the pain of isolation, anxiety, stress, a sense of powerlessness and the weight of my responsibilities with alcohol.
Stress and anxiety had led to weight gain. My situation was made worse by an unnecessary and uninvited conflict with an abusive sibling – another echo of the past weighing down the present.
This conflict also resulted in the loss of old friendships, a further compromised relationship with my divorced parents, and bizarrely, complications with work.
Maintaining mental health wasn’t a priority for me at the time. Tasks needed to be done, so I did them. I should have been more diligent in preserving my mental health, but instead, I chose caffeine, adrenaline and an easy alcoholic fix.
While I was looking after my spiritual health well, my physical, emotional and psychological well-being were heading for a cliff.
I Made It and So Will You
My pregnancy experiences as a dad were, without doubt, an extreme case. The point of all this is to say that dads can have it rough too.
From an uneasy pregnancy to parenthood, my wife and I learned to make corrections. We persevered and came through stronger despite it all.
The birth of our firstborn and the four who followed her became not just the start of my dad life. They were also a God-breathed resurrection. God’s grace confronted my every hidden flaw, weeded out my self-destruction, and replaced it with life.
The words of Dave Grohl describe my situation well:
“Still, I tried to find my way. Spinning now was end of days. Burning like a flame, behind my eyes. Drown it out. Drink it in. Crown the king of suffering. Prisoner, slave to the disguise. You saved me the day you came alive.”
If you’re struggling, don’t do so alone. Check in with Dads4Kids or follow the links found here. You will make it!
Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.
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