I pride myself on not feeling that I have to do everything. If everything is not done to my standards, then I don’t feel compelled to do or redo it. I find that sometimes we women struggle with this – especially on the homefront, regardless of Stay-at-Home-Mom (SAHM) or Working Mom status. A true egalitarian partnership (despite the risks!), my husband and I agreed that he would come to every single OBGYN appointment while I was pregnant. Given that my pregnancy was high risk…it was a LOT of appointments. Some were quick 30 minute appointments, others were two hour long glucose tests.
I never felt guilty. It was his kid as much as it was mine…and he didn’t have the morning sickness, the exhaustion, the aches and pains at night or the discomfort every time I stood up at work to waddle/sprint to the bathroom for a quick 20 second trip that always seemed like it should have been longer based on the seeming urgency.
To be honest, I always felt that my husband did more of the work around the house even before we were pregnant. I paid the bills, cleaned the bathrooms and cooked, but he did just about everything else.
But during the pregnancy, I stopped everything…especially the cooking. I couldn’t even be in the kitchen while food was prepared. The task fatigued me and the smells repulsed me.
We were regularly subscribed to Blue Apron, a food service. They would deliver a box of fresh produce, ingredients, herbs and meat with a recipe card to create beautiful meals. The meals were just that – beautiful, but even a seasoned cook like myself took at least 45 minutes to prepare them.
My husband is one of those folks that can’t be rushed – he takes his time, checking the recipe two, three times to ensure that he is completing each step with breathtaking accuracy. Cooking is not something he does often, so a 45 minute meal would take him as short as an hour and a half and as long as two and a half hours some evenings.
For 24 long weeks, my husband painstakingly prepared three meals a week, burning up three hours of quality time that could have been used to work on his doctorate or just relax from his long, hard day at work. Finally he cried uncle and we did takeout for the last trimester.
On weekends, I would list out each task that needed to be completed – run clothing to goodwill, do the laundry, make the bed, vacuum the house, clean the bathroom, clean out the refrigerator, pay some bills – and then inform him that I would lay on the couch and watch TV while he completed all of these tasks.
I never felt bad about it. My body was exhausted while it was working to build a human and carry through all my other obligations…work, school, life. Looking back on it, some of this exhaustion likely was the prenatal depression that I had.
After all, women would often talk about how the second trimester was the best one. Online and in person, they raved about how they had high energy, looked pregnant but weren’t too big and weren’t having the aches and pains that come with those final whale-esque months. While the nausea had passed, the second trimester felt even more stressful and exhausting than the first. I couldn’t figure out what all these other people were talking about.
So, my husband carried the team through the pregnancy.
A friend of my sister’s once characterized how she was supporting her husband financially while he was doing vocational training, as ‘carrying the team’. I loved that expression because of the images of teamwork, family and camaraderie that it invokes.
So when I needed him to carry the team through my postpartum depression, I was able to do so, without any guilt.
I think using that phrase, ‘carry the team’ is wonderful to use for a variety of reasons. It can help cut any guilt you might feel about your partner doing everything – I think sometimes we women feel the need to overdo, especially in the household sense. It is a verbal reminder that you and your partner are in it together. That sometimes, when one stumbles, the other is there to keep the team moving forward. It’s a promise to each other that while one may need to be carried, they will gladly carry the other if/when the time arises.
When postpartum depression strikes, simple tasks such as stopping at the grocery store after work are daunting. The energy to clean up the kitchen after a meal or even pick up a child may not be there. I remember forcing myself to plaster a smile on my face and hold my baby, even though I felt the strength draining from my body as I pushed myself off of the couch to answer his cries.
In fact, it wasn’t even until I was past my postpartum depression that I realized how drained I had been, for so long. It made sense why I had to lean on my husband to research treatment options, run errands and cook; why I had to lean on my mother to clean our house.
I am so grateful for my community of support – but mostly to my husband for carrying the team through the storm.