This is likely the last post I will make before Zelda is born. This is just me laying it all out there like an exposed wire along the interstate. Read Part I.
Capable and Culpable
If you think about the idea or concept of “pregnancy,” the first thing that comes to mind is likely the mother. You can close your eyes and envision the beautiful female figure and her expanding womb. Picture the child growing inside of her. Picture the growing hands swimming in fluid, waiting to be held delicately for the first time. You may even think about the ridiculous pain of childbirth (I can only assume). One of the last things you would think of is the father.
This will probably not be a popular statement, but there were times when I felt like I was a silent partner in all of this. I felt shut off and isolated. To be honest, I can’t think of many pregnancy blogs out there like this that have the father actively writing about their experiences? If there is one, it’s usually some affluent photographer or media mogul who takes pictures of his kids and gets reblogged on Buzzfeed. I’m not that guy. I’m just a normal dude who listened to Cursive and Bright Eyes too much as a teenager and am acting it out as a thirty-something.
What about my needs? What is the acceptable level of male sacrifice for a pregnancy? Can I keep my penis? If this were the government, I would be the non-essential personnel that gets to stay home every time snow falls on the ground. Like I said in the previous post, keeping a relationship 50/50 is super easy when you are dating, engaged, or recently married. Young love has a way of making everything in the world seem simple. You will enjoy picking up tampons for your lady love when you are dating because their purchase meant you dodged a bullet for another month. Once you throw a pregnancy into the mix, however, keeping everything balanced is damn near impossible. Everything that was once capable turns into culpable.
There were times when I wanted to tell Angela that any sign of negativity I gave on my end was not necessarily an open invitation for criticism. We were both guilty of that. Sometimes it was hard to stay positive, even if the most positive thing that has ever happened to me was right in front of my face. When could I say I was tired or “over it” without getting the third degree? Can I ever say it without looking like an asshole?
Part of the frustration came with this blog. It is a literal fact that my posts are read 75% less than Angela’s. The numbers don’t lie, and I can’t dispute it. Blame it on the day job, I guess. It’s a completely vain and shallow thing to feel, and I have worked very hard to get rid of those thoughts every time I stare at a blank word document. I cannot deny that this is partly why I have been feeling like a side dish to the main course of pregnancy. I should just chalk it up to A. Angela is a much better writer (truth) B. Her content actually speaks to a larger demographic for women and C. She gets to the point about the issues that matter.
Not that this doesn’t matter – I wouldn’t be writing it if I didn’t think so. I think, dear reader, you get what I mean. I have attempted to provide “real talk” on the blog several times, but most of those posts received little interaction. This one is about as real as I am going to get. I’m pushing hard on the gas, but my foot isn’t exactly on the floor. Nobody needs to hear or experience that.
I am merely just a young dad-to-be who also happens to be over-stressed, under-sexed, under stimulated, and overworked. Plain and simple. I should be allowed to say these things without any blowback. I think Angela knows and understands these feelings. She can’t process them at the moment. I agree. It’s a lot to take in, especially when her own issues need to be addressed as well, and they are more pressing to the health and happiness of our future daughter. Advantage: Angela.
I put on a persona of somebody who likes to push comedy and jokes as a defense mechanism. It has always been that way. I think I’m so fucking clever when I throw in quips during my lectures or class discussions. In reality, I am just trying to buy some time to figure out what the hell I am really trying to say. When it matters, I am very serious. I shamefully struggled to be serious with Angela these past few months. My defense mechanism kept kicking in, and she often found the humor as my way of showing her immaturity and a lack of preparation. She would tell me “Matt, you don’t sound excited…change your attitude,” or “please take this seriously.” That was my cue to metaphorically shut down. I WAS excited. I AM excited. Believe me, I think it’s so rad that I am about to begin the new “Eng dynasty.” I just have different ways of showing it. Here’s hoping I am more straightforward in the future.
I’m a motherfucking onion, man. Only a few people I know have ever peeled all of these layers.
Having a Shit Time
We had a lot of difficulties with communication. There were issues with anger on both sides. Angela’s anger was a clear cut result of the pregnancy, which she addressed with acupuncture. It worked really well. I do have to give credit to my Chinese ancestry for some pretty beneficial ching chong homeopathic stuff. I, for the most part, felt the need to bottle it up. As I am writing this, I am realizing how stupid and unnecessary it was/is. The problem with cramming all of it in a bottle is the potential for overflow. I’m not sure where I put all of it. Most of it is still bottled up, although writing this now is an exercise of release that I am most thankful for.
The metaphor for bottling up is also a literal thing for me. All the fear and anxiety had to go somewhere eventually. I usually find myself ending up in the bathroom when the stress gets too high. I’m a fearful public pooper, which adds to the anxiety. Some people stress eat or stress drink (I do both). My main source of release: poop. So all of the jokes and bathroom humor (once again) was just another defense mechanism of humor to explain a real problem. I find myself sometimes going to the bathroom five to six times a day. I didn’t eat chili or Taco Bell on those days, either (I SWEAR!). That’s not normal for a healthy 31-year old. I used to think I had IBS. As it turns out, I was just high on stress and anxiety and needed to get it out of my system. TMI, I know. But now the secret is out. I seriously took three dumps during the Lost finale. I had to go back.
There were times when I was frustrated and wanted to call Angela out on it. I wanted to let her know that I had doubts that would upset her. I wanted to tell her that I often found myself questioning if I really wanted the baby. Was the stress worth it? Was my wanting to be a father a product of my own “daddy issues,” or was it truly genuine? We honestly had given up trying to think about having a kid before it happened. Thanks to an open bar at a work event – EXPECTO PATERNUM. When conversations got tense, I wanted to call her unreasonable or even worse. But I didn’t. After a while, you find its much easier to do hurt to yourself than to someone you love. It’s much easier to put in the hurt early on. If you don’t, I’d avoid the pain and frustration when all the chips are on the table.
I’m not sure if any mother or father has felt this way before with those feelings of doubt, but I damn sure did on multiple occasions.
Ugh. Be right back. I have to head to the bathroom.
Temple of the Doghouse
I know I annoy the shit out of Angela, pregnancy or no pregnancy. I already mentioned about my defense mechanisms. There was a good two-week period in the late summer of last year where I did nothing but sing “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog. That would annoy anybody (besides myself). I’m sure if you are friends with me or know something about me, you have been annoyed by something I did. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m long winded (obviously) and can avoid confrontation in social situations like the plague.
The problem with pregnancy is that everything is confrontation. I got a daily dose of mom and daughter-to-be every day. I felt that I had to be “on” all the time. I can’t do that. I mean, what do celebrities do when their Instagram feed is down and the smiling stops?
Every day is opposite day during a pregnancy. Things that were funny before were soon spiteful and terrible. Things that are horrible were suddenly “ok” and “fine.” I could sometimes get a “whatever” out of her. Those were the salad days. This is the kind of dramatic emotional shell game we often played. It made me feel like a scumbag most of the time. I could repress the self hate, drink some, poop some, and go to sleep hoping the smile on my face looked genuine enough when I woke up. Don’t get me wrong: the smile was sincere and real most of the time. But there were days when I needed a knife to cut a smile into my face.
The question is: do I accept all of this angst that I have written about? Does it make me less of a man or a father, or completely human? I don’t know if all fathers went through these exercises throughout their term? How long should I remain a lame duck before I raise my hand and swear the oath? After all, I’m in it for the long haul, scumbag or not.
Maybe the media is to blame. Television and movies have preconditioned would-be dads about their failure. Take a look at some of the more popular films about pregnancy, and you will find a long list of scumbags, assholes, flight risks, and douches. I mean seriously – look at these films. What is the percentage of time the father figure is a douche canoe?
Maybe I am a scumbag. Maybe there are regrets and admissions. Is it bad to miss the things I used to do? I miss playing music. I wanted to travel much more than I did before (or after) getting married. I keep saying that I don’t want a Ph.D., but secretly I would love to be called “Dr. Eng” to please my father (dem Daddy Issues are creeping).
This pregnancy has been hard for me, but not in the conventional way you may see it. I lost my grandmother last summer, whom I loved dearly and wanted so desperately to meet Zelda. But she couldn’t hold on. She had to be rid of the pain. I do not blame her in the least, but it does make me upset.
I had a few close(ish) individuals skip out on the friendship thing. It first came in drips, but eventually I noticed my friend list shrinking considerably. I am not sure if the pregnancy and our “unfriending” is completely related, but we are nonetheless not on “speaking terms.” It’s really a shame. I hope we can be friends again one day. Maybe that’s on me.
According to one of theses friends (who isn’t my friend anymore), I was whining too much about everything I had to do: balancing life, work, the pregnancy, and the preparation of the coming of Zelda – basically this entire post. She was sick of hearing it. Maybe other people are too. I know it’s pathetic. I want to be John Wayne so hard sometimes, but find myself acting like John Bobbitt instead. But IT IS honest, which is a fucking rarity nowadays. If you’ve stuck along this far and don’t think less of me, I salute you.
I don’t need to hear about the bullshit of working hard and “having it all,” because I don’t believe that. You can’t have it all. You have to make sacrifices. I am confident that the hard work will pay off in my career and family. I will eventually find a rhythm to get back to those things that I used to do or wanted to do. But for now, all of that means nothing. Everything is for Zelda. Everything is for her. This isn’t about me anymore.
I think it’s much healthier to focus on what I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be selfish to my child. I don’t want to look to possessions as my gold standard for living. I never want to tell her the price of something (within reason) or make her go to sleep on an empty stomach. I don’t want to see her cry because I skipped out on something for my own selfish reasons. I don’t want to tell her I am disappointed without meaning it. I don’t want to forget to tell her how much I love her everyday. I don’t want her to ever forget how much of a gift she is to Angela and I.
So that’s it. I’m in man. I’m fucking in. No turning back. We are way beyond the tip. This is me whipping it out and slapping it on the table.
So why did I do it? I could offer a million answers – all false. The truth is that I may be a bad person. But that’s gonna change. I’m going to change. These are the last days of that sort of thing. Now I’m cleaning up and moving closer to her due date, thinking clearly and choosing life. I’m looking forward to it already. I’m gonna be just like you. The job, the family, the fucking big flat screen television. The front loading washing machine, the smart car, the Bluetooth speaker and electric kettle, good healthcare plan, glucose free diet, dental copay, mortgage, unaffordable starter home, handmade dresses, matching bloomers, Kohl’s jacket, Pinterest fails, IKEA instructions, alcohol dependency, more children, walks in the park, nine to five rush hour, good at first person shooters, washing the dog, choice of sweaters, family Christmas, 401K, tax write-offs, clearing gutters, getting by, looking ahead, the day you die.