I once was blind, but now I see, to paraphrase an old hymn. That pretty much sums up my perception of Hubs feelings about our inability to have a child of our own together.
I’m probably not the first woman to make the mistake of thinking her husband’s lack of visible and expressed emotion meant they were “doing just fine.” Nor will I be the last.
Men react to loss differently than women. Men have the need to be strong. They don’t like to reflect. Instead, they act. I remember after our second pregnancy loss, my parents flew into town to help us through it. During the first few days, Hubs and Pop were just a whirlwind of household projects. It grated on my nerves. We were supposed to be grieving, and yet there they were painting and replacing fixtures. By day three I lost it on Hubs. How dare he take our time of grief and use it as an excuse to take time off to do chores around the house? What kind of unfeeling jerk was he? Why wasn’t he as distraught and depressed as I was?
Earlier this year as I started on the path to accepting that “mommyhood” was not in the cards for me we fought again over my need to put some space between me and a pregnant relative. I begged to be excused from family events. In the face of his insistence, I lashed out at him in pain and anger. “You don’t understand,” I hissed. “You’ve got children of your own. You’ll never know what this feels like.”
I continued to see that way for some time. But the fact is that he was and is hurting too. We just hurt in different ways. It hurts him to see me grieving the loss of a dream. It hurts him that he can’t do anything to change our circumstance or make our pain go away. I know he’d do anything to change things if he could. He even tried by helping me look into the only thing that our resources could afford – foster care – and we were both pained to discover that it was not the right option of us either.
I’m now starting to see how badly he wanted us to have children together. Over time, chinks in his armor are beginning to show. Sitting in church when the pastor makes reference to his soon to be born daughter, I can both hear and feel him groan inwardly. At the mall while viewing Christmas trees decorated with pictures and wishes of foster children, I see him choke up just slightly. When tiny footsteps announce that the children have returned from children’s worship, we exchange sad smiles with each other. And when the inevitable cute baby or “we’re pregnant” commercial graces our television set, I see out of the corner of my eye him slowly extend a middle finger towards the screen if only to make me laugh.
Now that I’ve opened my eyes to these small and different expressions of his sadness and grief, I feel less alone in this journey. I also feel terrible that I had not seen this in him earlier. Being at odds with your spouse during this struggle makes the pain deeper for both of you. I share this in hopes that someone who has experienced the pain of this perceived gap might also see the ways in which their partner also hurts. After all, you are in this together.