I have something I would like for Mother’s Day. Most holidays my husband doesn’t buy me gifts because there is nothing I particularly want or need, but he has always said if there’s something I really want, to let him know. He is wonderful. I would like to say up front that he is one of the best human beings I have ever met.
And I feel bad even asking for this for Mother’s Day because it’s going to be really difficult—maybe impossible to pull off. It is not flowers and it is in no way a stuffed animal holding a mylar balloon (if someone wants to send me a quick e-mail explaining why those even exist, please go ahead) and it is not some sort of quasi-expensive chocolate. It is not a gift certificate for a spa treatment and it is not breakfast in bed. I am trying to get out of the habit of eating in bed.
What I want for Mother’s Day is going to hurt my husband, who I love and care about a lot, so it hurts me that it will hurt him, but I want it regardless.
1. I would like for my husband to become pregnant.
Dude. You're glowing.
And let me clarify: not for a long period of time. Absolutely not for nine months because that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard—nobody should have to be pregnant for nine months. That should be written into the Geneva Convention. But for a week or so I would love for him to have an abbreviated, montage-version of a pregnancy—a mash-up of the first and third trimesters in which he is constantly nauseous and exhausted and WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THESE MOOD SWINGS, no, never mind, everything’s fine, false alarm, NO SERIOUSLY, THERE THEY ARE AGAIN, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?? I would like his back to hurt to the point where there is not a single position in which he is comfortable and for him to get to the point where the idea of walking two blocks is more exhausting than, under normal circumstances, the reality of running ten miles.
2. I would like him to experience labor.
FOR ABSOLUTELY NO LONGER THAN TEN MINUTES. I’m not a mustachioed totalitarian dictator, I just want him to understand it. Within a ten minute period I’d like him to experience three or four one-minute-long contractions, but I want them to be the ones at the end of the labor—the ones that are two minutes apart, where you are either sobbing or screaming because there is nothing that could have prepared you for that amount of pain. The ones that are so horrible and all-encompassing that when people ask later, “What was it like?” you stand there with your jaw hanging open because unless the person has been systematically tortured while also undergoing an un-anesthetized root canal, they are not going to have a workable frame of reference.
3. I would like him to experience 10 seconds of physically pushing a child out of your body when you have not had an epidural.
Honestly, maybe not even ten seconds. I just want him to get the gist of it.
4. I would like him to experience a very brief time period sampling the first few weeks (months?) of what your body feels like right after you have given birth.
“Here you go. Good luck figuring this out.”
I want him to understand how it feels when you are emerging from the hospital after what feels like a horrible, debilitating train accident. And you are in both pain and a mild state of shock and also the doctors are going, “Hey, hope you’re feeling better after that horrific train accident and also here’s an extremely delicate yet demanding human being for whom you are now responsible, regardless of the fact that you’re in so much pain that looking at a bicycle seat gives you a panic attack.”
I want him to breastfeed the baby and deal with the ridiculous insanity of pumping and leaking and horrific soreness or I want him to be not that great at it and wonder what’s wrong with him that he’s not enjoying it the way all the books told him he would. OR I want him to choose to not breastfeed the baby and have total strangers come up to him, telling him that he is a terrible father for not breastfeeding the baby.
I want him to have at least one instance where he urinates on himself while sneezing.
5. I want him to stay at home with the baby full-time for one full month.
Like a version of solitary confinement where the prison guards force you
to continually read “The Cat in the Hat” at gunpoint.
This is a polite way of saying I want him to be COMPLETELY OVERCOME BY UNIMAGINABLE BOREDOM AND LONELINESS. I want him to be overwhelmed by a loneliness so intense that he regularly wishes he were an Iroquois indian because after four weeks alone in an apartment with an eight month-old, living in a communal longhouse with a bunch of other adults sounds more appealing than an invite to the Vanity Fair party.
* * *
And what will I be doing during as he endures the pain of this incredibly elaborate mother’s day gift? Will I be sitting in a leather recliner eating beef jerky and corn chips, going, “Ok, so now do you get it?? Do you finally understand?”
No, of course I will not be doing that.
I will be beside him the whole time.
If during his pregnancy he wakes up at 3AM and says that he is so so sorry to ask but he really wants Taco Bell, I will go out and get him Taco bell. I will hold his hand during labor, grimacing, because it will be hard to see someone I love in that much pain. I will try, when I can, to get the baby when he cries at night so that my husband can get a few extra hours of sleep. When I get home from work and see that he is frustrated and exhausted and has had a really rough day, I will take the baby off his hands. I will do whatever I can to make it a little easier for him.
Hang in there.
I will do for him all the things that he has done for me.
Which is why, for the record, I conjured up this extremely complicated, probably-impossible-to-implement mother’s day request in the first place.
Partially because there is a part of me that wishes that he could fully, completely understand what I went through. It is hard (maybe impossible?) to fully understand something you have not experienced.
But partially because being married to someone who, despite his lack of understanding, did everything he could to make my life a little bit easier, I can’t come up with anything else I could possibly want.
(Raquel D'Apice is a comedian who writes and illustrates a parenting blog called The Ugly Volvo. She lives in Jersey City, NJ with her husband, young son, and lingering feelings of inadequacy. You can see more of her work here, here, and here.)