A few months into having our first child, I had this thought about my husband: Did I make a mistake? Was I wrong in marrying him? It seemed that everything he did fell into two categories: annoying or really annoying. Simply put: I hated him.
When he parked in a spot too small for our big, clunky minivan, making my exit from the car with the baby’s car seat damn near impossible, I was annoyed. When after a 20-minute break from an hour and half of breastfeeding he’d present me with baby and say, “I think she’s hungry again,” I was really annoyed. Give her your boob then! I wanted to—and possibly did—scream. When he slept peacefully through the night with his mouth wide open, snoring through cries and feedings without so much as even a single sign of life, I downright hated him, like wanted-to-clamp-his-nose-closed hated him. I’m aware that some of these things weren’t his fault; heck, many of them were even illogical things to be annoyed by, but at the time, I could have made a court case for murder using that evidence.
With my solid annoyance of everything he did, was his very solid annoyance for me too. He reacted more sensitively to anything I said. If I tried to lighten the mood with a joke, it was taken the wrong way and, usually, as an attack. The same jokes I had cracked before we had a baby were now a cobra’s invitation to snap back. Everything was under scrutiny. Where had we gone wrong?
He didn’t understand what place I was coming from, nor could he. He went back to normal work life with normal adults, and I was home trying to figure out how to keep a new life-form alive while trying to get a few minutes to myself. He couldn’t understand that the luxury of a shower wasn’t just in the practicality of getting clean (though I needed that too); it was also a 15-minute spa retreat where I could be alone. So when he’d interrupt my shower to ask if he could pee, I’d threaten his life and wonder how I could have married this guy.
Turns out, people told me a lot about having a baby: You’re going to be exhausted. Your hair is going to fall out, and so forth, but no one ever mentioned the possibly of hating my husband. No one told me that I might very well want to smash his face in with a pan, War of the Roses style. So, let me tell you now: You might hate your husband. It might happen to you and your partner no matter how happy you are now, because this isn’t about how solid your marriage is before a baby but about what happens after. This is our story, but it could be yours. It could be anybody’s.
All of those things people told me were absolutely true. I was so tired that some days I forgot if I had showered, or maybe I was so tired that I didn’t care. And because I hadn’t showered—or gotten dressed—I started to feel bad about myself. I didn’t leave the house much, and when I did, it was to do pretty mundane things. The first time I left my apartment, I felt like a Gremlin in sunlight, weirdly naked and like I didn’t belong. I didn’t see many real, adult people, so I didn’t have girlfriends to tell me that I looked great or that I was doing fine. My husband probably told me, but as most women know, hearing it from your husband doesn’t count as much as hearing it from other women. My hormones were still running all kinds of wild in my body, like at a Prince concert in the ’80s, and instead of of all of my love and attention being on husband, it was now all about our baby. I felt so emotionally charged all of the time; detonation was merely a daily waiting game.
So, now that we were both excruciatingly tired, now that I hadn’t showered or gotten dressed and felt terrible about myself, now that my emotions were on the verge of severe-risk-of-terrorist-attack red, now that baby had replaced my husband with my full attention and definitely all of my patience, now that I hadn’t left the house or seen people besides my husband (making him my only adult connection to the outside world), now that he was the only real person who knew everything I was going through (making him both my best friend and my enemy), I hated him. Because who else was I going to hate? No one else was around.
And then, one day, it was gone. The emotional storm had blown over, and I was starting to see the new landscape that was settling in its place. I had questioned my marriage for weeks, maybe months, and then one day, I didn’t. I stopped wanting to smash his face in with a pan or clamp his nose shut when he slept because it wasn’t about him or our marriage. It never was. It was about a new version of us, a version with a different dynamic that had to include a new life. We were redefining ourselves as people, so of course that meant redefining who we were as a couple. We were remodeling our relationship, and with any remodeling comes a lot of mess, a knock-down, rip-up, hammering, clobbering, bloody mess.
My thoughts of murder and divorce and Kathleen Turner behavior weren’t reflective of our relationship, it was a part of what happens when two turns into three, when a couple becomes a family and has to navigate a whole new relationship that never existed but that will exist from this point forward.