It was Day Eight of being home with our newborn. I sat on my colorful, checkered chair under the big window in our apartment. I wore a black nursing tank top that was wet with breast milk, a girdle-like belly wrap, high-waisted maternity leggings, and bare feet. My hair was pulled back in a damp ponytail. I held little Lucy in her tightly swaddled cream blanket. She had been crying for what seemed like an hour. Her crying could clear a room. We actually both had the power to clear a room because when Lucy cried, I usually cried too. I cried when she spit up. I cried when I was tired. I cried when she was tired. I cried when I looked out the window and saw other moms pushing strollers with ease and drinking morning coffee. I was an emotional basket case.
That night, my mom and my dear friend came to visit the baby. I barely held it together as they bounced Lucy around the room and gave me advice on how I should sleep when the baby sleeps, but none of it made sense because the baby wasn’t the real problem. After a short time, they left saying to my husband Max and I, “We’ll leave you guys to yourselves.” I wanted to scream, “No, please take me with you!”
The house became silent in between her newborn wails. Since we had brought Lucy home, our house just sounded different. It wasn’t just the screaming from our new roommate-it was the deafening silence between Max and me.
It was dark outside. Max sat on the couch, next to me. He stared at me with blank eyes. I looked at him and snapped, “What is your deal?” and then quickly regretted my question.
“I’m not happy,” he flatly responded. My stomach dropped.
“I’m not happy either. We have a screaming newborn, I have engorged, leaking breasts, and I am sickly exhausted…what is your excuse?” I asked him, with burning eyes and a lump in my throat.
It turned out that his ‘unhappy’ was very different than mine.
He was not happy in our marriage. He was not happy with me. It all felt disconnected for him. He explained to me that we did not get along, we did not have common interests, and we were not ready to have a baby-I felt that someone was playing a cruel joke on me. I looked down at Lucy. I looked up at him. The tears streamed down my cheeks. I hated him.
It’s been three years since that dreaded exchange. Today, I am a very happily divorced woman. I am learning how to co-parent and how to raise my daughter with my ex. I think back to that moment less and less–but I should have seen this coming.
I should have known by our eerie, quiet walk home from the hospital. I pushed the stroller with no baby in it because I was too scared to put her down. I have read that dressing inappropriately for the weather can be an indicator of one’s mental stability. It was one of the hottest August NYC summer days. I wore leggings, a long sleeve shirt, and a zip up sweatshirt. Still, I was shaking with full body shivers. That thick, heavy sweatshirt could not warm the chill between Max and I.
Something shifted in the way we interacted with one another on that walk home. I felt it. Max went from loving my pregnant belly and coaching me through my labor and my delivery to laser focus on our new daughter. He talked to her–not me. He asked her how she was doing–not me. He kissed her–not me. Once Lucy came into his world he felt he was allowed to stop pretending that he had a role in my life. That day in August, he became strictly Lucy’s father.
Once home, this chasm only grew. I quickly realized that we would do anything to avoid spending time together.. I nursed Lucy–he went running. He took Lucy for a walk–I tried to sleep. When we were home and Lucy was asleep–we were silent. I was overwhelmed with anxiety triggered by Max’s change of behavior, Lucy’s sleepless nights, and my own hormonal roller coaster. My baby blues and my fears pushed Max even further away. He started to go out after Lucy went to bed. He started to travel on the weekends for ‘work.’ He started to ignore me. I started to feel more and more alone. I knew this wasn’t what it was suppose to be like, but I didn’t know how to fix it. No scheduled date nights, no marriage counselor, and no sit down with my parents could force Max to support me the way I needed.
My husband was officially checked out and had been for a long time—longer than I realized. This became our new normal. We continued this routine of playing house for one and half years–until he got caught cheating on me. Max had a girlfriend that he began dating when Lucy was days old. After the mistress was revealed, I learned he had been unfaithful with other women throughout our three-year marriage. Although this was not a shock to me, it was still a blow to my system. I had ignored my intuition and the cliché signs. I made myself believe that it was easier to stay married than to be alone with a baby. I knew I was not meant to be with a man like this, but I wasn’t strong enough to say it out loud. His cheating was humiliating and devastating, yet it turned into my escape hatch—it empowered me to leave him. I had been silently torturing myself staying in my loveless marriage.
When he moved out, it was like wiping the dirty windows clean. Max emotionally abandoning me with a newborn was the hard part. Living in fear of the split was the hard part. And waiting for my husband to look at me again was the hard part. The day I found out about Max’s double life was the day I was allowed to stop pretending my role in his life. I was free and that was the best part.