Chapter Two: Pretend That Your Partner Is Perfect
Afterwards, I called it the Muffin Incident. Because though it wasn’t exactly a fight, it was significant enough to name. It happened in December when Poppy had just reached three weeks of age and Matthew’s mom, Mary, was visiting.
I’d taken a walk with Poppy, who had by now established herself as a fairly high-maintenance child. The stroller calmed her and the walking calmed me, and even in the coldest weather I didn’t go a day without at least one long outing.
When I returned home, I was tired and thirsty and I badly needed to pee. I opened the door to see Mary sipping tea and Matthew on the couch, his bathrobe still on, even though it was eleven in the morning.
“Hello,” I said.
Mary stood. “Nice walk?”
Mary turned to her son. “Now, this is when you step in, Matthew, and take the baby so Rachel can get her shoes off and settle in.”
I smiled tensely. Matthew did as he was told. Then I escaped to the kitchen. I got a glass of water and was heading to the bathroom when it happened: Matthew asked the question.
“Can you make me a muffin, honey?”
I paused, took it in. Emotion rushed to my head. My throat started to close, but I caught it, swallowing.
“Sure,” I told him. “Just a minute.”
I went to the bathroom, then to the kitchen, made him the muffin and brought it to the table. He sat down to eat, handing the baby back to me, and I sat on the couch and nursed.
As we chatted with Mary, I reflected on the exchange, not objectively, but honestly nonetheless. Mary wasn’t just telling Matthew to take the baby at the front door, I mused. She was telling him to be more thoughtful. She was telling him to take the baby when I brush my teeth, do the laundry— whenever he’s available and I’m not.
She was telling him to be more involved.
And yet, here I am—exhausted, overworked—holding the baby so my husband can eat a muffin. Why doesn’t he get it? What am I doing wrong? I should’ve said something. But what?
Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t regret my choice not to argue. Mary was there, for one, but it was more than that. Thing is, Matt and I never fought. We prided ourselves on our self-control, our marital harmony. Now here we were, new parents, and the last thing I wanted was for that stability to be compromised.
It was too soon. I was too tender. I was only three weeks post-partum. Our first fight after having a baby would happen eventually. I just didn’t want it to happen right then.
Evening came. By then, I’d replayed the incident two dozen times. In later versions the I-should’ve-saids were expertly phrased and placed at the perfect, most humbling moment.
Matthew asks me for a muffin. A one-second pause. Then I reply, without breaking my gaze.
“I’m thirsty, I’m exhausted, and I badly need to pee, and you’re still wearing your pajamas and talking to your mom. How long have you been sitting there, waiting for me to get home so you could eat? Or do you not even get hungry when I’m not there?”
By bedtime, I’d branched out. My thoughts grew and sprouted thick foliage, reaching into every aspect of our relationship. I questioned the basis of our marriage, Matthew’s ability of Matthew to be a good father. But mostly, I questioned his character.
Is Matthew a good person? I wondered, starting at Poppy. Or have I been deceiving myself somehow? Maybe when I fell in love, I ignored all the signs? Maybe Matt isn’t who I thought he was.
Yeah. Those kinds of thoughts. They were ruthless.
The feelings I had that night reminded me of the day in high school when my best friend moved away; they were that pitiful. However, there was one consolation.
Though on that night and those to follow I was convinced my fears would still be there in the morning, every morning when I looked for them, they were gone.
Read the rest of the series at Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Novel.