Elizabeth Ho recently graduated with her Master in Creative Writing from AUT and is the founder of the largest creative writing meetup in Auckland. Nowadays she can be found typing out stories with one hand and holding her baby with the other.
I read a lot of true stories about new mums with unsupportive partners and wanted to write a story from the partner’s POV about life after baby.
You’re impatient, but the doctor reassures you it’s only six weeks. So you wait, comforting yourself in the shower with the door unlocked, taunting her to come in and catch you but she never does and never will. She’s not that type of wife. After a week, the videos become a bit boring. The HD ones are too scripted, the fantasy worn out. Real videos turn out shaky, unfocused, lasting a minute or two. You long for her, for the feeling of hot flesh beneath your hands, the softness of skin and the lingering smell of sweating bodies. You ask for help. She complies, but she is off limits, her mind closed off to you just like her body. Tiredness drags her face down. Stretch marks plague her once thin hips, her stretched stomach sags. You can’t remember the last time she wore makeup or washed the bathrobe that has become her second skin. She smells of milky vomit and shit and the crust of old spaghetti sauce lingers on her chin. You stop asking for help. She starts asking for help – take it, hold it, burp it, love it. It’s exhausting.
After a month of living like this, you notice the friendly barista at the café. You stop in everyday, tipping her whatever change you have in your wallet. She laughs at your jokes, smiles when you tell her she’s the highlight of your day. You’re convinced she swings her hips at you when she bends over to grab milk from the mini fridge, that she never wore bright lipstick before you mentioned how much you like it, that she smells of lilacs and spiced fruit because you said her perfume was heavenly. Her smooth, hot flesh, how she’d genuinely moan the entire way through flashes through your mind because you can tell she is that type of girl. These thoughts come to you at home, while eating microwaved pizza for the third time that week because your wife is now the type of wife that is too tired to care for you, yet attends to its every cry. You don’t hold it, or offer to, because in a way you need to stand up for yourself and show her that you can also withhold physical touch. You watch them on the couch, it guzzles from her breast. A strange pang fills you as you think of how easily you’ve been replaced.
At six weeks, your patience has nearly disappeared. Hot steam pipes out from under the bathroom door, filling you with excitement at the thought of your wife preparing herself for you. You deserve this. The last six weeks have been tough, you’ve been forced to cut down on happy hour with the coworkers, asked to take out the rubbish or pickup takeaway for dinner. Unable to help yourself, you jiggle the door knob. But the locked door tells you she isn’t that type of wife. In bed, you watch her brush and dry out her hair, slip on a faded pair of pajamas and crawl under the blankets. The cucumber lotion she rubs on her hands makes you ache with want. The lights are turned off. In darkness you lie there, breathing carefully in case she speaks or touches you first. Pathetically, you whisper how it’s been six weeks but the only answer you get is a soft snore.
The barista’s social media profiles are easy to find, and you comfort yourself to pictures of her in tight dresses and bikinis. Almost at the edge, you stop thinking and send off a friend request, anticipating the private conversations. The sweet tingle of release beckons but is ruined by a sharp cry. It’s awake. You shake your wife but she groans and rolls away, still fast asleep. It’s taken so much from you – your wife, your orgasm, your sanity. Stumbling through the dark, at the bassinet you grip the edges tightly and look down. Face screwed up and red, its cries pierce through your skull until you stop thinking and reach down, roughly picking it up, wanting to it to stop, just stop, stop crying, stop taking, stop demanding, stop! Silence descends again on the room. In the cradle of your arms, it stares up at you with big eyes and a gummy smile. After six weeks, you look down at your daughter and she looks back at you. Sighing with content, she falls asleep in your arms and all you can think about is how you wish better for her.