I slipped my husband the “you’re gonna be a dad again” card in his parent’s living room, as we gathered with all of my in-laws for an afternoon barbecue. I held a finger up to my lips, pantomiming a sly “shhh.” He rolled his eyes, knowing he’d have to hide this exciting, secret information all afternoon. It was Father’s Day.
As soon as we were alone, I turned to him and squealed, “oh my God can you believe it? Holy shit, we’re gonna have another baby,” and quickly followed up with, “and in four days you’re going on a date with Nicky. What are we going to do?!”
Usually, I’m not a very jealous person. When I’m pregnant, though, I find myself to be much needier and more critical of things feeling “fair.” I worried about my husband going on dates because being pregnant makes me feel more vulnerable than normal. My first time around, I’d also become keenly aware that I was the one doing the lioness’s share of the duty (like growing a freaking human inside of me and keeping it alive with my milky boobs). Ultimately, after discussing polyamory during the birth of our first child, we decided that adding the stress of extra romantic relationships just wasn’t a good idea while I was in such a delicate state.
And yet, here we were again: me with my wish-sized baby and he with a Thursday night date lined up with Nicky.
Nicky was a nice younger woman who was in between steady boyfriends and liked the freedom that dating a married man afforded her. They met on OKCupid, and she wasn’t looking for marriage or monogamy, just someone to go to Sounders soccer games on weekends, or hang out at the perfectly unreasonable-to-me time of 9pm (I’m already in bed asleep by then, ideally). They had been texting for weeks, and she seemed nice and normal. I was actually excited for him to meet with her in person.
“I’d feel awful for you not to meet up with her and see where it goes, because right now the baby is what, the size of a poppy seed?” I figured sometimes rules are meant to be broken. While boundaries are important, I’d suggested this particular “no-dating-while-pregnant” boundary out of a place of fear, born of all of the swirling what-ifs in my head. Now, faced with the actual experience, I felt differently. The baby inside me was so very tiny and wasn’t interfering much with our life, despite some annoying morning sickness. Why not let my husband enjoy a date?
The baby inside me wasn’t interfering much with our life. Why not let my husband date?
Well, the date happened and of course they clicked. Isn’t that the way the universe works? Over the next six months, the two of them dated casually. She sat through blisteringly hot Sounders games at the Century Link stadium, drinking beer with my husband, while I lounged in the backyard with my feet in the toddler-sized wading pool. They went to happy hour together after work on Fridays. I found my own groove, enjoying my four-year-old’s spunky independence and adjusting to a pregnancy that wasn’t leaving me as glowy sex goddess as the first time around. The presence of Nicky didn’t change anything about my day-to-day routine, and while I never met her in person, we shared many friendly text message conversations.
When I hit the seventh month mark, though, everything shifted. Suddenly, I was gut-punched with the realization that “BOOM! WE NEED A RESET.” I was suffering through nightly back and hip pain, and my husband and I just weren’t getting enough time together. I realized things needed to change. And in order to have them change, I needed to share my feelings.
I worked up some courage and laid bare my needs one night while my husband and I were putting our son to bed. “I just, I don’t know, I hate that this is how I’m feeling, but I need you more,” I choked out, nearly hyperventilating. “I’m freaking out that you’re gone, and I really don’t like that I’m not good enough for you just as I am and that you’re even wanting to date someone else and it’s just really hard and I don’t want to do this anymore, it’s totally not what I signed up for when we got married, and I just feel completely overwhelmed by it all.” Like I said, pregnancy brings out my most self-conscious, hyper-vigilant scared self. I had a primal need to hunker down. Some women nest by painting changing tables and folding tiny outfits. I nest by demanding that the whole world stop to accommodate my every needy whim.
Next, I sent off a text to Nicky: “I hate to do this, but I need Kyle to take a break from texting and such with you. We need to figure some things out.” Sweet Nicky responded in such an understanding way. “I totally get it. If I were in your position I’d do the same thing.” She was truly gracious in my time of discomfort.
Living a poly life sometimes feels harder than monogamy, but not in the way people might assume.
I’m not usually comfortable needing people, so it was incredibly vulnerable for me to tell two people exactly how I felt, and to trust that they both could rise to the occasion in their unique ways. Living a poly life sometimes feels harder than monogamy, but not in the way people might assume. It’s not about “sharing” my partner with someone else, it’s about honest and vulnerable communication with all of the people involved. When you face that fear and open up, though, it can be pretty incredible. For all parties involved.
Jenna Fox is described by her community college students as “sympathetic, but with a blunt sense of humor.” She is currently writing a memoir of adoption reunion, and podcasting about the things that annoy her. An experimental sociologist at heart, her quirkiest accomplishment was a year spent barefoot. Listen to the podcast and read her essays at www.thejennafox.com.