“Happy birthday to my better half,” is often a post I see while skimming through Facebook.
“Tomorrow I marry my better half,” is a stream of consciousness post I saw when my friends and I were in the bright-eyed engagement stage.
We’ve all heard the sentiment, but recently I’ve made an earth-shaking discovery brought upon by a second pregnancy, an unexpected hospital skin, and a very ugly sofa–I don’t have a “better half.”
To borrow from Jane Austen, I’m cursed with a conceited sort of independence. I woke up from a coughing spelling the middle of the night on Valentine’s Day. After a glass of water, I placed my hands on my belly and waited for the soft jabs of our 37-week second son. He’s usually rocking out to some Jock Jam rhythms at 1 in the morning. Strangely, I felt nothing right away. I got out of bed, got dressed, and poked my sleeping bear of a husband. I informed him that I was driving myself to the hospital and that he should go back to sleep; I planned to be back before our toddler would wake.
This is a picture of my marriage at that point, as well as how I view marriage in general.
I believed that I took care of certain things while my husband took care of others — 50/50. That fraction always made sense to me (but, full disclosure — I’m bad at math). The purging and redecorating of my toddler’s new room was my responsibility. The monitoring and health of my unborn child was my responsibility. Of course, my husband was clued in to these things, but I shouldered the brunt of “mommy duty” and typically did so without complaint.
At the hospital, I was consoled by the steady gallop of my son’s heartbeat on the monitor next to me. But soon that consolation was lost amid a very long ultrasound with poor results, a series of mounting contractions, and an unexpected diagnosis of the flu. My turn-style visit to my hospital turned into an overnight hospital stay with the small prospect of my baby coming four weeks earlier than expected.
My husband arrived soon. We were assured we were int he right place to prevent harm to the baby, so I, naturally, found other things to worry about now that the more pressing prayers had been answered.
There was still so much to do to get ready for baby, and this would surely delay it all just as the purging of the dreaded man cave and the fights over the mythical college leather sofa had delayed it. I didn’t sleep the entire night thinking about how to make my duties up after so much time spent away. I cried over how my healing for the sake of one child would be at the neglect of my other. My 50% loomed over me like a boulder.
When I arrived home, I was whisked into the guest room with fresh sheets, our tailgate flat screen propped atop a folding table, and a table full of surgical masks, rubber gloves, and my medication. From that room I could hear the rhythmic strokes of a paint roller coming from our son’s future “big boy room” intercut between a defiant toddler fighting his diaper change. My husband’s large, unsightly college sofa was gone. I realized listening to my husband do all the right pirate voices from across the hall and going back to slicing open boxes, sweeping up blocks, and more painting, that I don’t have a better half; I don’t even have a half at all. He and I are not two pieces that make a whole. My husband understands that he is one whole parent. A mommy does not make a daddy complete — daddy is complete on his own.
What my husband taught his conceitedly independent wife is that our children deserve a whole person in their parents.
This is what my single-parent friends already understand and pull off effortlessly. This is the prospect military families bravely face month-to-month. Having a partner in my life should make no difference how I approach my role not only in our family dynamic, but in other aspects of my life as well. I need to be whole for my son, not a compilation of pieces he may or may not need that day. When the days come when my body feels shattered and I’m not quite whole, I am grateful I have someone steadfastly by my side who can be what our son unconditionally deserves. He doesn’t keep track of which pieces of parenthood are his or mine.
But I might not know anyway because I was always bad at math.
Angelle Terrell is a working mom and mother of two boys. Born and raised a Ragin’ Cajun in Lafayette, Angelle moved to Baton Rouge in 2010 to pursue her career in education. After marrying her husband in 2014, she officially called the Red Stick home. Angelle has been a Social Studies teacher at St. Joseph’s Academy for nine years and operates a part-time boutique photography business–Angelle James Photography.