What Makes a Man Forget His Wife Exists — After the Baby is Born?

After thirty-four years, I’m still wondering if I could have done anything to change the outcome

Wendy Cohan

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Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Here’s the case study: A happily married couple who has dated for four years, have a lovely non-shotgun wedding, followed by a baby a year later. Both parents are near thirty, not scared teenagers. The pregnancy was uncomplicated and almost delightful, if one can use that word to describe nine months of growing another human. In my third trimester, I was incredibly happy and content and full of creativity. How could that could have been off-putting? The delivery was textbook and no one was harmed in the process. Our son was born at the optimum weight with a near-perfect Apgar, and he went on to do everything on schedule, as if he’d read one of T. Berry Brazelton’s baby books in utero. Everything should have been just peachy.

I wasn’t demanding, or upset, or traumatized after the birth — I just needed to sleep for a few hours since I’d labored all night. When I woke up, I was alone: No baby, no flowers, no husband. He’d gone home to sleep, too. I trundled down to the nursery to retrieve my baby boy, stat! When my husband came back, he didn’t greet me warmly, hug me, or ask how I was feeling. Avoiding all eye contact, he just picked up the baby and held him against his chest, and studiously ignored me for the rest of the evening.

Of course, I asked him what was going on, but I didn’t receive any answers, because in his new world, I did not exist. After two weeks of the strange silent treatment and pretending that I didn’t exist — I began to give up hope. But there was one thing I really wanted: I asked him if could please take a photo of me with the baby. I’d taken plenty of him with the baby, including right in the hospital room. But I hadn’t had one yet, and I really wanted one. Getting him to take one was an ordeal that I can still remember. He just wouldn’t, and I couldn’t understand why. Why didn’t he want a photo of his wife and child, together? Then, a few postpartum hormones kicked in, or I was finally, justifiably hurt, and I started to cry. As soon as I started, I couldn’t stop.

I was crying for much more than the absent mother-and-baby photo. I was crying for the loss of

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Wendy Cohan

Author of character-driven women's fiction, short stories, and essays. Her contemporary romance, The Renaissance Sisters, debuted May 23, 2023.