Valentine’s Day is over, the foil wrappers are still stuck to the bedsheets, and a heart-shaped imprint remains tattooed on your ass cheek, a hollow spot where love once resided.

The greeting cards are stuffed in drawers, and since the sun disappeared with the annual mushy missives, the flowers are wilting away on the window sill. All the red hearts, candy bags, ribbons and sparkling fonts have been removed from the store shelves and in their place has sprung up symbols representing the next step in the cycle of life — Easter, the day of Christian rebirth and Pagan egg-layers of the long-eared and lucky-footed variety, as well as all the strangely rhapsodic holiday party favors: plastic grass, pastel baskets, more and different candies, eggs of every shape and flavor, all to court the whim of fickle fertility.

Is it a coincidence that we go from celebrating the heart to honoring the egg? Seems too good to be true.

Romance, gifts and courtship set the stage for new life, and the advent of the egg secures it. We turn maudlin on love’s darling day, and face its consequences when Easter eggs drop, anxious to hatch the people our love tangles made.

Too often, romance then gets lost in production. I was 22 when my wife became pregnant, just after we’d married and before I’d ever thought we’d breed. It was a shock, a scary surprise that seemed to throw all my plans for a Bohemian youth abroad out the window.

At the same time, my lovely wife changed. I was prepared for the physical transformation, lucky as I am to be one of those men who find pregnant women sexy. It was the hormonal flux, the personality changes and somewhat wild mood swings that caught me unaware and unprepared.

These decades later, looking back, I can see how utterly I failed to be the right kind of husband. I was petulant, resentful and impatient with her condition. I felt her pregnancy was used as an excuse to justify awful behaviors and I doubted her complaints were rooted in physical reality.

I’m not proud of my ignorance, but there’s no use denying how truly awful I was.

Then came breastfeeding, and a whole new avalanche of hormones and discomfort, including a dearth of sleep and more conflict between the two of us. It wasn’t until Gabriel was weaned, some two years later, that things between the wife and I returned to some kind of normal, and even then she never quite forgot how short-sighted and selfish I had been.

Two more pregnancies followed over the next nine years, and I improved my game. Her transformation under the onslaught of chemicals and bone-deep, tectonic shifts of form were no longer a surprise to me, and with knowledge comes a little bit of restraint.

I did better, but I was far from perfect. After the babies were born, I slept through the night. She did not. I changed some diapers, she changed thousands. I kidded myself that I was a fully participating partner in the coddling of our little ones, but that was never really the case.

It wasn’t until our last child, Juniper, that I was able to shelve all of my own selfish concerns and act like a grown man.

The pregnancy was a surprise, one that came after several years of a strained relationship. Things were on the mend, but insecurities remained. Mainly, my wife wasn’t entirely sure that I’d finally grown up, and would for once take up my fair share of the slack.

Early on in the pregnancy, as I’ve mentioned in this space before, we had a scare. The doctor’s office called my work to leave a message: Something had come up in one of their tests, something possibly dire, and they couldn’t divulge any information over the phone.

We were told to come in first thing in the morning, and were left all night to imagine the horrendous possibilities. I dozed on the living room floor, cradling my wife’s hand as she writhed on the couch, both of us not really sleeping but rather running through the gamut of possible gruesome scenarios. We were scared shitless, and helpless against our own imaginations.

The next morning, we learned that due to my wife’s age — 35 at the time — our baby had a slightly higher than average chance of having Down Syndrome. We were concerned, certainly, but also relieved. This wasn’t the death sentence we’d feared, and higher risk is not a certitude.

Yet after that long night, something in me changed. I suddenly, irrevocably, understood what was at stake. Every night for the next seven months, I rubbed my wife’s feet. I coddled her, and loved her. Worshipped her as best I could, and honed my abilities to stay positive in the face of adversity.

Of all her pregnancies, this last was the most calm, and loving, period of our entire marriage. And with my increase in empathy and diligence, she was free to relax more and focus on actually making a human being.

I have friends who are just now in the process of having a baby, and the husband at times seems blind to the condition, blind to the discomfort his wife will endure. I can’t preach at him, having failed myself for so many years.

But I do advise patience, and loving-kindness. Those first few months of pregnancy see our partners at their most vulnerable, And while we have the luxury of worrying about getting what we need, they worry about this future child, their own well-being, the state of this new-fangled family, and yes — they worry whether we are even up to the task.

Step back, young men, and realize the magnitude of the task they take on: For almost 10 months, they sacrifice themselves to the slow creation of a person, with all the complex frailties and vulnerabilities that accompany this process. They worry over each small step in this grand, biological parade and try as best they can to ensure a positive outcome. for the child, themselves, and yes, even for you.

After 20 years, I realized how small my own needs really were in the face of these considerations, and learned how to pop toes like a boss.

Learn your place, men of the world, and get popping.


James Faulk is a writer living in Eureka. He can be reached at