Greg Bruce on surviving his wife’s third pregnancy.

My wife began this pregnancy, as she had begun her two previous pregnancies, with extreme nausea, with her body in various states of disarray on the couch in the morning, actively rejecting her breakfast, her attitude toward me very, very negative.

The dominant sound from this period was of her groaning and criticising me; the most notable sight was her slithering to the toilet.

Her first pregnancy had been marked by her shock at the consistent violence of the nausea that accompanied it, and her second pregnancy had been marked by her disbelief that she was putting herself through it again. With both of those pregnancies, though, I had been working from home and was therefore able to help buffer her through the bulk of the horror of the mornings until she was relatively able to face the day.

Third time around, though, I have a job to go to, so I have no choice but to wake her up at 6.30am, hand over her breakfast and our two children, who have by that time often already razed the living room into an incredibly primitive state and who are, by then, often engaged in a loud, violent struggle for a toy neither of them have shown any interest in for weeks, and I say, "Okay, I'm going to have a shower."


She was 38 weeks and six days pregnant - "38 and six" as you say once you've done this a few times - when she asked me what I was writing about these days.

"About your pregnancy, about waiting for number three," I told her.

"Are you?" she said, suspiciously. "You kept that very quiet."

I hadn't kept it quiet; I just hadn't revealed it. Those are quite different things.

"What makes you think I'd want to keep it quiet?" I asked.

"I don't imagine I'm going to come off very well," she said.

Here's my understanding of how time works when you're a pregnant mother-of-two: there is the brutal, timeless horror of the morning; there's the endless, droning boredom of the afternoon, there's the infinity of the nine nauseous months, and there's the occasional split-second premonition of your post-pregnancy life as a mother of three, which, while being intimidating in its demands, looks a lot like sweet relief.

Here's how time works when you're the working husband of a pregnant mother-of-two: you walk out the door at 7.25am every weekday morning, hours and hours of freedom ahead of you, and you wave goodbye to your two beautiful children on your front deck, alongside the forlorn figure of your wife, looking as sad and desperate as you have seen her since this time yesterday, and then you prepare for the texts.

They typically sound like this one, sent at 8.19am a few weeks ago: "F***ing terrible morning. Everyone crying and fighting! Clara bit Tallulah really badly. Aaaaaargh!"

They sound like this, from 1.43pm the same day: "F*******! Clara slept for 30 mins!!!! Kill me, kill me now!"

And they sound like this, after I had suggested she try to put Clara back to sleep.

"I tried that, douchebag!"

There are themes to the texts that correlate roughly with the time of day they're sent. The morning is usually about the screaming and sibling conflict, while the middle of the day is about health (shortness of breath, nausea, back pain, bad knees, the never-ending need to go to the toilet) and basic household maintenance issues.

Around 3pm, which is around three hours before I get home, we start to cross over into what I've come to refer to as "The Pleading Hour", which sounds like this:

January 19, 5.13pm: "You should know everyone is screaming and crying!"

January 26, 5.09pm: "I hope you're nearly home, I'm over it! X"

January 27, 4.14pm: "You should just come home now! Start the long weekend early?! X"

January 31, 5.04pm: "Times are tough!"

February 3, 4.08pm: "Probably about time to call it a day, eh?"

February 13, 6.03pm: "What train are you on?"

February 17, 3.03pm: "I think you should come home now!"
3.44pm: "Feeling wretched!"
4.29pm: "Are you nearly home?"

In response to this last barrage of messages, I replied with a joke about how I was planning to be home by 6.30, which would have been about 20 minutes later than usual.

"That's not funny!" she wrote. "I am feeling genuinely awful." She followed that up by sending me a cartoon she'd found, headlined "THE PHONE CALL OF DREAD". A stick man is on the phone saying "Sorry darling, the meeting ran over so I'll be 15 minutes late ... " His stick wife, legs crumpled beneath her, eyes dots of furious red, one hand on the phone, the other clutching her head in desperation, is saying "you absolute bastard", while one child hangs from the light fitting and the other stands on the cat.

If I was supposed to buy that as an analogy, I didn't. We don't even own a cat.

Pregnancy involves a long, slow build-up of pressure, but - with no definitive end point - its last few weeks can become a horror show of uncertainty. Because she knows the baby could come any day now, and she so desperately wants the pressure on her body eased, Zanna's days become ever longer, so that each day for her is now the length of several full-term pregnancies, and growing exponentially in length each day.

You're waiting for a life-changing moment, which you know could come any day - any minute! - but it also feels so far away that it's hard to believe it will happen at all. You know it's going to explode in your face, you know things will never be the same, you keep trying to get ready for the new state of things, but you know from the experience of the births of your two previous children that you can't, that no matter how hard you try, things will just keep getting away from you, that they will always be just out of your grasp. You try to learn to live with that.

When she is 39 weeks pregnant - and, in truth, for some time prior - it is only your practical use to your wife as a doer of jobs and bringer of her things that appears to sustain your relationship at all, or at least her interest in it.

The hardest parts are not those times when she's outwardly hostile to you, when her eyes are those furious red dots, because you know objectively that those things are the result of the cruel bundle of activities taking place in her body. The hardest times are when you can feel her trying so hard to be nice, and utterly failing.

I have learned surprisingly little about pregnancy and childbirth over the last four or so years, but throughout my life I have always had a good sense of when it's time to panic.


Throughout it all, your role is to just hang in there, clinging on, praying for the end.

It's not right to say the last days of pregnancy are hell - they're more like purgatory.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

But wait ... More waiting.

39 and one, 39 and two, 39 and three, four, five. How many more such numbers must go by before we will be able to get on with our lives?

When will the waiting end and life begin?

I got the text message at 6.54pm. I was tidying up the lounge and she was lying in bed with our 3-year-old, trying to get her to sleep: "I'm having some cramps," she wrote. "It's probably nothing, but just so you know."

I knew all right. This was classic Zanna: downplaying the things she knows I'm most frightened of. It was also, almost word for word, the precise phrasing she had used when she had gone into labour with our two previous children.

I immediately started prepping the toilet bag that had been semi-packed for a few weeks already. I texted her back and asked what we still needed to pack. I asked how far apart the "cramps" were.

After a few minutes, she came out and lay on the couch. I felt her tummy. It was definitely tightening. I have learned surprisingly little about pregnancy and childbirth over the last four or so years, but throughout my life I have always had a good sense of when it's time to panic.

We put a relaxing musical comedy on television and made occasional jokes about having a baby in the morning. It may have just been me making the jokes, it's hard to remember: the adrenalin.

"I'm not ready!" I thought, panicking.

That was eight days ago.