The changes in a romantic marriage caused by parenting children start running rampant during pregnancy.
by Simon Hodgson
The French have a word for it. They always do. Ménage à trois – it sounds rich, complicated, continental. The English equivalent, “three in a bed,” hardly conveys the hurt, the humiliation, the sheer diminishing of sheet space that resulted when a single, softly-padded delivery from UPS turned our marital bed into a three-way. My wife, Fitzsimmons, 27 weeks pregnant and struggling to sleep, had purchased online an enormous pillow. Even though our son is now a toddler, the memories are indelible—for so it happened that in her third trimester and the third year of our marriage, my wife betrayed me for a Snoogle.
For those of you yet to experience this Benedict Arnold of bedding, a Snoogle is a six-foot-long pillow shaped a little like a horseshoe. Fitzsimmons was delighted with her purchase, which bolstered her back, thighs, neck and belly, and doomed my sleep. As I lay awake on my plank of mattress, I divorced my mind from the pneumatic pretzel separating me from my wife, and closed my eyes to the irony that it was shaped like a good-luck charm. The mid-town area of our bed, that be-duveted borderland for which I’ve fought for years, was ceded to the Snoogle. It was the Sudetenland of our marriage.
What hurt more was that she was already winning the mattress battle. In the first two trimesters, I surrendered three of our four (regular) pillows and two-thirds of the bed. With every week of pregnancy, my beautiful and ever more treacherous wife expanded her territory. I’d sneak out an arm, plotting to regain elbow room under the pretext of kissing her, but she’d stretch an instinctive leg to annex another square foot of duvet. It was troubling; she was very intuitive. It was like playing Risk against Kissinger.
Of course, the rules are different for pregnant women. A woman who’s expecting expects more space, everyone knows that, even me. But this anatomical expansion wasn’t about physics, but psychology. It was as if Fitzsimmons wanted to occupy the bed, to control it. One night, when I overstepped my boundaries and ventured too close to the Snoogle, she drop-kicked me in the sacrum. Rubbing my back, I suggested that she sleep a little further away, like, Philadelphia. She pointed a toe towards the couch, snuffled menacingly, and turned over.
Gazing at the darkened ceiling, I thought of the words of our obstetrician, Dr. Fang: “Always sleep on your side.” After we returned from the medical center six weeks ago, Fitzsimmons seized on that statement as an excuse to steal one of my pillows as a bolster for her back. I countered by arguing that Dr. Fang had forgotten to include the italics in her advice. What she meant was: “Always sleep on your side.”
Despite the fact that my wife had clearly twisted Dr. Fang’s words to gain an advantage in the Snoogle stakes, I held no grudge against our obstetrician, who has always been a font of good sense. When Dr. Fang was originally recommended, I thought of Penelope Pitstop cartoons and looked forward to a villain with a waxed moustache and shoes with gold buckles. Our Dr. Fang is female, friendly, and unassailably smiley. When Fitzsimmons allocated me a new task, to select a pediatrician, I scanned the Yellow Pages hoping to find a Dr. Hooded Claw.
One night the Snoogle whacked me on the head as Fitzsimmons turned over. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have bothered me, but I was already squeezed into an eighth of the bed. Still half asleep, I tried to reclaim my position, but the Snoogle was firmly ensconced and I was dimly awakened to another thorny third trimester problem. Our physical dynamics had shifted. Normally I could softly shovel her backwards; she’d be all snuffly and pliable and think I was cuddling. By the time she realised my treachery, I’d regained half the bed and she was fast asleep. Now however, not only did I have the Snoogle to contend with, but my wife nearly outweighed me.
As I pondered that night which buttock to balance on my section of mattress, I wondered how on earth she’d reached this state. Then the doughy mass of the Snoogle jabbed me in the tailbone and I remembered what she ate for eight straight weeks. Milk, rice, bread, pasta, cheese, and chicken. White food only, she called it the Marin Diet. She’d always been fond of carbohydrates, but I never expected to be betrayed for an upholstered bagel.
Still, at least her diet was recognizable. Dr. Fang told us about pregnant women who got strange cravings for ashes, soap, clay, or coffee grounds. The medical phenomenon is called Pica after the Latin name for magpie, the bird that will eat anything.
Happily, I also like colorless food, so we ate breakfast and supper together, while Fitzsimmons padded her regimen with nine bowls of cornflakes at unpredictable hours. For a while, I’d wake up at three in the morning. Even allowing for the Snoogle, the bed felt spacious. In the dark, my body stretched out and encountered nothing but warm duvet, while my mind dimly wondered where my wife had gone. Then from the kitchen I’d hear the familiar rattle of Kellogg’s.
One memorable night, I put my mind to the taxing problem which had consumed far more brilliant men. Theodore Roosevelt, Otto von Bismarck, Alexander the Great, empire builders who’d dreamed of territory. They had it easy. Imagine if old Alexander had wrestled with a Snoogle; he’d never have razed Babylon, let alone raised babies. Was the Snoogle my Gordian Knot? It was all too much. I lay my head on my last remaining pillow and, as my mind whirled with pica-resque plans and Latin bird names, my wife began to snore.
Snoring is part of the small print of pregnancy. Those clauses at the end of the marriage licence that no one reads, all the way past the indemnity sections on sickness and the sexy bits about “I Do” and garter belts. I didn’t know exactly why pregnant women snored, whether it was because the baby put pressure on the lungs or stifled the nasal passages. All I knew is that Fitzsimmons could now snore like a brontosaurus.
Brute strength didn’t shift the snorer, so I picked up a hardback copy of Orhan Pamuk’s Snow for leverage. This would do the trick. This heavyweight novel, imbued with weight and wisdom, would be exactly what I needed to slide under the Snoogle, then deftly ease my wife across the bed. But I couldn’t get sufficient purchase. Pamuk might have a Nobel Prize but he was unusable as a household tool. I imagined writing back-cover blurb for his next novel: “Pamuk’s analysis of Istanbul Islamicism glitters with brilliance, though his book is impracticably heavy and woeful for wife-sliding.”
Meanwhile, Foghorn Fitzsimmons was getting louder, and in all the exertion, I’d lost the book somewhere under the Snoogle. Perched on an isthmus of mattress and penned in my padded cell, I felt thwarted and ridiculous. Instead of putting my faith in italics and Islamic novelists, I should have been negotiating territory. As the snoring intensified, our bedroom seemed like an echo chamber, a gigantic eardrum. Could anyone else hear this? I imagined Richter scales spiking across San Francisco, alarm bells ringing along the San Andreas Fault. Gideon blew down the walls of Jericho with less volume. Now I was more awake than a 6-year-old on Christmas morning. This had to stop. I poked Fitzsimmons in the kidney.
“No. Was I?”
Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, the little anaconda. She huffed twice and turned around in the dark, adjusting the Snoogle to reveal six pale inches of mattress as well as the missing Pamuk. I put the book back on the table beside our bed, shifted into the demilitarised duvet zone and listened to Fitzsimmons’ breath rising and falling as she slipped wordlessly into dreams I imagined full of cornflakes and magpies.
Simon Hodgson is a reader, writer, editor, and dad. Born in Scotland, he now lives in San Francisco with his wife and son.
Photo by Leachco, creator and manufacturer of the patented Snoogle® Total Body Pillow