from “Fourth of July, 2010,” by Wiliam Henderson

My wife, Holly, is starting to appear pregnant. She enjoys being pregnant. And she enjoys breastfeeding. She breastfed our son, Avery, for twenty-seven months, and only stopped because her doctor suggested that it might have contributed to the miscarriages. She cried for a few days after hearing that something she was doing for Avery had ended life. I told her that the doctor didn’t know what he was talking about. But he probably did.

Avery calls Holly’s breasts her “owies.” When the three of us shared a bed, he would sleep in the middle, sometimes upside-down, sometimes horizontal. He rolled out of bed fourteen times in two years. Each time he rolled out of bed, I’d tell Holly that I was writing the event down in my divorce book. Even then, before D, divorce was something Holly and I discussed. An eventuality, not a possibility.

I never liked Avery sleeping in bed with us, but I wasn’t the one waking up in the middle of the night to feed him. I gave up trying to convince Holly to let Avery “cry it out.” Most nights, I’d sleep through his crying, and I’d sleep through his nursing, which happened every couple of hours. In time, Holly slept through the nursing, too. She’d sleep without a shirt on. All Avery would have to do was roll over and nurse.

Despite Holly’s attempts to stop Avery from nursing, he didn’t stop, until Holly got pregnant, and the only reason Avery stopped is because Holly made sure he knew that he couldn’t nurse anymore. But I was sleeping on the couch, and had been sleeping on the couch, and what went on in Holly’s bed—no longer our bed—was her business.

But Holly is starting to show, and sometimes I look at her and I don’t recognize her. Where have I been for the last couple of months? I know where I’ve been, and I know the man with whom I’ve spent my time, but how did Holly begin to show? And why haven’t I noticed that my child—not our child—but that my child was slowly making his or her presence known?

Holly likes being pregnant, not just because she enjoys knowing that she is growing and nurturing a child, but because when she’s pregnant, she gets to wear pants with elastic bands. Even before she needs to wear pants with elastic bands, she does.

After she lost most of the weight she gained when she was pregnant with Avery, she and I, one night, put her maternity clothes into a box.

“Should we donate them to someone?” I had asked.

“No,” Holly had said. “I’ll need them again some day.”

Even then, she knew she would be pregnant again.

If she and I hadn’t stopped having sex before Avery was born, she and I would have stopped after he was born. She didn’t like her body after Avery was born, and she probably didn’t want to deal with my not getting hard with her, because I long ago stopped getting hard with her. Fortunately, Massachusetts, where we live, requires health insurance to cover fertility treatments. We conceived our children through in-vitro fertilization. We didn’t say that our fertility problem is that I am gay, mostly because at the time Holly and I conceived our children, I wasn’t ready to say that I am gay.


William Henderson is never far from his phone, where he is often tweeting (@Avesdad) or blogging ( He is a frequent contributor to Thought Catalog, and has been published in The Rumpus, Mental Shoes, Revolution House, Specter, and Used Furniture Review, among others. He writes a bimonthly column for Hippocampus Magazine, is a regular contributor to Peripheral Surveys, and published his first chapbook, Edgeways, through NAP, in 2011.

Read more of his work and others’ in HFR 1.2, now available on Kindle and Nook! Or, please consider subscribing.

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