*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
When my mother was pregnant, nothing was off-limits.
My mother wistfully saw other pregnant women being pampered by their husbands, but she was not among them. My father expected her to be the perfect housewife, cooking, cleaning, washing his clothes, and ironing his shirts no matter how sick she felt.
"How many other women would get up at the crack of dawn while pregnant and cook while having morning sickness?" my mother asked me. "No one."
My father never took pity on her and said, "You are feeling sick and nauseated, so I'll pick up something for dinner tonight," or "You've done enough for the day. Let me clear the table and wash the dishes."
Instead, he expected my mother to do everything.
My mother should have pampered herself if no one else would do it for her, but she just wanted to please her husband. She was young when she got married; she was only nineteen when she gave birth to her first child. My mother just wanted to please my father, no matter what it took, and he was very hard to please.
My mother gave birth to her first child in the dead of winter. It was early February in New England. So it was freezing. She told me about the morning when she went into labor.
When my mother told my father it was time for her to go to the hospital, he told her that their stove was almost out of kerosene. "Go down to the cellar and fetch the kerosene for the stove so the house doesn't get cold while you're gone," he told her. "You know you won't be able to carry kerosene right away after you come home from the hospital."
My mother had to carry kerosene in three-gallon cans from the basement to the third floor. That's how my parents heated their home, kerosene.
In retrospect, my mother should have gone to the hospital to give birth without fetching kerosene to keep my father warm in her absence. He was an able-bodied man and more than capable of carrying the kerosene himself, but he was so spoiled and entitled that the idea probably didn't even occur to him.
"Here's what I should have said," my mother told me. "'You can carry your own kerosene to keep you warm. I'll be nice and warm and comfortable at the hospital with your newborn baby. Thank you very much.'"
Instead, she stumbled down three flights of stairs to the dimly lit cellar and retrieved a three-gallon can of kerosene that she carried up to their third-floor apartment before my father would drive her to the hospital to have her first baby. It was a boy.