When I was pregnant with my first son, I spoke to a close friend who had given birth just a few months before. I was looking for reassurance and advice, and she told me that though having a newborn was hard, it did make her feel like she and her husband were on the same team.

A few weeks later I sat on the couch holding my newborn baby boy. I was crying. I didn’t know why. All I knew was that I didn’t feel like the person I had been before, and that my husband looked like a stranger too — one who couldn’t carry or feed our baby like I could; one who had been able to drink beer and eat deli meat throughout my pregnancy. Not that I was bitter. And as he looked back, I could tell he didn’t recognize me either.

We felt further apart than ever, with mere feet between us. Never had I felt less on the same team.

The differences persisted and became more pronounced. After our second boy was born, I cornered Jason in the kitchen one night. “You know what the deal is?” I asked him, ready to drop my truth-bomb and revolutionize gender relations. “When I had kids, I became a different person. My body changed. My hormones changed. My literal chemistry changed. And you got to be the same person you were before.”

He looked at me, incredulous, and opened his mouth to respond — probably something about sleeping less — but wisely shut it when he saw the look in my eyes, which I can only imagine was the same one in Lizzie Borden’s before she murdered her family.

Same team? Not from the vantage point of this X-tra chromosome.

I want to write about this because it matters, which makes it fraught. I want to write about this because while our world has recently outed a spectrum of male wrongdoers, guilty of everything from creepiness to repeated rape, I and most of my friends are not married to Harvey Weinsteins or Louis CKs; we are married to decent, hard-working men who provide for their families, love their children and us, and are doing their best. Yet the conversations I have with my female friends often revolve around our frustration with the men in our lives: that they don’t see us, that we need more support from them, that they don’t get our struggle, and that if they leave their dirty dishes in the sink again there will be blood.

Also, I have two sons, which is what I always wanted, so I am truly blessed to raise them. But also? Oh, shit. I have to RAISE THEM.

The good news is, I no longer sit on the couch crying for no reason. For one thing, I’ve dealt with my pre- and post-partum depression through counseling and medication, which helps. BUT. This morning, I took both of my boys to school. Easy, right? #Blessed and all, non-working mom I now am, to be able to do so. A simple logistical transaction.

It was horrible. A nightmare. Emotional Hiroshima. Not to be melodramatic. My younger son cried as soon as I made for the door and had to be held back by this teacher, who promised over Will’s screams to read him a story. I skulked out of the school alongside my older son, feeling like Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice, as he informed me it was time for us to go home and play because he hates school now. The protests continued and he sobbed as I made to leave his school, tossing a “this is horrible” to a couple of friends whose children were unsurely but un-tearfully making their own way to the classroom. James’s therapist held onto him as I hid around the corner, waiting for him to stop crying.

When I tell my husband this story later, he will agree that it’s awful. He will try to empathize. But he will have none of the emotional onslaught in his memory bank; will feel none of the maternal guilt that plagues me daily; will not analyze and agonize over whether my inability to let go of these scenes in my head is hormonally influenced, anxiety-and-depression-influenced, or it’s-just-life influenced. If I told him about this onslaught, he would probably tell me to let myself off the hook, which is a nice guy’s way of saying, “Get a grip, lady.”

He’s a good man. He just can’t get it. And this seems like really poor design, if you ask me.

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you;  through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.

What a cosmic joke, a mean trick played by a God who should have known/done better. It feels onerous, like a disease we can’t shake or an addiction we can’t quit. It poisons our marriages and frustrates our ability to understand each other across gender lines. It feels like punishment, because, well…it was. But could it also be gift?

My spirit wants to say yes while my flesh is all “SHOW ME THE RECEIPTS.” But I stumbled across some hope recently. In his Christmas Book, Martin Luther writes:

Mary was not only holy. She was also the mother of the Lord. With trembling and reverence, before nestling him to herself, she laid him down, because her faith said to her, ‘He will be the Son of the Highest.’ No one else on earth had this faith, not even Joseph, for although he had been informed by the angel the word did not go to his heart as to the heart of Mary, the mother.

Luther got it. He got that women experience the world differently: experience childbirth, and matters of the heart, and parenthood, differently. How did he do that? His wife nagged him into it, right? (Fun fact: “nag” means “to talk to.”) She forced him to sit down and listen to her talk about her feelings? Threatened to take away his beloved beer?

All good options. But I’ll take another tack, just in case. My sons have recently become enamored of being told stories “from my mouth” that either my husband or I make up on the spot with common themes: run-ins with the law, toys being stolen, emergency surgeries (our older son in particular is a bit of a worrier). Given that predisposition, and the fact that no matter how many times I ask my husband, “ARE YOU DONE WITH THESE SOCKS ON THE COUNTER?” he still leaves them there, I want to tell the boys in my life — all of them — a story.

Once there was a girl named Mom. She had always wanted to be a mom, but she was also interested in other things. So she went to school and got herself some degrees and started working. She met a man named Dad and they got married and had two boys. Once Mom had these boys, she was very confused for awhile. She was tired much of the time, and she didn’t work at her job as much, so she didn’t really feel like herself. And she didn’t always like the person she was: sometimes yelling when she didn’t want to, often crying for no reason she could think of, usually feeling splayed between two extremes of emotion. It was a twisty and turn-y way of life, especially considering that before, her life had been pretty manageable.

She loved her boys so much. Maybe even too much! Because she was so determined to take care of them and protect them that sometimes this love clouded her ability to make decisions and made it hard for her to rest in the decisions she did make. When they were away, she wanted to be with them. When she was with them, she needed a break. She wanted to both hold them closer than anything, and maybe drop-kick them off a suspension bridge. She was so worn thin by her emotions that little things started to get to her: the way Dad left his towel hanging over the shower instead of on the towel rod; the way her boys wanted extra kisses before bedtime; the way no one but her seemed to care whether the house smelled like a gorilla cage.

She began to feel very alone. Luckily, she had friends who felt the same way, and they helped each other. But she wanted her family to understand. She started talking to them about her feelings. Sometimes they understood and lots of times they didn’t. But it helped just to talk. And so Dad and her boys would talk back. It helped them see each other. She told her boys about olden times, when women never worked and instead stayed home and made every meal from scratch and kept the house clean all day and the men came home and were handed a drink and checked out for the rest of the night. The boys thought this sounded great! SHE SAID IT WAS NOT. Not unless that was what these women wanted, of course, and that if one day her boys met women who truly enjoyed that kind of life then that would be fine, but that also they would know how to make their own damn sandwiches. Dad was listening nearby and laughed but was also a little scared.

Mom told her boys about all the things she felt: that she worried about whether they were happy, that she woke up at 3am most mornings wondering whether she had picked up their lunch food from the grocery store or signed their permission slips. She told them that, much like Oskar Schindler, she felt she was never doing enough. That the things she said in anger that upset them kept her awake and left her beating herself up for…well, years now, with no end in sight. She told them about how she had been on the end of some bad Bible teaching that left her and a lot of girls confused about what it meant to be a good wife and mother, but that she was pretty sure that if a verse said men were supposed to love their wives like Christ loved the church then they had their work cut out for them because that means BEING WILLING TO DIE, which sounds a lot harder than ironing a shirt.

She told them the story of their births, each of which involved months of discomfort and complications and ended with surgery and blood and that ever-present mixture of pain and joy. She told them that women carry life and food and space in their bodies and those spaces, once occupied, are never fully vacated. That some women never even get to use their spaces, which carries its own unspeakable grief.

She told them she had been mistreated by men before, and that she and her dad would teach them so they would never do this to a woman. She told them that if God saw fit to bring the Savior of the world through a girl, then didn’t they think pay equality was a no-brainer?

She told them she would never love anyone on this earth more than them and their father, but that sometimes part of love is feeling insane, and breaks are needed. She told them to stop interrupting her on the toilet. She told them she dreaded beyond description the day she would no longer be with them. And that it also sounded like a break.

She told them that love, and women, are complicated, but that God made both, and them too, and that somehow this is all a gift. Looking at their confused expressions, she told them she didn’t get it either.

They asked how the story ended, and she told them that at some point there would be a great big party; other than that, she wasn’t sure. But that maybe they could all find out together.