All too often I hear couples that are expecting a baby announce, or let slip in conversation, that they are, in fact, expecting a baby. “We’re pregnant,” they say, with a little squeeze or a hug, and smile as they look into each others’ eyes for a brief second, sharing a bond that only they can know, while a cashier waits a beat before asking if they collect Air Miles, and want a plastic bag for the Anusol, Doritos, and pickled onions they dashed out to the pharmacy at midnight to buy.
Great news. Couldn’t be happier. But you don’t need a bag for three things, and I too am at said pharmacy, waiting in line, so hurry up and get going. It’s late, and my own pregnant wife is also craving Doritos.
There are differences between a couple having a baby, and a couple being pregnant. While both soon-to-be parents are changing, those changes are not the same.
The main difference is that, while I may be indulging in a few more Doritos and pickled onions than I usually would, and have noticed a slight increase in my midriff, it is nothing compared to that of my wife. This is in large part because I don’t have an actual human being growing inside me.
You see, I am not also pregnant. I do have things growing in my stomach: excitement, anxiety, flora, and maybe the odd parasite. No kids, though. No fetus, no placenta.
Yet people keep saying it: “It might be a little soon, but…we’re pregnant!” Cue screams and high-fives all around.
Maybe the idea is that there is a sharing of both the good and the bad during this time. “We’re pregnant, we’re going through this together.” It’s true that we will be having a baby together (the good), but let’s face it, the majority of the “having” involves extraction through extreme means (the bad), and will not physically effect me beyond a severely squeezed hand (also bad). My vagina will not be stretched to its limits (good), because I don’t have one.
It could be argued that this is all just semantics. Having a child is a life-long experience for both parents. The fact that the actual, physical act of giving birth is down to one of us is really just a sliver of time in our lives. But what a sliver.
And it’s not just the whole birth/stretching of private parts/potential complications and surgeries etc. that set mother apart from father. There is a bond that, whether fathers want to admit it or not, is always there between a child and their mother. Sure, I have seen this bond blossom into an explosive cocktail of anger and resentment, but it’s there nonetheless.
This isn’t to suggest that fathers don’t have their own bond with their children, because they certainly do. It’s just that, due to the pre-existing bond between mother and child, which is more symbiotic, fathers are usually able to engage the “go ask your mother” protocol, as clearly that bond is traditionally seen as taking precedent. And, of course, at some point father and child become one in the same; it’s her sand box, we’re all just playing in it, kicking sand around and making a mess that we’ll have to clean up later. Except, of course, we won’t clean it up “properly,” and she’ll just have to do it again anyway.
But I digress.
So, in closing: while I’m not trying to preach to anyone, think twice before announcing that the two of you are pregnant. The two of you are having a child together, for sure, but only one of you can bend over and pick things up.
Note: While this post is about expectant parents in a relationship, I am not suggesting that only people in that situation will experience the joys and frustrations of having and raising children. People from all backgrounds, orientations, and status can make great parents, and may find some truths in here as well.