“Are you interested in knowing if it’s a boy or a girl?” the doctor asked me curiously as he rolled the wand of cold jelly around my burgeoning belly. This was it…the most anticipated moment of pregnancy since discovering two lines on the pregnancy test. My heart was beating double-time with anticipation. I nervously looked around the room, enjoying these final seconds of the unknown, where anything could happen. But as I looked to the chair beside me, it sat empty. My husband was not there for the baby’s anatomy scan. He would miss the gender reveal.
Granted, this is our second child, and he was there for the first one. That first time, he seemed almost as elated as I was when the doctor announced enthusiastically that we were having a boy. He held my hand during the entire ultrasound, and I could feel the warmth in his hand, the quiver of excitement, and the joy of a dream becoming reality.
This time, however, he got stuck at work. Or he forgot. It’s hard to know for sure. But he’s since missed a lot of the other appointments, too. And while he physically doesn’t need to be at any of them to test or measure the baby’s progress and growth, I miss him. I feel like he doesn’t understand that just because we’ve gone through this before doesn’t mean I don’t need his support the second time around.
There are a few things my husband doesn’t understand about pregnancy — and for good reason. As much as I wish he could see things from my vantage point, it’s not realistic. I can’t expect him to know it intuitively, but I wish I had spoken up sooner as our due date comes closer to reality. Here are a few things I wish my husband, and men in general, understood about pregnancy.
Just because pregnancy comes naturally to women, this doesn’t mean it always feels natural. While women getting knocked up is the way of nature, sometimes pregnancy can feel completely unnatural, uncomfortable, and downright miserable.
Morning sickness, tremendous fatigue, and an expanding stomach that inhibits sleep, bending down, and walking with grace — none of it feels natural. The thing I miss most during pregnancy is what it feels like to be normal. I miss having the energy to chase my toddler. I miss being able to sleep through the night without constant tossing and turning, never mind the bathroom breaks. I miss being able to eat what I want without fear of heartburn or re-flux. Pregnancy may be the most natural thing in the world, but most of the time it feels very foreign.
Pregnancy is stressful. While most people aren’t overly worried about how the baby in my belly is doing, I am thinking about it all the time. It keeps me up at night. Hours without movement put me in a tailspin of worry. Every stomach cramp, gas bubble, or shooting pain immediately has me fearing the worst. Most of the time, others don’t hear about it. Why am I going to involve other people unless I know for sure something’s not right? But it happens a lot, and it’s terrifying.
Pregnancy is lonely. Aside from the anxiety and fear constantly feeding your thoughts, the moments of bliss — kicks, rolls, and hiccups — are felt alone. I’ve tried to share these moments with my spouse but timing rarely works in our favor. Besides, it’s hard to express how magical it all feels on the inside. It makes the joyful moments, as well as the fearful ones, largely my own.
I have no idea what I’m doing. I know I look confident. Since this is my second pregnancy, I even feel much more confident. But I still question everything I’m doing. Everything I eat or drink. The level of my heart rate when I exercise. The proximity to which I stand next to the guy smoking on the sidewalk. Everything feels like a hazard. One minute the doctor is telling me to take an over-the-counter medicine for headaches, and the next minute, studies are linking that medicine to developmental disorders. Friends and family are joking about my strict teetotalism, but the American Academy of Pediatrics is warning that no amount of booze is safe. Even the organic protein shake I was certain would be harmless has ingredients that my doctor doesn’t approve. This is confusing, and I’m trying to be safe and smart, but it’s hard.
There’s a cultural expectation for expecting women to maintain normalcy during pregnancy. Working up until labor is extremely common and somewhat expected for many career women. The community encourages us to keep the fast pace throughout the nine months; being overwhelmed and exhausted means we’re doing things right. So if we, as expecting women, are setting these expectations on ourselves, how are our partners to know any different?
This is probably my last pregnancy, so it’s easy for me to hold back and ride out these remaining weeks before the baby arrives. But what if we told our partners what it’s really like to be pregnant? What if they understood this is one of the most exhausting, consuming things we can put our bodies through? Maybe it would be less overwhelming. Maybe it would feel less lonely. Maybe our partners would feel more intimately involved in this magical process. And maybe pregnancy could bring couples closer together, not push them apart.
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This post was written by Celeste Erlach exclusively for BonBon Break Media LLC.