Anyone who's been pregnant can tell you that the experience changes you. Your body, your brain, your emotions, and your priorities all endure drastic adjustments. It can be amazing, horrible, exciting, scary, intense, delightful, sad, painful, and hilarious. And sometimes all at the same damn time. How you feel about yourself also changes, and that modification isn't always positive. If you have a partner, there are things they can't possibly understand, and honestly, there are some things a pregnant woman shouldn't have to explain to her partner. For real.
Pregnant people literally grow human beings inside their bodies, but that doesn't stop our culture from criticizing their bodies and policing their behavior. Sometimes, whether they recognize it or not, our partners do the same, too. Whether it's via condescending passive aggressive comments, to obvious and unkind critiques, to how they respond to our ever-changing needs, even our favorite people can fail to support us pregnant people the way we need to be supported. When our non-pregnant partners question whether or not we should be eating or doing something or express unhappiness with our changing bodies, libido, mood, abilities, or routine, they send a clear message: that we are not good enough. Yeah, that's not OK.
When my now ex-husband demanded to know why I didn't want to have sex with him — because "isn't pregnancy supposed to make you horny?" — it made me feel both abnormal and coerced. I am sure that he was frustrated, but I was vomiting multiple times a day and did not feel like having sex. End of story. My current husband is not free from fault, either. He has gently questioned if it was OK for me to work out, and even asked my doctor when I could hit the gym at a pre-natal appointment. If looks could kill, he may not have survived.
There are so many things you can learn about your relationship during pregnancy. Together, you and your partner overcome serious stress, a few gross moments, and a plethora of petty arguments. If your partner is able to get past the changes in you, your relationship, and your needs during pregnancy, you might just grow closer together. If they can't, well, the least they can do is stop asking you to explain the following things every pregnant women experiences:
I can't describe pregnancy to someone who's never experienced it. Plus, every single one of my pregnancies have been different. For me, growing a human being inside my body is amazing, wonderful, and a little creepy. I mean, feeling a fetus move inside you is kind of, um, strange.
Pregnancy is also painful. I've had babies kick me in the diaphragm, ribs, bladder, and cervix. I've felt intense exhaustion, nausea, gas, constipation, and soreness. Yeah, I didn't really want to talk about these things with anyone, including my partner. And even if I did, I couldn't describe them adequately.
I know that change is hard, but seriously, a pregnant person's likes, dislikes, needs, wants, desires, and abilities might change on a daily basis. So yeah, while I get that it might have been hard to figure me out, I could have done without the constant questioning or comments like, "But you could do that yesterday?" or, "I thought you liked that." When a pregnant person (or anyone really) says what they want or don't want, just trust them. They are the expert.
Sensitive is pretty much the best word to describe my physical and emotional state during pregnancy. I was emotionally sensitive — crying at the drop of a hat or taking offense at perceived slights — and physically sensitive — my boobs hurt so bad at times that I couldn't wear a bra, and I smelled everything, including myself — so I didn't need to be touched or the punchline of a joke.
Pregnancy definitely changed my sex life. Sometimes it meant I wanted all of the sex, and other times it meant that I probably would have been OK with never having sex again. And sometimes I felt both on the same day. Then I was put on bed rest, so I couldn't have sex at all for the rest of my second pregnancy.
So yeah, if a pregnant person tells you that they don't feel like sex, that should be the end of the conversation. It's not cool to continue to beg, question, or attempt to coerce them. Just stop.
Comments about my body were entirely unwelcome when I was pregnant. Most of the time, it felt like people were trying to make conversation, but it felt so objectifying. When it came to my partners, their words seriously hurt. Sometimes even attempts at compliments — like telling me how much bigger my pregnancy boobs were — hurt. See also, comments about my libido, mood swings, belly, or pregnancy cravings. It made me feel like I was under a microscope, but whenever I tried to explain how the aforementioned all felt, my now ex-husband would call me "too sensitive" and dismiss my feelings.
My pregnancies really did a number on my self-esteem and already existing body-image issues. I tried to explain to my partner how I felt, but it just ended up making me feel worse. He would say things like, "Why can't you see how beautiful you are?" or, "You should love your pregnant body. It's amazing." Hearing him say these things didn't change the way I felt, though. Can I just say that it's not cool to tell someone how to feel about their body? It's so invalidating.
Sometimes, pregnancy is terrifying. If you consult any pregnancy book (or the internet) about your pregnancy symptoms, rarely do you find reassurance. Most of the time, you end up thinking you're having a miscarriage.
Unfortunately, when your partner tries to apply logic to a situation or tells you that everything will be OK, their comfort isn't always appreciated. The thing is, logic and empathy are two different things. So, instead of mansplaining or "non-pregnant partner-splaing" pregnancy symptoms to your pregnant partner, try saying, "I know you're scared, let me know if you want to talk about it, or call the doctor."
Whether it was because my request was super bizarre, I was hungry after throwing up for weeks, or he thought that I wasn't supposed to have a food or beverage during pregnancy, I really didn't appreciate having to explain why I wanted to eat or drink something during pregnancy, especially to my partner. Now, I understand that there are foods that could be dangerous for me to consume during pregnancy. However, those conversations are for me and my doctor. Never get between a pregnant person and a food they want to eat, and don't ask them to explain their meal.
So yeah, I needed extra help to keep our family and household going when I wasn't able to contribute at the same level I could prior to procreating. There were plenty of things my partner was used to me doing that I couldn't do while pregnant, but when he questioned my abilities or if I really needed him to do something extra (like the dishes or dinner prep), it made me want to scream.
I know my partner cared about me and our baby, but it was infuriating when he constantly asked me to justify or explain what I wanted to do with my body during my pregnancy. It really wasn't his job. I ran, taught cycling and yoga, lifted weights, and endured his lectures about safety. I was not a delicate flower, my OB-GYN was on board, and he shouldn't consider himself an officer in the pregnancy police, regardless.
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