You know when a couple happily announces “we’re pregnant” and you cringe because they are not pregnant, only one person is pregnant (unless the couple is female and they are sporting simultaneous pregnancies, in which case, they are the best couple ever)? Well, I'm telling you to stop cringing. It’s time to stop hating on the fathers-to-be, people. Because we are failing to realize, ladies, all the painful things husbands of pregnant women deal with. Trust me, we get off way too easy with the swollen ankles, heightened sense of smell, and perpetual exhaustion. Our husbands have it so much worse.
They don’t share their pain with us, either, which only exacerbates their unfathomable discomfort. They are truly suffering in silence for the duration of those nine months, watching from the sidelines of the toilet where we’re heaving up our breakfast of saltines. Our husbands don’t want us to shift our concern from taking care of ourselves, and our growing fetuses, to taking care of them. So, like the valiant white knights they are, they keep the pain of not actually being pregnant from us. So you'll only hear the rarest, most passive-aggressive indication that, hey, this is hard for your husband, too.
They will never feel the pressure of a giant skull on their organs. They will never know the sleeplessness that comes from worrying about the 10 minutes they accidentally fell asleep on their backs. They will never have to worry if their co-workers will question their value as an employee now that the've made the life choice to become a parent. They will miss out on all these magical circumstances that only come from gestating a fetus inside your body.
So we, fellow moms, are the lucky ones. Our agony lies in our near-bursting bras, and stretches across our ever-expanding abdomens. We will never know what husbands of pregnant women deal with, and the pain of these things for them:
My body temperature definitely rose when I was pregnant. I was hot all the time. I’d put on the air conditioner, even though it was no longer summer, and direct a huge fan to blow towards the bed. This made me comfortable, while my husband froze next to me under layers of fleece.
We had one bathroom for the first 11 years my husband and I had lived together, and it wasn’t an issue until I needed to pee every other minute starting halfway through my first pregnancy. So we had to implement an “open door” policy in our apartment, as in, he needed to open the door every time I banged on it, no matter what activity he was engaged in, and forfeit the bathroom immediately. A pregnant woman’s bladder waits for no one.
I loved my body pillow, and I loved that my husband made room for it in our bed. That he was OK with squishing into the tiniest amount of mattress real estate without complaint was big on his part. The problem was, I have never reverted back to the idea of “my side” since having kids, and still regularly command most of the bed. But we have since gained another bathroom, so I think that balances everything out.
Maternity clothes can be expensive and I was not willing to invest in a whole new temporary work wardrobe when I was pregnant. That meant my empire dresses were in heavy rotation, but if I was running out of options as laundry day approached I'd reach for one of his shirts. There was a reason why I did most of his shopping before we had kids (and I had no time to pick out his clothes).
A birthing ball was high on my list of “must haves,” according to my carefully constructed birth plan. My husband made sure it was filled and ready to go at any time. It stayed behind when I went into labor and slowly deflated, never to be used. That might have hurt him more than the strain on his lungs inflating it when our air pump broke.
It was no surprise that my appetite increased when I got pregnant (after the initial all-day morning sickness waned). My husband should have prepared better, by piling more on his plate, knowing that once I was done with my meal I’d be coming for his.
Despite my desire to help my partner clean whatever’s on his plate, he still seems to be gaining weight alongside his pregnant wife. If I was hit with a cannoli craving, joining me with one of his own cravings seemed like, at least to my husband, the right thing to do. It’s a small, delicious sacrificed all partners must be willing to make as part of their commitment to being in sync as much as possible as parents.
I did not enjoy watching these, but I did it, because that was going to be me, pushing out a squashed head in a matter of weeks. The very least my husband could do was watch with me, without snarky commentary.
Before we had kids, my husband and I would put together furniture together. The more obtuse the instructions (thanks, Ikea), the closer we grew as a couple. There's nothing like teaming up to build a plywood dresser to fortify a romantic relationship.
But once I became uncomfortably pregnant and could no longer contort myself into awkward positions to reach screws at odd angles, it was all on my husband to put the baby furniture together. There might have been some cursing, but he was wise enough to mutter it out of earshot so as not to upset me, or make me worry about any leftover hardware after the bouncy seat was built.
Being pregnant can really suck, and having an understanding partner, who can mitigate the irrational blame I was throwing his way for every stupid thing that annoyed me during those uncomfortable nine months meant so much to me. Knowing I could declare that the pain of childbirth was completely my husband’s fault made me feel better, even if it was in some strange, inexplicable way. He was a champ, and smart enough to know that when our kids emerged and we fell instantly in love with them, the miracle of their existence was his “fault” too.
Let's be real: playing a game of "who has it worse?" is not worth it. Why? Because the person going through the mental, emotional, and physical labor and pregnancy and childbirth has it "worse." Always. Still, the trails and tribulations of pregnancy impact everyone. So while poking fun at our non-pregnant partners for claiming they're "suffering" during pregnancy is a pretty good time, let's encourage our partners to practice self-care too, while simultaneously asking that they remember that a woman is literally growing a human being inside her body. Instead of complaining, support her. Instead of comparing your discomfort to hers (as if there's a comparison), find a way to mitigate her uneasiness.