It's no surprise that pregnancy comes with an array of difficult, confusing, and even surprising questions. If you're the non-pregnant part of a couple, there can be even more questions, especially if you're a cisgender man, meaning you've never had a uterus or vagina or breasts or female hormones. I'm not a cisgender man, but I imagine that being one makes it a bit harder to imagine what a body goes through during pregnancy and the toll it can take physically and emotionally. You should feel free to ask all of your questions — all of them — but there is definitely one question all grown-ass men ask their pregnant partner.
Of course posing the most commonly asked questions is worthwhile. "Is it safe to have sex while pregnant?" and "What are normal pregnancy symptoms?" and "How do you write a comprehensive birth plan?" are just a few of the many questions that will follow a positive pregnancy test. However, there's one question all grown-ass men must ask their pregnant partner; a question that is often over-looked, or even stifled by a palpable social pressure to adhere to specific life choices, but definitely one that must be asked:
Are you sure this is what you want?
Pregnancy is taxing, labor and delivery is demanding and parenthood is life-changing. There isn't a woman in the world who should be forced to enter into a pregnancy, planned or otherwise, by a demanding family member, by a culture that continuously strips women of their abortion rights, or by a partner who wants a family so badly they're blind to the needs and wants of their pregnant partner. Even if you're planning a pregnancy and you eventually procreate, second-guessing yourself and your partner and your relationship and your collective ability to be good parents is normal, natural, and worth discussing. That can only happen if you ask your partner if pregnancy is something they truly want to experience.
If it's an unplanned pregnancy, this question is more important than ever. Motherhood is such an empowering, difficult, beautiful, terrifying, fantastic and exhausting life choice; one that should be made by that one pregnant or soon-to-be pregnant or possibly pregnant woman, and that one woman alone. No one is qualified to make that decision for her, so asking your pregnant partner if pregnancy is what she really wants isn't just smart and kind and humane, it's also necessary.
A predominantly patriarchal society pushes motherhood on all women, packaging procreation as an inevitable life-choice that should be made with excitement and joy and zero second-guessing. Motherhood isn't the end-all-be-all, however, and many women choose not to have children, cannot have children, or have children at a particular moment that our culture has deemed "inappropriate" (i.e. young mothers, single mothers, older mothers, etc). Out-dated yet, somehow, still powerful social constructs have successfully (and sadly) forced women into stifling their very real feelings about child bearing, like; sometimes it's horrible and sometimes you don't want to do it and, yes, sometimes you physically/emotionally/financially cannot do it as adequately as one should or as you would like to.
Which is why we need to stop and ask women what they want and, more importantly, trust them to make their own life-changing decisions by respecting their choices. We, as a society, need to take the time to listen to women and the valid responses they have to something as awe-inspiring and challenging and overwhelming as motherhood. And that, of course, starts with personal partnerships and romantic relationships.
And just because a woman is in a steady relationship, already has children, is married, is of a certain age or is financially stable, doesn't mean she's ready or willing or able to have a child. In fact, 61% of women who terminate a pregnancy have at least one child. Regardless of what our society might consider the "perfect time" or "perfect situation" to have a baby, the only person who truly knows whether or not a pregnancy is a good idea, is the person who is pregnant. She is the only individual who can say if the timing is right, if the situation is perfect, and if she is truly ready to embark on a long 40+ week and 18+ year journey.
It's not safe to assume a woman is ready to become a mother, just because she's married. It's not safe to assume a woman is ready for pregnancy, just because she's financially independent. It's not safe to assume a woman wants a baby, just because she's in a healthy relationship. It's not safe to assume at all, so you must simply ask.
I, for one, can tell you that when I found out I was pregnant and my partner asked me if this was what I truly wanted, I knew that my answer wouldn't only be accurate, it would be truthful. Mostly because, I had answered that question before and my response had been, "No." I had an abortion before I became a mother, a decision that aided not only a future choice, but made me a better parent when I was ready and able to become one. And throughout every pregnancy complication, labor pain and postpartum difficulty I experienced before, during and after the birth of our son, I knew I was as prepared as possible because my choice to become a mother was just that: my choice. My partner asked me what I wanted, listened to what I needed and respected my ability to make an informed and steadfast decision.
Women are better mothers when they have a say in when they become one. While family planning should be just that, planning with a present or potential family, the pregnant or soon-to-be pregnant partner should feel safe and comfortable in sharing her fears, second-guesses and even resentments when it comes to pregnancy and parenthood. That can't happen if she isn't asked what she really, truly wants. That can't happen if she isn't given a platform to voice her concerns, her wishes, her future plans that don't involve children but potentially could, and anything and everything that crosses her mind when two parallel lines show up on that pee stick.
Every grown-ass man is going to know that when it comes to pregnancy, labor, delivery and parenthood; you must ask the pregnant partner what they truly want. You must ask them if pregnancy is really what they're interested in experiencing. You must listen to their answers, regardless of what those answers may be or what you personally think or how they may contradict your unique wishes.
Honestly, isn't that the goal of any partnership? To give your significant other the chance to express themselves without fearing judgement, shame or rejection? If not, it should be, and when your partner has found out they're pregnant, they need the chance to voice their unabashed feelings (arguably) more than ever before.