Let’s dispel a myth: There is no “we” in pregnancy.
I’m not sure why or when couples decided that being preggers is a two-party affair and should share the news as if they will both be hospitalized, side-by-side, holding hands as they simultaneously squeeze out potato-shaped humans in less than a year.
Beyond the superficial, there’s almost nothing remotely similar between being the one who’s knocked up and the one who did the knocking.
I speak from experience. My wife has been pregnant for the past eight months. How much of that time have I spent being pregnant? Let me do some quick calculations …
… plus two …
… carry the nine …
… divided by three-hundred-sixty-five …
… and …
None of it. I have spent none of that time pregnant.
For me, pregnancy is basically a nine-month version of survivor’s guilt. My life goes on as normal as my wife struggles with even the most mundane tasks.
I’ll take you through a typical day. Every morning, I awake from a restful night’s sleep to the sounds of my wife struggling to breathe beside me, the covers kicked down to her feet from when she either woke up sweating at 4 a.m. or had to urinate for the fourth time that night and was simply too exhausted to pull the covers back over her.
I slip quietly from the bed and tiptoe across the bedroom. Not that it matters; Mandy is far too bone-weary from having spent at least two of the six hours we’ve been in the bed struggling to fall asleep while our rambunctious offspring practices Muay Thai against her ribs to be bothered by my stirring.
No doubt, as I’m in the kitchen grinding beans for the fresh pot of coffee my wife isn’t permitted to enjoy, Mandy is stumbling half-asleep to the bathroom for her morning ritual of gagging and questioning every decision that led to this point in her life. While she’s in there, she’ll try to decide whether or not she can make it through an entire shower without falling asleep.
After a breakfast of whatever crumbs of cereal are left in the four open boxes in our kitchen, we’re both back in the bedroom getting dressed and ready for work. I’m feeling a bit lazy since it’s Tuesday and the previous day was kind of rough what with deadlines and all, so I’m rolling into work wearing one of a hundred T-shirts available to me and a pair of loose-fitting jeans. Mandy, on the other hand, will have to choose one of two outfits that still fits her, neither of which is clean because her husband had the sniffles over the weekend and just couldn’t bring himself to do laundry. Neither outfit fits comfortably at this point. I comment that I think I may have lost a little weight over the weekend; she contemplates how sympathetic a jury would find her story.
Nine hours later, we’re both at home after the day’s work is done. I complain that I had to conduct a phone interview, take two photographs, post a bunch of stuff on Facebook and write an entire column about whatever nonsense I wanted, and I’m just spent. Mandy has collapsed on the couch and so isn’t capable of complaining at all. I ask her unconscious body if she’d like me to fix dinner. She snores in response. I decide to wait until she wakes up and then ask again. I spend the next two hours snacking on whatever food remains in the house and playing video games.
At some point, she’ll wake up and stumble into the kitchen to fix herself a sandwich that she doesn’t find the least bit appetizing. It will be set to the soundtrack of me repeatedly asking, “Are you sure you don’t want me to do that for you?” while scrolling through our Netflix queue.
After supper, it’s time to start winding down. The clock strikes 8 p.m., and Mandy knows she had better start the process of getting ready for bed. She drops several subtle hints that a massage might help her relax.
“My back is killing me,” she says. Or, “My shoulders are so sore.” Or even, “This kid is really putting a strain on my legs.”
Eventually, she’ll cede to the fact that her husband of 10 years isn’t going to stop playing that pinball video game and retire to the bedroom. Ten minutes later, he’ll make his appearance.
“Hey, Mandy,” I’ll say timidly as I peep through the crack in the door. “Did you want me to rub your back?”
She’ll smile meekly and say, “That would be nice.”
I’ll respond by sighing as if she’s asked me to spend the weekend constructing a scale replica of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse out of freshly-harvested thistles.
After a laconic, ten-minute, single-handed massage, most of which I spent patting her belly trying to coax my daughter into pummeling her guts for my amusement, I’ll kiss Mandy on the cheek and ask if she’s ready for bed. She’ll relent and say, “Yes.”
It’s not because she necessarily wants to call it a night at 8:30 on a Tuesday, but because she knows if she gets out of bed now, she’ll just have to urinate another 50 times.
I turn out the light, slip from the bed and through the bedroom door. As I pull it closed behind me, I whisper to my wife, “I love you. I can’t wait to meet our little girl.”
I don’t catch her reply. I imagine it’s something about teamwork.