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I’ll start by saying that my experience with pregnancy is entirely eyewitness. The bulk of what I know about being pregnant has been relayed to me directly from my wife, who has already made it through one pregnancy and is currently 20 weeks into incubating our second baby.
For a combined 14 months I have watched her bear the ups and downs of pregnancy through the gestation of 1.5 children. I have been there every step of the way, from the constipation-addled woes of the first trimester, through the hormonal highs of the second and at the sweaty, bloody, grunty, and eventually awe-inspiring delivery of our first-born.
In each of those phases, I have watched – and helped, to the best of my abilities – my wife shoulder her share of pregnancy-related burdens. She has described to me in detail the difficulties of her experience every step of the way, so while some inequitable turn of evolution has prevented me from actually being able to bear a child, I am intimately familiar with how damn hard it is.
According to the internet, these are supposed to be tears of happiness.
While we were both aware that being pregnant would include many hardships for her, it was still a sad realization when my wife and I had to admit that pregnancy is not entirely the glorious miracle the books and blogs have told us it’s supposed to be. While highlights such as baby's first kicks provide a brief reprieve from all the reproductive unpleasantness, it's still overall a pretty bad time. It’s stressful and exhausting on a physical, mental and emotional level, and I don’t think I’d be putting words in my wife’s mouth if I said it’s really not all that enjoyable.
In fact, on behalf of my wife, I declare that pregnancy sucks. It sucks hard. Just by putting those words in print, I'm probably inviting some sanctimonious digital mob to set up camp in the comments section. For the record, I get that conceiving a child is a blessing. What I don’t get is how a marathon runner can complain about how difficult her training is and get immediate support from her peers, but a woman complaining about going through something infinitely harder is somehow taboo and worthy of criticism.
As best I can understand, complaining makes my wife feel as if she is somehow being perceived as unappreciative of the life growing in her womb. She feels the need to footnote even the slightest disapproval of the process with a "but I'm so blessed" or "but it's all worth it." It’s akin to Mommy Guilt, and it may even be the earliest stage of it. But here’s the thing about Mommy Guilt: I’m not a mommy, so I don’t have any.
We just have a truckload of Daddy Guilt in the delivery room instead.
Because of that, I'm lucky to have the perspective of an objective observer of my wife’s two pregnancies, collecting and analyzing information like some sexy, foot-rubbing scientist. After watching her body put her through this burdensome miracle twice, I can’t understand why a mother-to-be who publicly voices a negative opinion about pregnancy is met with such vitriol from others who suspiciously made it a full nine months without even the slightest hint of a fetus-fueled breakdown.
In almost every “Pregnancy Sucks” blog post I’ve come across, there’s a plea to readers asking them not to jump all over the author for saying she wasn’t enjoying her pregnancy, fearing that same self-righteous backlash. One of the best and most honest of those posts, though, came from our very own Betsy Shaw, who said to hell with that and wrote, "There are women out there who would do anything to have the experience of being pregnant. Couples go to great lengths just to experience the magic of reproduction. Yet keeping silent feels false. It feels as if I am advancing the myth that pregnancy is second nature for every woman, a blessed joyride, the ultimate signifier of true womanhood, the realization of every dream."
My wife and I love our daughter, and we will love the new one that’s on the way. But that doesn’t mean my wife has to love being pregnant. In fact, she can hate it, guilt-free, and I support her in that. I can hate it right there beside her, and if our two daughters one day hate pregnancy too, that’s just fine. If a woman has to go through a nine-month phase of vomiting, exhaustion, full-body swelling, heartburn, waddling, constipation, back pain, hip pain, foot pain, ankle pain, sleep deprivation, room-clearing flatulence and the general feeling that her vagina is going to fall out from under her, maybe, just maybe, she doesn't need to “confess” that it’s miserable.
If you’ve made it this far through a blog about a man bashing pregnancy, I want to let you know that my wife approved every word. I like to think she’s proud of her husband for speaking to an issue that affects women everywhere, but it’s more likely she just wanted to see every mom on the internet digitally crucify me because it’s the closest thing I’ll ever experience to giving birth.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.