By RUSSELL VJ WARD
My wife is 22 week’s pregnant. We’re more than halfway there.
In reality, she’s the one halfway there and I’m the one playing catch-up. I watch from the sidelines feeling mainly admiration and a lot of apprehension at that fast-approaching event called ‘fatherhood’.
Her pregnancy symptoms come and go, as routine as the time I spend on Google seeking out this week’s potential changes to her body and next week’s unexpected little surprises.
As a first-time dad-to-be, my wife’s pregnancy has been a real eye opener. My mind has boggled at some of the subtle changes I’ve seen. Who knew that her hair would grow this shiny? Who knew that her skin would get so smooth? Who knew that she would develop the glow of pregnancy as well as she has?
Other side effects have been less than subtle.
Who knew that she’d develop an obsessive fascination with birthing documentaries?
The British show, One Born Every Minute, is one of her favourites. Thanks to the wonders of Foxtel IQ, this undeniably graphic TV experience plays out on our television most nights, generally coinciding with dinner.
I try to ignore the feral sounds coming from the surround sound speakers. I force myself to focus on the dinner plate, concentrating hard on my meatballs and sauce. But I’m just a mere man and weak in the face of such temptation. I look up at the screen – taking in the red-faced screaming lady, bare legs up in stirrups, pain etched across her face – and I feel indescribable terror as I stare at the baby’s crowning head displayed across the entire 38-inch widescreen TV. One of the meatballs accidentally slips down my throat.
No-one warned me about these unusual obsessions. Equally, no-one warned me about my wife’s strange new sleeping habits.
At Week 22, our marital bedroom has become a haven for odd behaviours of the non-sexual variety. She sleeps deeply through the night, as I ram plug after plug into my ears. Call it pregnancy congestion or call it a good old fashioned snore but, in the small hours of the morning, I can’t hear myself call it anything over her mighty roar.
The dog sleeps peacefully in the corner, twitching through another canine dream. I, meanwhile, wrestle with a third body in the bed, fighting a life-size body pillow that seems to want me on the floor. I retreat to the cold second bedroom, banished from my domain, imaginary tail between my legs, my wife and dog continuing to noise-make next door in complete and utter ignorant bliss.
Unusual TV obsessions and strange new sleeping habits aren’t the end of it.
I’d heard about family members giving expectant mothers unwanted baby and pregnancy advice, but I never realised I’d also be on the receiving end.
Somewhere down the track, near strangers and friends-of-friends have begun to share things with me about pregnancy from a distinctly male perspective. Somewhere down the track, the in-built filter (if there ever was one) that stops a man from saying exactly what’s on his mind simply…vanished.
Blokes I’ve met on a handful of occasions will share their deepest and darkest (and most explicit) war stories about living with a pregnant partner. From the perfect time to copulate (“when her belly’s big and round”) to the best time to avoid my wife when the hormone-filled, emotion-laden weeks take over (“she’ll be a moody, crying thing so steer clear”), I’ve been told it all.
I have recurring nightmares of standing with my plumber in the front yard a few weeks ago. In one hand, he pulled out some tree roots from our sewer pipe. With the other, he outlined in too much detail how full his wife’s breasts became during her first pregnancy. Horrified, mortified, traumatised, I had nowhere to run. So I smiled and nodded and squirmed in my boots, pledging that I’d not mention my pregnant wife to any man ever again.
Halfway along this journey and this dad-to-be is already learning far too much. I’ve discovered that I’m squeamish and I’m good for nothing without a full night’s sleep. I’ll avoid unwanted advice from strangers and I’ll have to find a way to avoid the TV.
More importantly, I’ve learned that being a husband during a pregnancy is an abstract sort of thing. You’re not the one expecting but you must watch and support from her side.
If you thought that meant you’ve got it easy, fellow dads-to-be, think again – and expect the unexpected on this wonderful and beautiful ride.
Russell is a British writer and expat living in Sydney by the ocean, who lived in Canada by mountains and snow, and who writes about his search for a life less ordinary at www.insearchofalifelessordinary.com. A finalist in the recent Best Australian Blogs 2012 competition, he can regularly be found on Twitter as @russellvjward.
Were you hard to live with when you were pregnant?