Pregnancy, for a dad, can feel like an awkward office-party where you're the new employee. It's as though you have to paste on a forced smile that you have to wear for months. Not fake, just forced. The feeling is completely sincere -- you are genuinely pleased and happy (if you like your partner and want her to be pregnant, that is, and even sometimes if not) -- but you feel the need to show it outwardly in ways that don't feel natural.
Unlike the interactions with the actual baby, which come as natural as scratching yourself from the very beginning, at least they did for me, pregnancy is so hard for a man to get his head around that we feel insufficient. And it can make for some marital strain.
Take the kicking.
When first asked to feel the thing -- and really is there a more awkward human interaction than one person's hand on another's stomach? -- you go through several rounds of forced "I think I felt something!" It's like looking at one of those Magic Eye drawings from the '90s. "I see it! I see it! It's penguins, right! No? Crap."
The upside is, just like the Magic Eye, it's unmistakable when you finally get it. You can feel it in your bones and your soul, just like the joy of finally seeing those 3-D palm trees. But it's fleeting. Because we don't live with it all day and all night. And we have to start forcing that smile again.
Strangely enough, it almost feels easier to relate to the misery of pregnancy than the joy. I'm not talking about the misery of actual birthing, which I long ago stopped trying to even imagine, though I think I came closest when I pictured being repeatedly kicked in the huevos by steel-toed skinheads for 30 hours straight.
But I'm sure pretty sure I've had horrible hangovers that felt very much like morning sickness. The same helplessness, repeated vomiting, I know it well, ladies. But instead of it pleasantly ending six hours later when the third round of Excedrin kicks in, it lasts months and months and ends with a bunch of skinheads kicking you repeatedly.
And there's so little you can do to help your lady, really. Late-night runs to Jack in the Box, where she would never dream of eating when not pregnant, or whatever random-ass spot her cravings take you. Beyond that it's largely words of sympathy and IKEA assemblings, which I suck at. The IKEA thing, not the sympathy. At least I hope not.
I had it easy in one case. I truly found my wife spectacularly attractive throughout the whole baby-belly run, and never had to lie about a thing. All the "glowing" cliches proved true. For men not so fortunate, it adds another layer of awkward when they have to skirt the questions. For me it wasn't fake. Not even forced.
How is your husband dealing with your pregnancy?
Image via popculturegeek/Flickr