Thursday, March 13, 2014

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Pregnancy’s Biggest Mystery



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I was in bed, about to go to sleep, when Mel sat on the lip of the bed, grabbed my hand, placed it on her pregnant stomach, and said, “Feel. Right here.”

She was about seven months along, and beneath her hard round tummy, I could feel something bony trying to push out, and I wasn’t sure if it was a fist, a hand, or a head. This was not the first time I’d felt our new baby girl, Aspen, kick. Nor was it the first time I’d felt a baby kick inside my wife (this will be our third child). However, this was the first time I’d taken a moment to realize that pregnancy is a strange and mysterious thing for a man.

I understand that there is a baby inside my wife. And I understand that I had something to do with it. I know the gender (a girl). I’ve seen the baby wiggling around on the ultrasound, so I have a foggy idea of what her silouhette looks like. I know that she has the proper parts, head, torso, legs, and arms. And I know that, as of right now, she is healthy. But that is about it.

I don’t know that much about the baby, honestly. I don’t know what color her eyes or hair will be. I don’t know much about her personality, how well she will sleep, her food preferences, and so on. And I suppose Mel doesn’t know a lot of this stuff either, but the way she talks about the baby makes me think that just maybe, she already knows a lot more about Aspen than I do.

Mel talks about Aspen like she’s a finicky roommate, and not a baby growing inside her body. “She is being a real turd today. She keeps cramming her little foot into my ribs. I think she does this just to get attention.” Or “Aspen is making me emotional. I’ve cried three times.” Or “Aspen is making me crave French bread.” As a man, this dialogue confuses the hell out of me.

It seems natural to assume that Mel has the same limited understanding that I do.

But she doesn’t.

She seems to understand this child on a level that I don’t, and I often wonder if they are somehow connected both emotionally and physically.

And it makes me jealous.

I’m not saying that I want to know what it feels like to be pregnant. I understand that the whole ordeal isn’t always pleasant.

What I wouldn’t mind, though, is feeling that early connection with my children.

For a man, pregnancy isn’t much more than a waiting game. It’s nine months of looking at your partner like she’s a ticking bomb, wondering what the child will be like, and knowing that life is going to soon change dramatically because of this unknown new person.

For me, pregnancy feels like a blind plunge, or an arranged marriage where I don’t get to meet the bride until the wedding day. And this is why pregnancy is such a mixed bag of fear and anticipation. It’s why I find it so scary.

I know that Mel’s scared, too. She fears stretch marks, labor pain, and weight gain. But it’s all physical. I don’t think she worries about how long it will take to connect with the child like I do.

She seems to have this connection to the child early on, while I get a report on the gender and health of the baby, some foggy ultrasound photos on the refrigerator, and the occasional kick.

When friends ask if I’m excited for another baby, I often say, “During the first year, all a baby does is poop and cry. I have a hard time understanding what I’m in it for until they can walk, talk, and show a little personality.”

As held my hand on Mel’s round tummy, I wondered if the reason it takes me a year to feel connected to a new child is because I didn’t carry it for nine months.

Perhaps this is obvious. Perhaps this is something I should’ve realized with my frist two children. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. Maybe Mel is just as confused and emotionally disconnected to the baby as I am. But if not, and I am right, then this is pregnancy’s biggest mystery.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley