First off I want to give a disclaimer that I’m not a doctor so use your brain and seek your own medical advice from an actual qualified medical professional. I’m giving my opinions and beliefs based on my long hours of research and personal experiences. Second this post has some sexual talk that isn’t completely PG-rated and isn’t normally something I go into, but I feel it is important so I’m going to “go there.” Just wanted to give a quick warning about that.
I came across some comments today regarding this “we are pregnant” nonsense that men today say (which I think is ridiculous) while surfing through NYMOM’s blog (I’m a big fan of her blog and occasionally check through her postings again to lift my spirits from this broken world we live in). Anyways, I thought they were pretty good and summed up some things that were have actually been on my mind here lately and I wanted to make a blog posting to put in my own two cents on the matter.
“We Are Not Pregnant
The glory of men and women lies in their unbridgeable differences.
Mark Galli | posted 7/12/2007 08:55AM
A male friend, married to a lovely women, comes up to me beaming and says, “We’re pregnant!”
“Wow!” I reply, with inappropriate sarcasm. “When I was a young man, only women could get pregnant.”
I’ve heard this phrase—”We’re pregnant”—too much recently, but it’s time to move beyond sarcasm. The intent is as understandable as the execution is absurd. It arises out of the noble desire of men (and future fathers) to participate fully in the childrearing. And I understand that for many men, it simply means, “My wife and I are expecting a baby.”
But the first dictionary meaning of pregnant remains, “Carrying developing offspring within the body.” Whenever a word is misused, it means the speaker is unaware of the word’s meaning, or that the cultural meaning of a word is shifting, or that some ideology is demanding obeisance. Probably all three are in play, but it’s the last reality that we should pay attention to. It is not an accident that this phrase, “We’re pregnant,” has arisen in a culture that in many quarters is ponderously egalitarian and tries to deny the fundamental differences of men and women.
This phrase is most unfortunate after conception because it is an inadvertent co-opting of women by men—men using language to suggest that they share equally in the burdens and joys of pregnancy. Instead, pregnancy is one time women should flaunt their womanhood, and one time men should acknowledge the superiority of women. Men may be able to run the mile in less than four minutes and open stuck pickle jars with a twist of the wrist, but for all our physical prowess, we cannot carry new life within us and bring it into the world. To suggest that we do is a slap in the face of women.”
Anonymous #1 says:
“…My partner too has experienced many emotions since finding out I am pregnant, and although both very happy I have been very poorly due to morning sickness and nausea. To which he can never really understand how much I have been ill, and although has an idea of how depressed at times I felt through being incapacitated by the nausea, he really does not have a clue as to the extent of my suffering.
This is of course not his fault. However he has experienced symptoms of what I would call womb envy. He often says he wishes HE was the pregnant one, and that I am experiencing the baby growing, and how HE wishes he could feel it move just as I can, and how HE would rather be the one pregnant, and how he would swap places with me in a second, just to experience what I am. This actually makes me feel guilty, as he actually gets quite bitter and at times moody over the whole thing…at least that’s how he comes across. I have really tried to be sensitive to his needs, during this time, and share every aspect of how I feel and how IT feels to be the pregnant one.
It has actually brought out some strange colours in him that I never knew were there. He gets angry that most pregnancy books are female focused, and that there are only small sections dedicated to the man, which he says he finds patronising and insults his intelligence. When I suggested finding a book specific for men in pregnancy, he said, “he should not have to”, and says we are EQUAL in this process, that he is just as important as I am.”
Anonymous #2 says:
“I am a 30-year-old European married to an American. I don not have any children. Lately I have decided that I do not want to have any children from my husband because I have come to regard pregnancy as the worst Ponzi scheme out there: You go through nine months of pregnancy, through labor, etc. and suddenly someone else can claim (at least equal) legal rights over the fruit of my labour (literally)!? Over the child I gave birth to! No, thank you! I am European and moving to the (very legalistic) United States has been a huge eye-opener for me: I once told an American fellow student that I would not want my husband to be present during the birth of my child (I see it as a very private moment, and I would like to be assisted by a doula or a trusted female friend) and he became very angry, claiming that it is a father’s right to be there and see the child exit the mother’s vagina (actually, he called it “witness the child’s first moments”)!!! I am a woman, a separate free individual, and NOT a mechanical child-bearing vessel / child-birthing machine. Therefore, I will not have any children, especially from my husband (I could always go to Denmark and undergo artificial insemination). I would love to have a child from my husband, but I am too afraid to do so in this upside-down world.
Unfortunately, also many formerly feminist European countries, such as Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia, are now starting to embrace this questionable gender neutrality… When the heck did we switch from “women’s rights” to “gender equality”? Sad!”
There is so much to comment on here. The first anonymous commenter has a “partner” (she doesn’t specifically state “husband” which is a problem in itself) who is jealous of her more important role in bringing a child into this world. I personally think it really pathetic of a man to be jealous of women’s roles in any area of life- whether in childbearing or in the traditional feminine sphere of caring for the home and children. Anonymous commenter #2 has a real problem with her husband or any man claiming the same legal rights as her to a child she has suffered and worked to give birth to and also a problem with her husband insisting to be there when she gives birth.
I have to say that these ladies are right. Their feelings on these issues are not unfounded. A man should not be jealous over the role his wife has in life. Men and women are not “equal.” A father can only be made equal by the society/law and what he brings to the mother and child (as opposed to what the mother does in childbearing). I understand there is a tendency in men (that they will never admit to, of course) to be afflicted with womb envy. That is why men should have other areas in life that are unique to their sex that they can achieve in (such as providing for families and being protectors). Yes, her role is more important in childbearing. In truth, the male role in childbearing is dispensable. Only a mother is necessary during childbirth, only her role is biological. She conceives, carries, bears and nurses the child from her own body. Her maternity is certain. Paternity, however, is never completely certain. The most intense scrutiny in the world can never completely assure a man of his paternity. He must trust in a third party (whether the mother or some anonymous person in a lab coat he’s never met and who is, after all, just a human who makes mistakes, not to mention that in a bureaucracy the right hand never knows what the left hand is doing) to assure him he is the father of a child.
I also agree completely with childbirth being a private event. My husband did not in any way participate in the birth of our child. Actually, nobody really did. Nobody- friends or family- was informed at all that I was in labor and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The midwife was specifically informed that nobody at all was to be told that I was in labor and if anyone did show up to get rid of them. My midwife only checked on me midday to make sure I was ok then left me in peace until I needed her a couple of hours later. I can’t see what good spectators do in childbirth other than make labor longer and more difficult and painful for the mother by disallowing her privacy and peace of mind to let instinct take over and I’m sorry but I can’t see how it takes five people groping a woman’s privates for a child to be delivered safely. In all societies I’ve ever studied, until recently, men were barred from being present at childbirth and a mother would either give birth alone or have a woman (or women) with her (although they often did not touch her, but were only there for support and to give assistance if needed). Male doctors only started delivering babies in the 19th century for the money, whereas before if men attempted to sneak around to see a laboring women they were shooed away. There is no need to touch a woman when she is giving birth and touching or interfering or talking to a woman (when it is not an emergency of course) can actually cause her injury and make the process more difficult. After all, animals give birth alone. They know when birth is imminent and isolate themselves. I had a midwife but she was only there pretty much after birth to make sure we were doing fine and to run an herb bath for me and the baby. As a result of my husband making himself scarce and me having complete silence and privacy labor and birth was actually relatively easy and not very painful. Labor progressed quickly and naturally with no interventions. Nobody talked to me or touched me and, while listening to the horror stories of every other woman having a hospital or home birth with lots of family, friends as well as the father in attendance, I probably had one of the best births imaginable. I never took any medications at all while pregnant nor during birth- they weren’t necessary. My body was made for this. I felt instinctively that childbirth was sexual (yes, sexual) and an intimate event that was sacred. Somehow I felt connected to something greater. It’s a beautiful feeling of vulnerability and preciousness that is unique to women. Men should not seek to undermine this and it is preposterous to think men are just as good with care-taking as women when there is not a shred of evidence to suggest such a thing. Men should respect and honor women for what only we can do.
The second thing that anonymous commenter #2 talks about is giving fathers rights when they do not give birth. I certainly think our current legal system is disgusting and I feel her sentiment exactly. I would feel the same as her if I didn’t know history. Because only women can bear the babies our laws used to place the entire burden of financial support of a family on the husband/father. Women were not responsible for their husband’s support nor should a woman be. Husbands should be responsible for their wives, but wives should not be responsible for their husbands. Men today however seem to think they are entitled to support from the mother of their child and support from their wives as well as WIC benefits and a share in the mother’s maternity leave that were intended to benefit and help mothers and infants recover from the ordeal of pregnancy and childbirth. So a woman bears your child and she owes you? I don’t think so. If anything the father is indebted to the mother. In no other scenario is the one who does work for somebody supposed to pay the one who is receiving the benefits of their work. That would be a crime. And indeed it is a crime in my book for a man not to be fully financially responsible for his wife, the woman who has given him children. This works out for the best interests of the family overall anyways as the more the responsibility for support is placed on the wife/mother the worse family breakdown overall gets. A husband should have legal rights because he should be responsible for his family. He is responsible to provide for the children he fathers with his wife and he is responsible for how those children are raised and how they turn out. He should be responsible just the same for his wife. The obligation to see to their support and protection should rest on his shoulders, not hers. The day men suffer pain and the possibility for infection, sickness, injury, disfigurement , indignity and even death (and this isn’t even mentioning the emotional/psychological side effects of childbearing) to bring forth life into this world the same as women have always suffered since the beginning of time is the day they might be justified in asking the wife/mother to carry the burden of support as well. A man not married to his children’s mother shouldn’t get the same rights because his position is not the same. A man simply wanting rights to a child he’s fathered is not in any way an example of him being responsible. Him being married to the mother and providing for her and the child and being held responsible for them is him being responsible.
A husband should do what is in the best interests of his wife and children. In many cases, as heretical as this statement is today, it is in the best interests of both mother and child for him to not be present when she gives birth. He has the right to see to their safety, support and protection. It’s not about what he wants. He has no “right” to put his wants above their needs. He should be putting the needs of his wife and child above his own and if his wife is not comfortable with him being present he should wait somewhere nearby and stay out of the way. He should also protect her and make sure nobody else interferes to cause her distress or harm while she is in labor and vulnerable.
Anonymous commenter #2 also talks about artificial insemination. I am very much against this for many reasons and think it should be outlawed, along with surrogacy. I also don’t think a lot of women realize the stresses and harms these procedures often do to women. A lot of women suffer much physical pain and psychological distress and the procedures fail often. Apart from that, women should not be left on their own with children. I am very much for patriarchy, the way the West has practiced it for centuries, as it gives great status to women. I prefer to defer to my husband’s authority because it is the surest source of protection and support for a woman- because it makes me feel secure. The more divorce and out-of-wedlock births there are the less men invest in women and support and protect them.
On the other hand, we cannot exist with gender neutral laws without a complete societal collapse. It’s either matriarchy or patriarchy. I would prefer patriarchy in a heartbeat. I don’t want to have sex with any man (or multiple men) I choose without stigma and live with my extended matrilineal kin or other women and do all the work while the men lounge in hammocks all day! That is the greatest Ponzi scheme of all time if you ask me! Patriarchy is a marvelous invention that actually took that burden out of the hands of mothers and placed it on fathers and built up civilization and I don’t want to give that up! I’d much prefer to be taken care of by one man for my life. I have always liked the idea of carrying *his* (I’m talking about my husband here) child. It is a great feeling, wrapped in safety and love by one more powerful than I, for my intimate body to be filled and invaded. It’s spiritual and romantic. Our differences are what make us unique. I’m weaker and much more vulnerable while he is stronger and in charge. Egalitarianism and women being in charge takes the beauty and life out of everything. It dulls the senses. When we are in the roles we are made for it is a beautiful thing. A woman taking her husband’s last name is actually a remnant of coverture in our culture. She and her children have the husband’s name, as she was once a “covered woman” (before the so-called “advancement” of women’s rights) being under the protection of her husband.
Women are free under a true patriarchal system- under coverture. A woman is free from being ruled by men who have no responsibility for her. She is free to have her babies and care for them and keep them by her side while the father goes out and works. She is free from the drudgery of full-time work and is free from being harassed by other men and having to carry the weight of responsibilities that rightfully belong to men. No, “we” are not pregnant, but neither should “we” carry the same responsibilities because our roles are not the same. The same rules that apply to men do not apply to women and vice versa.