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Can ‘We’ Be Pregnant?
My husband wasn’t pregnant, but he was expecting.
Let me state this right up front: I am a proud feminist.
Let me say this, too: I have awful pregnancies. I have discussed this at length here. My pregnancies are the equivalent of Ignatius J. Reilly’s Scenicruiser bus story in Confederacy of Dunces. I have to give myself daily injections of blood thinner into my stomach, leaving my entire midsection lumpy and bruised. I have suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum with both of my daughters, requiring two different medications and IV fluids. I’ve had gallbladder trouble. I’ve had thyroid issues. And I’ve had two C-sections.
Given all of that, I agree, to some extent, with Mila Kunis’ recent rant about men who say, “We’re pregnant.” My husband was not, in fact, pregnant. My husband was not the one vomiting on the bathmat at 2 a.m.; he was not the one eating handfuls of vile, chalky Tums in hopes of quelling the agonizing heartburn. He wasn’t the one with a doctor’s gloved hand shoved wrist-deep inside of him or the one waddling to the bathroom every 10 minutes. No one tried to touch his belly or made disparaging comments about how he must be carrying twins.
But despite that, I have trouble getting firmly behind anything quite as vitriolic as Kunis’ speech. I just don’t have a whole lot of energy for the battle of the sexes, to be honest. I don’t see how yelling at men for something they are biologically unable to do really advances the cause.
My husband was in the darkened room when, after a series of early ultrasounds showed no development and my OB was starting to gently suggest that this pregnancy was not viable, the screen showed a tiny little jelly-bean with the flicker of a heartbeat. I heard his breath catch in his throat. I saw him wipe his eyes. He wasn’t pregnant, but he was expecting. And although I never sent him out on those clichéd midnight trips for ice cream and pickles, he was truly fantastic about catering to my numerous food aversions. He took on more than his fair share of housework, rubbed my back, advocated for me at the doctor’s office, handed me tissues and didn’t make fun of me when I was openly weeping at a VH-1 special on the breakup of Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. (“They just seemed so in love,” I wailed, mopping at my nose. “I just really thought they were going to make it.”)
It may not be factually correct for men to say they’re pregnant, but I don’t think minimizing their contributions by citing a laundry list of physical pregnancy woes really gets us where we want to be.
In an ideal world, parenting is about teamwork. Pregnancy is, too.
Women do the heavy lifting, yes, absolutely. But many men are emotionally and physically invested in the process, too, and getting angry at a man who is so involved that he says, “We’re pregnant” just seems completely wrongheaded to me. I think it’s fair to correct him. But actual chastisement seems unnecessarily harsh.
Save that anger for the men who deserve it: the men who aren’t excited for impending fatherhood, who aren’t helping out in whatever way they can, who aren’t loving and supportive of their partners. Save that anger for the men who didn’t just “roll over and go to sleep” but who got the hell out of the picture entirely before the pee was even dry on the test stick.
Men don’t deserve accolades for being supportive, but neither do they deserve this. And although I know it was a joke, I think the whole bit was sort of like someone saying something passive-aggressive and then saying, “Just kidding!” No, you weren’t just kidding. You were being passive-aggressive.
Let’s be accurate, sure. But let’s also be fair.
A version of this post appeared on the Washington Post’s Post Everything website.