Journalist Rebecca Horan is just heading into the last third of her first pregnancy. So what does it hold for a career- driven woman who is excited, anxious – and has never read a baby book in her life?
AND OTHER SURPRISES Rebecca Horan on her unexpected news – and how she’s coping with it
So after a couple of weeks of focusing on me, me, me – I am the one who’s pregnant after all – I suppose it’s only right that I turn at least some of my attention to my husband and how this upheaval is affecting him too. Now I won’t be as bold as to say that it’s the same or on a par with what we as women experience, but it’s definitely no picnic.
I think it’s fair to say that men, particularly my husband, are largely redundant after that magical night of conception. Thereafter, it’s the woman who’s congratulated on ‘her’ marvellous news, the woman who receives myriad chocolate treats from sympathetic work colleagues, the woman who understands exactly what her doctor is talking about when he refers to ‘Galfer’, ‘Braxton Hicks’ and ‘Andrews Antacid’ – and no, these aren’t former soccer legends. It’s also the woman who feels the first flutters when the baby starts to make its presence known.
For men, the long road can be dominated by the arrival of not-so-happy hormones. My husband learned the hard way recently never to utter the ‘h’ word again – it has replaced PMS on the banned list for 40 weeks.
Men must endure labour videos and are also expected to make late-night trips to the local petrol station – my shopping list usually includes things like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, two bags of dinosaur jellies, a Vienetta and can of Cidona.
My husband received no training for what to expect when I was expecting, and it certainly isn’t natural to have a volatile, hungry, unpredictable creature move in for most of the year, replacing their usually charming wife.
I don’t want to sound sexist – I love women and I’m firmly of the belief that men don’t ‘babysit’ their own children and should play a major part in the rearing of them.
But after asking my husband and his male friends about their experiences of living with pregnancy, I was amazed to find the responses I got were ‘tough’, ‘unpredictable’, ‘not for the faint-hearted’, ‘god-awful’ and ‘I don’t want to talk about it’.
One pretty hardcore dad-to-be that we know is currently attending the twice-weekly antenatal and breastfeeding classes on his own because his wife is too busy with her prenatal yoga classes. This man is studiously taking notes for his partner in the hope that he can be of assistance and ease her troubles. Now that’s love.
Even scientists agree that men really do suffer during pregnancy – physically as well as mentally and emotionally. It is officially called Couvade syndrome or ‘a sympathetic pregnancy’, symptoms of which include minor weight gain, altered hormone levels, morning nausea and disturbed sleep patterns.
If you still aren’t feeling sorry for your partner then this might make you change your mind. After men have survived the pregnancy and the end-game is near, well this is when they become completely and utterly redundant. Once the waters have broken, then the men are hospital-bound to be greeted by a midwife who doesn’t really care about their needs, thrown a pair of scrubs and left to their own devices. It can’t be easy to look on as your wife or partner goes through one of the most distressing times of their life, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
And it doesn’t stop there. Once you both emerge exhausted from the hospital, he’s usually left with the task of figuring out the baby paraphernalia – car seat, buggy, steriliser, they all have to be set up and functional, ready for baby’s first trip home.
Obviously it’s not always the case, but the woman’s family does tend to have more input once the little bundle of joy has arrived home. With my husband’s family all abroad, this will certainly be the case in our house.
Many men are banished to the garden shed when the in-laws descend. They stay there with the lights off, clutching a bottle of Heineken, surrounded by 200 bags of nappies (there was a deal in Aldi).
I guess the moral of this story is: men, you need to have patience and a good sense of humour. And whatever you do, never say ‘yes dear, your bump does look big in that’. My husband did – and is still paying for it.
Rebecca Horan is a digital presenter and journalist for Extra.ie. Follow her on Twitter @HoranBex