The first time that my partner decided to tell me that she was pregnant (the time that didn’t work out) she did so through the medium of Snapchat. I think she was trying to be cool, we had only just started using it (since it became a platform for grown ups rather than teens sharing photos of their nether regions, but just before grown ups started using it purely to add face filters to make themselves look like manga kittens).
I actually thought that it was quite a cool way to do it, but when she got home I accidentally hesitated when she asked what I thought. She went into such a myriad of confusing justifications and anxieties, paradoxically apologising and vehemently defending her reasoning, that it was a little intimidating… so I just stuck with her preposition that I disapproved, rather than face trying to ‘unpick’ where she had reached in her rhetorical argument.
It was probably a terrible thing not to dissuade her from her worries, but sometimes you can just see that, in the long run, saying nothing will be easier. I now pretend that I did disapprove, but really just for consistency.
This time when she told me, it was much better. I had gone to visit a friend the evening she found out and I was too drunk when I got home to be told, apparently, so she told me in the morning when I had a terrible hangover and about four minutes before I had to leave for work. I sort of giggle-cried my way to work that morning looking like a nutcase and I had to tell my boss that I had hay fever (in mid-December) when I got there.
In much of the literature about pregnancy, there is usually a quote that says something like this:
‘One mustn’t be surprised if the man does not really register that the woman is pregnant for the first few months because although the woman is going through many changes, the man won’t see these initially and so might not react as the woman would expect.’
Apart from being a little insulting and talking about men like they are knuckle-dragging neanderthals, I feel that this statement is entirely misguided.
OF COURSE, we can see the changes! DEAR GOD!? HOW COULD WE MISS THEM!?
Sure! At this point you are not toting the baby beer gut or communicating via the act of duel kidney rubbing (which we all know if the universal sign language gesture for ‘I’m PREGNANT – give up your seat!), but we know because everything else is different.
Firstly, the rules of communication change. My partner and I usually communicate our displeasure at each others actions through a series of huffs and grunts. She huffs, I grunt, instead of responding coherently. This is our way of personally marking or highlighting a point within the day that we are unsatisfied with. It is noted by both partners and is now fair game for future debate or to reinforce a latter argument. By the act of doing this it usually negates the need for further discussion, as neither of us particularly want to have an argument so we adapt our behaviour… Pavlov would be proud.
None of the books say:
‘You will now find that the usual intricacies of how you and your partner debate no longer apply. You will probably find in the first few months of pregnancy your parter will tell you, in no uncertain terms, exactly how she feels about your actions, present and past, without warning and in various states of distress. Some of these will be deep seated annoyances that she has put up with since the beginning of your relationship, some will be issues that she finds newly annoying, some will be entirely fictional, and some will be because at that moment you represent ‘male’ and a man in the lift earlier that day did not hold the door for her and she did not get a chance to vent. It is up to you how you respond, however more often than not you will be wrong, so be prepared for this and learn to apologise in accordance.’
My favourite example of our irrational post-bump arguments to date has been this:
HER: ‘You never mention me on Facebook, people probably don’t even know we are together or that we care about each other.’
ME: ‘You just thought of that because you saw that I wrote a post on Facebook that DID mention you!’
HER: ‘Yes but I mean usually!’
ME: ‘My last three posts have mentioned you!’
HER: ‘YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN! You never, say, like, ‘Happy Birthday’ on my wall on my birthdays!’
ME:’I Do! literally every birthday!’
HER: ‘For Fuck Sake!! THAT WAS JUST AN EXAMPLE!’
I hope that this example encapsulates the complexities of debating when logic takes a backseat to emotion.