Baby-Building for Boys


October 8, 2012 by 8junebugs

credit: it comes to what’s happening inside me right now, Graham is excited all of the time and flummoxed some of the time. Pregnancy, as A Thing, is new to him. He finds the terminology particularly infuriating:

Me: “Blah blah blah receiving blankets.”

Him: “What’s a receiving blanket? Is that what they catch the baby with? Why do we have to bring them?”

Me: “No, they’re basically just…blankets. Ubiquitous, sturdy, washable, inoffensively colored blankets.”

Him: “Then why don’t they just call them blankets?”

The symptoms of pregnancy are also difficult to witness for a man who likes to Find Solutions and doesn’t like to see me miserable. Several times, early on, he asked if maybe I shouldn’t go to the doctor sooner than planned to see if she could give me something for the nausea. Eventually, this conversation happened after I woke up (crabby) from a nap:

Me: “I need you to not talk about getting rid of the nausea with a pill or something. It’s just part of the process and there’s no medication for it. I’m dealing with it.”

Him, emphatically: “Yeah, I’m not going to do that again.”

Me: “Good. Wait, what happened?”

Him: “I just saw something on CNN about a drug company apologizing for giving a drug to pregnant women that deformed their babies. It happened, like, DECADES ago, and kids were born without limbs, but they’re just now apologizing for it? It was thahala-something.”

Me: “Thalidomide.”

Him: “Right! How did you know that?”

Me: “It’s in the We Didn’t Start the Fire lyrics. Also, it’s the kind of thing mothers tell their daughters about.”

Him: “Oh.”

Me: “Doctors in the 1940s and ’50s [and after, FWIW] also gave women anti-miscarriage drugs that resulted in increased miscarriages and cancers in the next generation. And probably the generation after that — last time I checked, they were still working on that data.”

Him: “Oh.”

Me: “So, from now on…”

Him: “I’ll just bring you saltines.”

Me: “Good call.”

In truth, Graham’s been off-balance since I backed out the due date by two weeks, opting to use what we thought was the known conception date instead of the b.s. date-of-last-period thing. We’ve since had to revert back, based on the size of the wee occupier. Pregnancy math is hard.

Mostly, though, it bugs him that women have given birth since the dawn of humankind and almost all of it is still a goddamn crapshoot — his major question is, “How do we not know this?” Science has only gotten so far, you know? And we’re not allowed to experiment on the expecting.

Me: “All right, don’t freak out, but I’m absolutely going to look into hypnobirthing.”

Him: “You can’t seriously expect me to not freak out about a thing called ‘hypnobirthing.’ What the fuck is that?”

Me: “Basically, it’s a way of breathing through the pain and using visualization to get through the contractions.”

Him: “So, instead of Lamaze?”

Me: “Yeah, because Lamaze is stupid. This is more like the relaxation techniques I learned in yoga.”

Him: “So it’s meditation and deep breathing.”

Me: “Essentially.”

Him: “Then why don’t they just call it that? Why have they been teaching women to hyperventilate for generations if this works better? Why isn’t everyone doing it already? WHEN WILL THEY JUST GET IT RIGHT?”

[Note: He doesn’t actually ever shout at me, but you can always tell when he’s thinking in all-caps.]

Me: “Never. It’s different for every person who gives birth and all they have are estimates and screening tests and old wives’ tales. And judgment.”

Him: “Being a woman is HARD.”

He didn’t really say that last part, but I like to think he was thinking it.

The difference in our education and experience when it comes to this particular realm of biology is STARTLING. It’s not nearly as appalling (or galling) as the ignorant garbage that’s been coming out of Republican legislators’ mouths, but one thing is clear across the board: As important as procreation is supposed to be, as much as it’s an evolutionary imperative for both sexes, we teach women all about it and teach men nothing beyond what they can do with their own genitals. A lot of these conversations come down to this:

“How do you know this?” … “How do you not know this?”

A lot of what I know didn’t come from biology or health class, though. It came from the women in my family and from the experiences of my friends, and, when I needed help understanding the experiences of my friends, from blogs. My personal blogroll in the early two-thousandsies was heavily weighted in favor of Ladies Talking About Their Infertility in a hysterically funny way. That I’ve managed to mostly not be an asshole to people who’ve had difficulty building their families is thanks entirely to that community.

So you could say I sought out the knowledge that I now take for granted, but I didn’t seek it out for entertainment value. I sought it out because I figured that these are things I need to know about. Someone I loved was going through it, whichever “it” it was at the time, which was reason enough…but it always comes back to this:

We’ve got the same parts. A lot of us have similar family medical histories. What happens to my friend could potentially happen to me, and I needed to know about it, beyond knowing that it exists.

The closest a lot of men will ever get to the mechanics or misdirection of pregnancy is being in the room when it begins and ends. That last one’s a question mark, too, considering how many paths a pregnancy can take. We’ve let them off the hook. Or, you might say, we’ve kept them in the dark, and that’s a disservice.

Well, not in this household, my friends. In this household, we do our homework together. In this household, when the doctor sends us home with a packet of dry, not-immediately-useful information, we go through it as a team.

Him: “Once your pregnancy is confirmed, your doctor will…send your test results to the state attorney general’s office. Your name will be added to a pregnancy watch list.”

Me: /snerk

What? We make our own fun.


8 thoughts on “Baby-Building for Boys

  1. Gloria says:

    Re the date of conception vs. last day of period: sperm CAN live 7-10 days in a hospitable environment (usual life is 3-5 days, but…) so the boys can wait around, if they have to- waiting for the egg to drop. Just sayin’…it can make that math a lot less certain.

  2. Amy says:

    Love the conversations. 🙂 Congratulations! We are so excited for you! 🙂

  3. Alicia says:

    Receiving blankets are useless. I think I used two of Amelia’s, and that was just as oversized burp cloths. And the things that swaddle for you are good enough, until baby starts waking up having gotten all four appendages out.

  4. LJ says:

    “As important as procreation is supposed to be, as much as it’s an evolutionary imperative for both sexes, we teach women all about it and teach men nothing beyond what they can do with their own genitals”

    Great stuff! Speaking from my own rural public school experience, sex-ed was very male-centric–it was all about Tab A and not about Slot B. 20s promiscuity, a marriage, and two daughters later, I own Tab A but Slot B still remains somewhat of a mystery.

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