It’s A Boy! What Men Said To Me During My Pregnancy

The musings of a new mum: reflecting on my conversations with strangers.

I have never considered myself a master of small talk. Although my pregnancy relieved me from the stress of coming up with new topics at countless receptions and networking events, some of the comments I heard made it progressively hard to handle.

Everyone seemed to be very excited about my precious bump, and even more excited to share their unsolicited advice. With time I noticed a slightly odd and confusing pattern in the things said to me by men with kids, which were never said by women.

Are you ready to give up your life?

I lost count how many times I was warned that my life would change big time (and not in a good way).

“Your life will change, you don’t even realise to what extent. Enjoy it while you still can, there is no turning back!” 
“Sleep while you can as you won’t get a proper sleep for many years.”
“It’s nice to see you at a bar, you won’t be able to go to bars for a while. Enjoy”

And my absolute favourite: “Are you ready to give up your life?”

I experienced something very similar when I was taking my first steps towards becoming an entrepreneur. Some people explained later that dramatic warnings would surely discourage some people — not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur. And if other people’s warnings make you quit, then it’s a good thing, you won’t waste much time on something which isn’t meant to be for you.

Here is the difference with relaying warnings to a pregnant woman: she isn’t gonna quit! She is about to become a mother. It’s happening. Is it really remotely helpful to plant these seeds of fear for her life? I am a deep believer that good decisions don’t come out of fear.

Is it a boy or a girl?

Of course people were wondering if I was expecting a boy or a girl. But I couldn’t get used to being distinctively congratulated when I said I was having a boy. Once again: I was congratulated specifically because we were having a son, as if it would be more superior than having a daughter. We were also told that now we could relax, because we already have a son.

I was naive to think that this would have been possible somewhere far away, in some abstract conservative societies (stereotypes!), but surely never in a place like Singapore or …you name it.

The primary need of a baby inside a womb is the confirmation of unconditional love. He/she needs to be loved just because, and not because he/she is a boy or a girl.

How’s your pain tolerance?

And yet none of the above compared with the “labour talk” from men who had witnessed their partner giving birth. Just a few big statements from the conversations I had:

“You will experience pain like no other. Are you prepared for this agony?”
“When I saw my wife in labour, I thought she was dying”
“It was terrible, it was so bloody”. 
“Are you going to take an epidural? No? Are you sure? Well, good luck!”

Naturally the labour conversation was never been initiated by me. “How would he know anything?”, I would think. Yet at the tiniest opportunity some men would jump on the topic, and it often felt like opening an unhealed wound. No matter how many years have passed since the birth of their children, their impressions still seemed very vivid and they were often enthusiastic in sharing them.

Of course I had plenty of discussions about labour with women, but none of those were negative or instilling fear in me.

It made me wonder: are we so concerned about the post-natal experience of a mother and her psychological and physical well-being, that we totally forget about fathers? Do men have an opportunity to reflect on the experience and mentally close it? Do they have enough avenues to share their feelings in a more appropriate setting than with a first time pregnant woman?

Fear is the last companion a woman needs in labour. Fear triggers adrenalin release which blocks the entire labour process. In early days it would give a woman in labor a chance to survive in a moment of danger, running from a predator for instance (things were hard back then).

Of course I’ve received lots of great supportive comments. It felt like I was carrying a pregnancy aura, which made all the conversations very humane. Clearly a pregnancy doesn’t leave anyone untouched.