It takes a second or two for people of average intelligence to look her up and down, ascertain that she isn’t pregnant herself, and, if they reach the right conclusion unprompted, think of the possibility that she means her wife. People are getting there with it, they really are. Of course our friends and colleagues already know and are being amazing and kind, asking us how it is all going and grinning knowingly. We’ve had baby equipment donations, gifts from distant colleagues in far flung offices, hugs, smiles and the ultimate compliment, “You’re glowing!”
Pregnancy is like joining a special club. It breaks down barriers. People see my football-shaped belly from 100 paces and zone in on me with nuggets of advice, questions (‘When’s it due? Do you know what it is?’), and a general urge to stand a little closer, perhaps touch me, as a fount of life. The best opener I’ve had so far has been “If you need to be induced, go and do reflexology instead – it might make you go into labour.” This was in a cinema. And this morning, kindly encouragement from the milk shop cashier: “Try to push, don’t let them cut you.” I find myself doing it too. Zeroing in on other expectant mothers with the same excited (albeit slightly banal) need to engage: “Ooh that’s a big bump.” Yes, I actually said that to someone. In all, I’ve never spoken to so many kind friendly strangers as since my baby bump has been noticeable.
Reactions from animals are much the same; cats snuggle up to my belly. Another literally sprang on to it, kneading, pawing and purring (it was a cat-nip kind of moment). On googling it I didn’t find a concrete link other than ‘they just know’ – clearly it’s such a primordial, instinctive, deeply animal thing to humans and animals alike.
I offered my wife the chance to pen some words about how she’s feeling as the ‘un-pregnant parent’. Being a stereotypical scientist, this did not go down too well and as is oft the case, I am left to mine, extract and interpret her thoughts and feelings. All the signs are good; she’s talking and singing to my belly, engaging in the purchasing of baby things. She’s got the room painted and most importantly assists in tricky leaning forward tasks – standing up, stairs, anything to do with feet, socks, shoes and laces. With the aid of her earplugs, she sure isn’t losing sleep.
Inevitably the perceptions and reactions of others comes into it. How do our families feel? Well no one, partially estranged or otherwise, has even breathed the old humdinger of biological fact that the baby ‘isn’t hers’. This is great as it has been known to crop up in even the most loving family circles to fly in the face of couples’ obvious focus on their baby for all the reasons it is both of theirs (just sayin). In other situations it’s slighted the sturdiest emotional house of cards in response to same-sex parenting and a collective preoccupation with the baby’s ‘origin’. Thank goodness not in our case, perhaps my greatest fear unrealised, we’re lucky, loved and loving it.
On the plus side, being a scientist (of questionable emotional depth), my wife can ever be relied upon for taking the simple, instinctive approach to non-scientific questions. We’re seven months pregnant and our daughter is soon to change our lives forever.