A casual reader of this blog title will automatically assume it’s some sort of joke, but it isn’t. I did get pregnant once….kind of.
It was the summer of 2011 and the Mrs and I had been married four years already. We waited for the day to come when we’d be blessed with the news of an arrival to our family (no not a four legged one as we really weren’t pet people), and surely it happened one July afternoon. I remember the euphoria I felt when she broke the news to me during a call I took in between client sessions at my community based job in Highland Park. However, I quickly crashed to earth hard and fast when she told me she was under the close monitoring of her doctor due to a threat of miscarriage. Thankfully mama and baby were ok as the days passed.
So the months carried on her cravings kicked in, the fatigue increased, and changes in mood were all too common as time passed. Guys first rule of thumb when dealing with a pregnant wife is to make sure you make it your sole purpose in life to make her happy! I began to notice however some strange changes within myself as the pregnancy moved forward. I gained weight despite my 4X a week gym routine and my diligence at maintaining a (somewhat) healthy diet. Certain mornings I woke up tired despite a good night’s rest, and I also began to crave things my wife coincidentally indulged on during those nine life changing months….namely steak. I also noticed frequent changes in my moods from irritability to brief sadness, and then joy The day I knew something was up was the day the wife and I went to a concert to see R&B artist Sade at Staples Center. I was already psyched to see someone who’s music I followed since seeing her video “Smooth Operator” played in heavy rotation on MTV in the early 80s (tells you how old I am). When she played “Your Love Is King” which was another one of her beloved hits, I began to cry. Not a few tears of joy, but actually cry. I felt emotions I could never have described in my life but they turned up the waterworks in an uncomfortable and awkward way. Thankfully with the noise of the music and everyone focused on Sade’s performance, no one noticed.
Days later I began to research what was the problem. I already had family and friends cracking jokes when I told them about my cravings and mood swings with them telling I was probably pregnant too. I dismissed their comments as hogwash but part of me pondered the possibility that there was some truth to it. I then discovered that I apparently fell victim to a case of couvade syndrome.
Couvade syndrome (also known as sympathetic pregnancy) according to the Mayo Clinic refers to a situation in which otherwise healthy men — whose partners are expecting babies — experience pregnancy-related symptoms. Not surprisingly the jury is still out on whether or not this is an actual psychological disorder or mere happenstance. Since many of my symptoms heavily mirrored those of my wife, I feel my experience was a mixture of both an internalization of her pregnancy as after so many years of waiting it finally was happening, hence the need to be very cautious that she stay safe (hence the sympathy part of it all), coupled with psychosomatic responses somewhat echoing what a woman feels during such a life changing event. Nevertheless I accepted what was happening and learned to live with it for all of those months. I would even joke with family and friends whom we’d visit for dinner to prepare enough for two pregnant adults. Couvade seemed to have been a one and done deal with me as I never experienced it again with our other two children years later. Nevertheless it was an experience I will never forget.
Expecting fathers (especially you first timers), you may or may not endure couvade syndrome. If you do, strap yourself in for the ride. But don’t forget to utilize all efforts to maintain your emotional and physical wellbeing if you also (almost literally) endure a pregnancy along with your wife. Eat a healthy balanced diet, exercise, engage in your hobbies / interests, and don’t lose contact with your friends. You will need these folks more than ever, even after the arrival of the new member of your family. If you don’t experience couvade, I still urge you to maintain those habits and practices I’ve mentioned. The first months of new parenthood are going to be an adjustment for both you and your partner, and you will be at your best in caring for your little one only if you are also taking care of yourself. Just as importantly, be supportive to your partner as it is a team approach that will be the best way to raise and care for your child. As weird as it may sound, do enjoy the pregnancy period as many wonderful memories and funny anecdotes that will last a lifetime will be created during this time in your life.