By Denise Castañon
Nothing makes me cock my head to the side in puzzlement like a dad-to-be using the phrase “we’re pregnant.” It’s become such the go-to pregnancy announcement that even in the movie Friends With Kids, Maya Rudolph and her on-screen hubby exclaim in unison, “We’re pregnant.” But clearly only one person in the couple will be ballooning to previously unimaginable proportions while growing a child in her body. (And then pushing it out.) It makes the feminist writer I was in my college newspaper days angrily re-emerge. And makes the copy editor in me frown very deeply. So it’s not surprising that when announcing that my husband and I would be going from a twosome to a threesome, I was staunchly in favor of keeping pregnancy singular and saying, “I’m pregnant.”
Maybe I’ve heard the phrase more because far left Portland is a haven of modern feminism where parents whittle or knit their own gender-neutral toys and churn out garden-fresh, organic baby food. And as much as it bothers me, I can understand the thinking behind it. Expecting moms want daddies to be equal partners in the pregnancy. They want men to bond with the baby and make sympathetic late-night food runs. As one friend confided, she used “we’re pregnant” to get her husband a little more involved with the housework.
And that plural pronoun can make it seem less scary. Like you’ve got a wingman to acknowledge the lack of control you have over the expanding dimensions and once-taken-for-granted functions of your body. It’s almost like a pre-baby contact that you’ll have a true partner to help with the tiny, squalling human who will be consuming all of your waking hours and most of those hours that used to be devoted to sleep. Ensuring he really deserves that “world’s best dad” coffee mug by including him in the pregnancy announcement does seem like a small price to pay. I get it. But using this phrase to make dads more accountable ultimately steals some of the spotlight from pregnant women.
C’mon this is the thing that women can do that men can’t. For hundreds of years women were treated as less than human and incapable of rational thought. Obviously that’s untrue. Women can run countries, but men still can’t have babies. We should celebrate this difference!
I don’t think a father will be any less involved when his partner goes with the phrase “I’m pregnant.” I’m not advocating a return to the Mad Men days of mom toiling away in the labor-and-delivery room as dad downed a single malt Scotch and/or boffed his secretary. The intense look of love on my husband’s face as he hears our baby’s heartbeat or sees the little peanut squirming around during an ultrasound shows that a future father can be excited about being a parent without the use of that plural pronoun.
Admittedly part of this prejudice against this phrase is due to the word nerd in me. I worked for more than six years as copy editor for national magazines. It’s hard to shake those firmly ingrained grammar and logic rules. Obviously bio-men are not built to be human incubators.
Perhaps the biggest thing that bothers me about using “we” is the fact that the father has the choice to walk out the door at any moment. For the woman who has made the choice and commitment to be a mom and is carrying a child, there’s no going back. Moms-to-be bear all the responsibility.
While the phrase “we’re pregnant” strives to bring equality between genders, I think it actually hurts women by diminishing the sacrifices we make when bringing new life into the world. I’m the one who can’t have a glass of wine with dinner or take the good cold medicine. I’m the one who needs to eat my dark, leafy green veggies, but avoid sashimi and Brie. As much as I know deep down that my husband will do anything possible for the baby growing inside me, he’s physically not a part of the experience of pregnancy the way that I am. His feet won’t jump up a shoe size. He didn’t experience the killer cramps from a rapidly expanding uterus. And as far as I know, he hasn’t peed his pants from a strong cough or sneeze. Yes, he definitely had a hand in things, but I’m choosing to keep pregnancy to the singular pronoun.
Ultimately the way a woman chooses to announce her pregnancy is a personal choice. But it shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction to what’s considered politically correct. Pregnancy is a big deal. Labor and delivery are a big deal! A supportive partner is worth his weight in gold, but he’s still not doing the heavy lifting of pregnancy. So women shouldn’t feel guilty about taking credit where credit is absolutely due. Say it with me, “I’m pregnant.”