It is almost certain that by the time a woman becomes pregnant, she has been so inundated--in some sense, indoctrinated--with the idea that she will suffer from morning sickness that whether or not she would ordinarily have gone through it, she will get morning sickness just from expectation. All the books say so. All the movies say so. All the television shows and radio personalities and plays and ballets and friends and family and pundits of all kinds say so. In every movie involving a pregnant woman, she wakes up in the morning and runs to the bathroom to throw up and neither she nor the father knows what's going on and we all have to shout at the screen, ``She's PREGNANT you IDIOTS!'' Yes, they would have us believe that morning sickness is like gravity, death, taxes, and fruitcake at Christmas: It's inevitable, and it sucks.
This is not so. That is, I imagine it sucks, but it's not inevitable. Plenty of women do not get morning sickness. My wife, for example. She just got a sort of all-day sickness, gradually fading into an all-night sickness. There was morning sickness in there somewhere, certainly, but Dawn's system was not that delineated. She told me bread seemed to help. Crackers helped before that, but then they stopped.
Besides morning sickness, there are only two other things that everyone can agree on in terms of pregnancy: First, there will probably be at least one more person at the end than there was at the beginning; and second, that the woman's body will be different during than it was before. Aside from that, opinions vary wildly on what is normal and expected as the pregnancy progresses. The woman will gain weight. She'll lose weight. Her hair will become stringy. It will become full. It will fall out. She'll be cranky. She'll be euphoric. She'll be ugly. She'll be pretty. She'll break out. Her complexion will clear up. She'll get varicose veins. She'll get a hunchback. She'll suffer from a clubfoot. She'll turn green. She'll sing like Lena Horne. Her legs will swell. Her jewelry will constrict her fingers until they fall off. Her cholesterol will go up. It will go down. Her blood pressure will go up. It will go down. And so on and so on and so on.
It didn't take long for Dawn to start blaming everything on the pregnancy.
``I have a headache,'' she told me on the way to work one morning. ``Kid, what are you doing to me?'' she shouted at her belly.
Every craving for food is something the kid wants or needs in some way. Yes, my unborn child is in desperate need of candy corn, I'm sure. Bags of it, and keep it coming.
Some changes we didn't really notice until after we found out Dawn was pregnant. That is to say, we noticed them, but didn't blame them on anything because we hadn't learned about the little scapegoat yet. For example, my wife bought a jar of pickles. This in itself is not completely bizarre--some of you might even buy pickles regularly. But it's not usual behavior for either of us. Dawn just had a craving for pickles, so she bought a jar. It didn't seem like much at the time, but looking back, pickles were our first sign of pregnancy.
Our second sign, again discovered through hindsight, was plumbing. I should perhaps explain first that Dawn and I are rather free in our bathroom habits. Mostly this is due to having lived in college dormitories, which go a long way towards effacing any shame or need for privacy previously involved in the acts of bathing or waste elimination. Since our current bedroom has our very own bathroom adjoining it, our habits have steadily become more and more loose. So, perhaps unlike other married couples who maybe get undressed under the sheets with the lights off, Dawn and I frequently see each other in various stages of undress, sometimes wet from the shower and sometimes not.
It was one of those times when Dawn had just gotten out of the shower when I noticed it.
``What's with your plumbing?'' I asked. She looked at me like I had just said something unintelligible, which I suppose I had. What I had noticed was that the blue veins running under the skin of her breasts were much more prominent and noticeable than usual--in other words, that her plumbing was showing. I rephrased.
``Look at all the veins,'' I said to her, and she did. Of course, we had no explanation for this at the time--as bodies do, her body had gone on about its business without ever informing anyone of what it was doing. (I don't mind this so much usually. Can you imagine what it would be like if we had to pay attention to all the little things our bodies take care of for us? ``Grow some hair here; I told you to get that digested, I want it out of here by two tomorrow; breathe, breathe; I need some white blood cells here, now; heart, you beat when I tell you to!'') But later, when we knew she was pregnant, we read in her pregnancy manual that a pregnant woman's body increases the blood flow to her breasts. I never would have thought of that.
Which brings us to one of the better body modifications of pregnancy, which is larger breasts. This is the one I'm most looking forward to, I must say. And it's not just me either--apparently it's on a lot of men's minds at this point. Let's face it, sex is central to this whole baby thing, and when it comes to the male's part, it's not just central, it's the whole thing. In my wife's copy of the pregnancy manual there's a section for men, with common questions and concerns answered and explained for us. Almost every question there has to do with sex. ``I'm concerned that now that my wife is pregnant when we have sex the baby is watching us or somehow knows what is going on.'' ``We used to get a lot of sexual enjoyment from her breasts, but now that my wife is breast-feeding, they seem so functional that they're not sexy any more.'' ``Oral sex is not as much fun as it used to be.'' And that's pretty much it--out of an entire book, we men get about three pages of questions about sex and we're done.
This is not surprising, though. For millenia, the male of our species has had three main purposes in life: Sex, hunting and gathering, and defense of the family from predators. In twentieth-century America, these have devolved to sex, rummaging in the refrigerator for snacks, and killing any bugs so large they frighten the wife. Given those choices, it's easy to see why sex gets all the attention.
Poor Dawn, though. There are just a whole heap of little things going on that she has to worry about. I just have to sit back and wait to have a busty wife, but she's got to put up with all the internal stuff. Is this headache from the baby? What's with this stomachache? Can I eat that without having to see it again?
The gastrointestinal disturbances are probably the worst, even though we've managed to get into a routine with them: Dawn will belch loudly, and I'll give her a look. ``The book says that I'm allowed,'' she says. Or Dawn will pass gas noisily and call to me as I run screaming from the room, ``The book says it's okay!'' The book doesn't have to live with her.
In addition to her digestive system acting up, Dawn is also suffering from an assortment of odd aches and pains. Her heel hurts. What her heel has to do with pregnancy I do not know, but our friend Dyan claims to have developed something called heel spurs during her first pregnancy. I cannot find ``heel spurs'' in any medical book I own and no one else can tell me a thing about them. I am doubtful of the existence of this malady--it sounds a little too weird, a little too medieval for me. I can see the ancient medical text: ``When the bilious humor becomes ascendant, one may find a pain in the foot, what we men of healing call a heel spur. Treatment consists of rubbing the beak of a cock across the affected area once at sunup and once again at sundown, and the saying of ten Hail Marys on Sunday.''
And it was less than three months into her pregnancy when I caught Dawn standing like a pregnant woman, with her belly pushed out and her hands on her lower back. I always thought only actresses pretending to be pregnant stood like that, and here it was happening already. How much of this is really being pregnant and how much of this is just what Dawn thinks she should do now that she's with child? I really don't know.