Being the lesbian partner of a pregnant woman has its pros and cons.
In many ways I feel much the same as any heterosexual non-pregnant partner (i.e. the man) in that I am witness to a whole series of small yet disorienting changes in the one I love. She has a new glow. She is so tired she cannot lift herself from bed. She had the nose of a bloodhound and insists that I now do all the dishes. She wants to eat only yogurt all day long. She smells a bit like a baby–or at least her neck does. She is developing the slightest pooch. She seems knowing in a way I’m not.
And yet there are other ways in which, as the lesbian partner of a pregnant woman, I am more than a witness. I am an apprentice. I am the viewer of a preview for a movie in which I will one day star. Because, unlike a male partner, I’ll be having our next baby (or at least this is the plan).
In the movies, men always stare, alternately befuddled or enchanted, at their pregnant wives/girlfriends/mistresses. They fumble around trying to help and always fail. We laugh as they play the jester. Not only do they have no idea what is going on, they will never need to know what is going on.
With us non-pregnant but want-to-be-pregnant-one-day lesbian partners of pregnant women, it’s a slightly different story.
Take, for instance, our Thanksgiving dinner last night.
Somehow the topic shifted to pregnancy. I believe because at some point Marta said she wanted ice cream for her pumpkin pie and her brother looked at me, smiling, and said: “Sarah. That’s your job now. Go to Hyvee.” (HyVee is a Midwest grocery store). Then someone else at the dinner table mentioned his experiences with his pregnant wife and they were off. The talk quickly went from ice cream cravings to out-and-out birthing stories.
One guest shared her horror story of a 36-hour birth where, for about half of that time, her baby was nearly crowning but not crowning enough to expel the damn thing. Meanwhile the top-notch doctor they had was “busy” and she was forced to wait two hours for him, while in the worst pain of her life. When the doctor finally showed up, he declared it a C-section case and they whisked her off to surgery, which means not only did the poor thing have to endure those hours of traditional childbirth but then also the pain and recovery of a C-section.
I was cringing. At first for Marta. She’s not the best with pain. Just imagining her suffering through 36 hours of childbirth makes me want to wrap her up in a blanket and carrying her off to some magic fairy land where birthing is as painless and quick as burping.
But after cringing for Marta, I couldn’t help but cringe a tiny bit for my future self.
Like any woman who wants to have a baby, I have of course considered these horrors before. I’ve known that you get sick in the first trimester and that you can feel listless and cranky. I’ve seen a live birth. I know they are painful. But there is something about living with someone, loving someone, who is going through the experience, right before your eyes, that forces you to vicariously feel that stomach-emptying nausea, to perfectly envision that pain of childbirth.
On the upside (because we Midwesterners always consider the upside), it also means I suffer from very little pregnancy jealousy, something that I am sure every male partner must have from time to time. Marta sleeps with a little smile one her face for nearly ten hours and I can think: one day that will be me. She watches at her belly grows and I can imagine myself in that same place, one day.
For now, though–especially after those Thanksgiving horror stories–I am content to be on this side of the screen.