If every moment of our lives was accompanied by music then it would be Country music ‘take me home country road’ playing as we go on a road trip to a countryside vacation for Christmas, or Rock ’n’ Roll ‘we are the champions’ after a premiership match, or may be classic jazz on a balcony at the edge of the city with a special friend watching the lights dancing on the horizon. But for pregnancy there is no music like the Blues! Your world is Topsy-turvy, the appetite goes through the roof, while your imagination is left hanging on the veranda by the rafters and your moods are in a constant state of flux; at one moment you are in C minor and the next you are in A major suspended 7th. For some women life is like Julia Roberts in ‘sleeping with the enemy’ which gives the song ‘you’ve turned my world upside down’ poignant.
Roles in pregnancy
Pregnancy is a 9 month episode in the ‘days of our lives’ in which the main protagonist is a woman. The other characters involved are the man/husband/boyfriend or secret lover (or in the worst case scenario - a rapist), the children and the community. Here the community includes the boss and workmates at her place of work, the neighbors who live next door and the people in-between including the taxi conductor, the shopkeeper, the civil society with whom she may interact directly or indirectly. It is not possible to find the right words to disembowel the world of a pregnant woman with all its complexities but we can attempt to peep, as it were, into one or two rooms of her life and spend a day in her shoes as she navigates through the changing seasons of her world. If a woman got pregnant in the winter she would live through spring and summer and deliver in Autumn.
There is no ideal pregnancy to be described here because the characters in every pregnancy are always different, the experiences along the road are never the same from one pregnancy to another either with the same mother or when compared with other mothers. It can, however, be said with a high degree of certainty, that most pregnancies occur because two consenting adults, one male and the other female, who get entangled and wake up later with one pregnant and the other not. It is also worth noting that there are also many other pregnancies today which occur when only one of the parties is consenting or only one is an Adult. There are also increasing cases of pregnancies being manufactured through the intermediary of a test-tube because the natural method has failed. All these different scenarios need to be explored to understand how they impact the people involved and the responsibilities of the wider community to the welfare of a pregnant woman irrespective of how she became pregnant. Today, however, we need to burden ourselves less with the panoply of extraneous circumstances of how a woman becomes pregnant and focus on the Pregnant woman per se and her husband.
After the rushing winds of romance have quietened and the crashing waves of passion have stilled on the shores of the ocean of love and the howling melodies of affection have whimpered into a cold dark night the reality that lives on is a brand-new woman, a very pregnant woman. It is appropriate to note, I should observe, that given the adversities and pains and extreme risks associated with pregnancy, few woman would willingly, in their right minds, choose to bear those risk were it not that the decision to do so was made in a moment of extreme ‘excitement’ and bliss with no notion of the consequences larking in the bushes yonder. The caveat here is that the writer never planned any of our children’s birth and presumes that a huge number of pregnancies come unplanned.
The physicality of pregnancy
Now, whereas pregnancy is a consequence of two people dancing the Tango, after all is said and done, pregnancy is the province of the woman and the stakes are always set against her from the crown of her head to the sole of her feet literally. Her head is dizzy, she slows down, her abdomen grows bigger by the day which makes her breathing short and frequent. This is because the lungs cannot expand downwards as much as they used to and therefore to maintain the same supply of oxygen she has to breath faster (When supply reduces demand increases so said the Economist). Likewise because of the big abdomen which is because of the big uterus that houses the growing baby the blood in the legs cannot flow freely upwards to the heart. This is because the uterus presses on the vessels from the legs that are passing behind the uterus and reduces the blood that flows upwards and because of this the blood congests in the legs making them bigger. That’s why women are advised to lie on their sides. All these changes make the woman feel sick and ‘out of it.’ Some women get morning sickness which is mostly nausea and vomiting, others notice their skin getting more pimpled, some get headaches which could indicate high blood pressure of pregnancy. This is a real killer. Other woman because of the high blood pressure end up getting kidney failure which can also lead to having a lot of water in the brain and seizures. I do not have the space to elaborate the different hormonal changes the happen or could happen but they do happen completely change the complexion and biochemical state of the woman.
So many things can go wrong in a pregnancy and, strange but true, most of them cannot be foreseen, predicted, anticipated or prognosticated. Your doctor or Obstetrician is more-or-less a monitor of your pregnancy checking to see the state of your body and the baby and to see if everything is still in the garden of Eden. Research has shown that there is a better outcome to pregnancy if;
It is planned (the crashing waves and howling winds on that fateful night notwithstanding).
It is monitored regularly by a trained healthcare worker (here we have to note that not all women have access to health insurance or an Obstetrician or a midwife. Some have to make do with a TBA aka traditional birth attendant)
It is supported with Iron and Folic acid and Calcium lactate, Tetanus toxoid, Fansidar, and other medicine depending on the woman's state of health.
There is support from the husband and the community. I worked in a village clinic once and support means the difference between life and death for some women in precarious situations. This includes social services like availability of a Community Ambulance.
Nevertheless, there is no support like the support of a loving, caring, romantic, never angry, always available and ever-understanding husband. The only problem is that that make of husbands is out of stock and out of order. They make them like that no more and the factory shut down. That kind are only found on mars and you would need to book a spot on one of Richard Branson’s spaceship to get there while stock lasts. The current make of a husband, is seated in the hospital lobby playing candy crush as the doctor examines his wife, or at home watching the latest soccer highlights on Blitz CH 330 on DSTV as the maid helps the pregnant wife get into bed. These guys come in all shapes, and sizes and chemical imbalances and one only hopes that nature stays on the strait and narrow till D-Day (Delivery Day.)
Every husband reacts differently to a pregnancy and this is sometimes a reflection of his current situation physically, mentally, socially and especially financially. Pregnancy has become so expensive that many couples, especially in the West, have decided to forego the whole conundrum that is pregnancy. If the man and the woman were not married, or the woman is legally underage, or if there is a cultural clash or turbo like when a Munyankole attempts to marry a Gishu but the relatives do not approve, the availability of the husband’s support socially, and in any other shape or form, is at stake. An ordinary man will duck and take refugee on a desert island but a good one like the imaginary one in this article is expected by the writer, and the reader, to stand by his lady through hell and high water and indeed there are husbands like this. We have established the fact that the woman is the bearer of the biggest burden of the pregnancy, but we are here establishing the second fact that the husband too bears the rest if not most of the other burdens because he feels he is an equal partner fully vested in this venture (the crashing waves and howling winds withstanding).
Because any pregnancy is as unpredictable as one sailing upon uncharted waters of the Pacific Ocean, a successful pregnancy depends heavily on 13 letters - COMMUNICATION. The writer here makes many assumptions for the purposes of limiting the scope of this discourse including the assumption that at the time of pregnancy the husband and the wife are married or living together in a socially agreeable manner. On this background I assert with every fibre of rationality in me that any successful marriage depends on good communication and more so when one of the partners in this negotiation called marriage is pregnant. This is because pregnancy, as earlier mentioned, has a way of messing with the woman’s entire body, mind, and soul. The terms of reference or memorandum of agreement of the marriage that existed before the pregnancy need to be torn up and cast in the charcoal stove. When pregnancy knocks on your door you know that the time has come to redefine the contours of what was once called communication. Remember the woman has become a basket full of hormones and her moods are playing a different tune from her brains. She composes music she cannot put into words and you the listener will need extraterrestrial help to decipher her every word and body language. Someone once told me that the definition of a friend is one who is able to weigh your feelings and measure your words accurately and this is the time for that kind of a friend.
Communication during pregnancy
The burden of communication is bilateral and runs in both directions for what good is a dialogue if only one person does the talking or the understanding. Love is only worth giving if it is received by the beloved. I think many a husband attempt to help their wife through this tumultuous terrain of pregnancy but if the woman makes no effort to understand herself and to re-adjust her attitude the pregnancy becomes the bane of some people’s existence. It has been noted that some marriages fail during pregnancy, there is domestic violence, there are extra-marital affairs and in an extreme case some people opt for abortion. This is the reality of the forces that come crashing upon the pregnancy; some partners become strangers to each other, some separate their sleeping arrangements, and some cease fire on any romance. The woman’s appearance has changed so much so that the man finds her less attractive and suddenly the extra- territorial temptations become acute.
I think the start of good communication is exactly that! Good Communication. Express yourself and tell the other person how you feel, let them know how you think about the current situation. As DC Talk once sang, ‘say what you mean and mean what you say!’ Honesty, I believe, is one of the cornerstones of good communication. And honesty is also impossible without a good amount of vulnerability. There is a degree of baring your soul as a man to your wife that will feel like allowing yourself to be in a weakened position and that your wife needs to know that you need each other and that with all your macho charade and keeping Up appearances you are a weak man without her. She too needs to realize that she cannot do all that her husband would like her to do or be and that her ability to vocalize these insecurities will help her husband understand her occasional outbursts to the maids or failure to get food ready on time.
Support as the pregnant husband
At this point a good husband will realize he needs to adjust his expectations of his wife proportionately. Other forms of communication will, and should, include changes in the husband-wife roles. If the wife did most of the house work before, the man will have to do more of those chores and errands and shopping and baby-sitting. The husband will have to keep reminding the wife that he loves her and is looking forward to the birth of their child - male or female. Good communication also involves expressing our expectations to each other, even after the birth of the child. If, however, those expectation clash with the partner’s a conflict resolution is very important. Some of the worst memories of my practice as a doctor is when I was burdened with treating a woman who has sustained grievous bodily harm because she became pregnant again, or that while pregnant she overcooked the food or that after the pregnancy she delivered the wrong sex - as though it was the woman’s making. In the last case a man has been known to walk away from the woman in the labour ward.
Living in harmony
How can a man live in harmony with his pregnant wife? it is possible and happens every day but not often enough. The pain of pregnancy, 9 months that have sustained the human race through the ages and kept mankind from extinction, remains a puzzle for every man and every doctor to come to terms with. When that time comes along, the woman needs all the support in every way possible and the husband is the first responder at ground zero. The other parties that have not been mentioned in the cycle of life include the children and the community as mentioned above and these we shall illuminate at the next station but the train must refuel for now.
‘You give me the blues baby!’ is playing tonight at some location in town. It maybe in a different key and a different harmony but you can always tell its the Blues. Even those who do not know how to sing will dance to its tune and sometimes that's all we can do - Dance.
About the author: Dr. Bunoti James is a General Practitioner working with the AAR Acacia Clinic with over 20 years of working experience. He is married to Becky and they have 3 boys Shalom, Shammah and Shadrach. His passion is writing playing guitar and treating people. His other writings include - The tragedy of loving Jasmine - A collection of romantic poetry. He has also composed 3 songs including Dust and Ashes, We will not fear and Raindrops. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cell 0783-770303