Insufferable men need a good slap before baby arrives

June 13, 1994|By KEVIN COWHERD

Doctors say more and more expectant fathers are reporting "sympathy symptoms" -- nausea, loss of appetite, weight gain, sleeplessness -- that mimic their pregnant partner's experience.

-- New York Times Syndicate

Let me see if I've got this straight.

A woman gets pregnant. For the next nine months, this is what she has to look forward to: morning sickness, heartburn, varicose veins, dragging an extra 30 pounds around her belly -- until that fun day when she goes into labor and they rush her to the hospital and a baby the size of a bowling ball begins inching down a birth canal with the circumference of a garden hose.

And it's the expectant father who feels lousy?

Please. Give me a break.

Nevertheless, according to this story, sympathetic pregnancy symptoms are thought to affect between 11 percent and 65 percent of dads-to-be. (Although my money would be on the low end of that scale. The very low end.)

All I know is, my wife and I have three kids and I never had any "sympathy symptoms" when she was pregnant.

In fact, I never felt better in my life.

You know why? Because I knew it wasn't me who was going to be thrashing about in some labor room nine months hence.

It wasn't me who was going to be sweating and panting and groaning in the delivery room with some exasperated obstetrician and neo-Nazi nurse urging me to "push harder!"

So why wouldn't I feel great?

Sympathy symptoms . . . you ask me, this is the whole problem with this country.

Look at it this way: Just last week we celebrated the 50th anniversary of that grim morning when thousands of brave GIs waded ashore at Normandy into murderous artillery and machine gun fire.

Now we've got guys whining about their pregnancy symptoms.

Now we've got guys staggering into the office every day clutching their tummies and complaining: "Gee, I hope Jenny has the baby soon. This morning sickness is killing me."

Makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?

Now we have guys who will drape an arm over their glowing wife at a cocktail party and chirp: "Yes, we're pregnant!"

I'm telling you, guys like that, I want to smack them so hard their eyebrows fall off.

Then I want to shake them by the lapels and scream: "Listen, pal, I hate to break it to you like this, but you're not pregnant, OK?! It's your wife who's pregnant!

"Know how you can tell? Because she's the one in the maternity dress! She's the one heading off to the OB/GYN every month! She's the one drinking Perrier while you slam back Heinekens. Now get outta here before we stuff you in the onion dip."

I don't know . . . maybe men are becoming too involved in their partner's pregnancies -- and also too involved in the delivery room.

I'm not saying we go back to the days when women went into labor and men sat on their rear ends in the waiting room cradling a box of cigars and thumbing through Field and Stream.

But a lot of crazy stuff goes on in the delivery room these days.

This is a true story: I was in a restaurant not long ago with an old friend and his very pregnant wife when suddenly the guy said: "Did I tell you we're videotaping the birth of our child?"

Naturally, I waited for his wife to crack him over the skull with the pepper grinder and say: "Over my dead body, sport!"

But instead, she flashed one of those eerie Cokie-Roberts-on-sedatives smiles and burbled: "Yes, it'll be so exciting!"

And I thought: Can you believe this? My social life has declined to such an extent that I'm actually sitting here with two nuts who view childbirth not as a wonderful, sacred experience to be savored privately, but as a chance to fiddle with zoom lenses and make goofy faces at the camera.

And, look, as a woman is thrashing about in the final throes of labor, with beads of perspiration running down her face and a baby the size of a toaster popping out of her, does she really want to hear her husband chirp: "C'mon, honey, give us a big smile over here!?"

Me, I would find that a little annoying.

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