Women Get All the Best Cravings: The Sociology of Pregnancy

Men can't get pregnant. Only women can get pregnant. In that sense, the continuation of the human species is sort of like what Congress has proven; men are useless. (100 Senators/83 Men, 435 Representatives/357 Men if you count Senator Ted Cruz) Oh, I suppose sperm helps the reproductive process move along. But as Dr. Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park, when told that the dinosaurs couldn't breed because they were all female, "Life finds a way." (This also explains how an idiot like Ted Cruz can rise to power so quickly. Life finds a way.)

A few years ago, transgendered Thomas Beatie found his 15 minutes of fame as the world's first "pregnant man." Beatie was on Oprah and Barbara Walters and other talk shows. But Beatie still had a uterus and a vagina and the pregnancy just seemed like a desperate cry for publicity. I watched the Oprah interview with my father. My father said, "I hope this doesn't make me sound homophobic, but God this is just really stupid. I have nothing else to say about it." I have nothing else to say about it.

Sometimes, when a couple announces the female partner's pregnancy, they'll say, "We're pregnant!" What do you mean "we"? You mean all of us in the room? Just because you knocked up your wife, that doesn't mean I'm pregnant. And neither are you. Only women can get pregnant... or ask for directions.

Of course, men say "we" with good intentions. Men feel bad about all the physical discomfort that their partner is going through. And they want to be a part of the experience, to "share" the pain. That's why men stay in the delivery room now -- to provide emotional support, so they can cheer for their women. But hospital childbirth is really just a medical procedure. When I received my rectal exam, nobody was in the room rooting me on. (Though, in fairness, my friends threw me a beautiful shower a few weeks earlier.)

Sometimes, a man will go as far as wearing a fake "pregnancy belly," to empathetically experience and simulate his partner's growing stomach. If I get a woman pregnant, I'm not wearing a fake pregnancy belly. I'll just drink a lot of beer.

Pregnancy can't be easy. Hell, I got a terrible stomachache after accidentally swallowing the human finger hidden in my McRib sandwich. I can't imagine what it's like to have an entire person inside of you. It must be very physically uncomfortable. Secretly, men are worried that women, in a collective show of solidarity, will protest the discomfort by boycotting pregnancy. The state of Kansas has been proactive about this fear, passing Draconian laws that give the government control over women's reproductive rights. In Kansas, pregnancy isn't just a beautiful thing; it's a mandatory thing.

Also, society tries to convince women that pregnancy enhances their physical appearance. We say that a pregnant woman is gorgeous. She "glows." That's a lie, of course. I've known many pretty women. They're not as attractive when they're pregnant. Their faces get kind of bloated and their limbs are all puffy and... Ouch! My girlfriend just punched me in the arm! What!? What did I say!?

Anyway, as I was saying, pregnant women are gorgeous.

On the TLC reality show 19 Kids & Counting, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar feel that God should determine the number of children they have. Ironically, the success of that show makes me question the existence of God. Nevertheless, I don't think God wants anyone to have 19 children. I think God wants children living in orphanages to be adopted by loving families. I also think God watches The Learning Channel and thinks to Himself, "19 Kids & Counting? Cake Boss? Long Island Medium? How is this LEARNING? I'm not learning anything. Maybe the government should keep funding PBS."

But at least the Duggars aren't picky. They just want to have children. What's disturbing is when couples specifically target the child's sex. When someone says, "We're hoping for a boy," I respond, "What if it's not?" The answer is usually something like, "That's nice, too." Life is already challenging. Nobody deserves to begin their life with a "that's nice, too." If it's really important that your child specifically be a boy or a girl, then wear a condom and buy a Cabbage Patch Doll; you can choose the sex.

My older sister has two boys. After her second son was born, people asked, "Are you gonna try for the girl?" What the hell kind of question is that? Basically, they're assuming that my sister was disappointed that her second child wasn't a girl. And if she had a third child, and it was another boy, she would be really, really disappointed... because she was "trying" for a girl. My advice? That could be anything in your uterus: a boy, a girl, an alien, Regis Philbin. Just try for a child and you're less likely to be disappointed.

Incidentally, when my sister was pregnant, she was overjoyed to learn she would be having a boy, and then another boy. And if she was pregnant with girls, she would have been equally ecstatic. My sister's sons are teenagers now, and I'm happy to announce they're no more moody, uncommunicative, and self-absorbed than other kids their age. So things worked out fine.

Some soon-to-be parents don't want to know the baby's sex until the delivery day. They want to be "surprised." That's ridiculous. You found out you're having a baby! Isn't that enough of a surprise?

When people don't want to know the sex of their baby, I'm reminded of the stupidity of surprise parties. If, two weeks before the party, you tell me you're throwing me a party, I'm surprised. And now I'm also prepared. It's good to be prepared. It's fine if you want to jump out from behind the couch and yell, "Surprise! We're throwing you a party in two weeks!" But at least now I'm prepared for the party and I'll know to bring the whips and handcuffs.

Logically, whether you find out the sex of your baby five months into the pregnancy, or five seconds after the baby is born, isn't it the same surprise? Hey, if it's all about the surprise, then why end the mystery when the baby is born? Why not wait even longer? Keep a diaper on the baby, at all times, during the first year. Then, when it's his or her first birthday, pull off the diaper. Surprise! It's a...

Boy, people have weird inclinations. And that's okay. Pregnant women get a pass. They're allowed to be a little goofy. But unpregnant people have no excuse. I mean, what's with putting your hand on a pregnant woman's stomach... to "feel" the baby? Isn't that intrusive? When you put your hand on a woman's stomach, you're not feeling the baby. When I put my hand on a refrigerator door, I'm not feeling the yogurt and apple juice inside the fridge. No -- when you put your hand on a woman's stomach, you're feeling her stomach. That doesn't make you a "baby lover"; that makes you the creepy guy on the subway trying to cop a feel.

Sometimes, people will put their hand on a pregnant woman's stomach without even asking permission. You can't put her hand on a stripper's stomach without getting beat up by the bouncer. And yet people- sometimes total strangers- think they have the right to touch a woman's body part? Women are more than just "vessels". I don't have the statistics, but I bet people who believe abortion should be banned are more likely to put their hands on a pregnant woman's stomach than are people who support abortion rights. Just sayin'.

Another touchy subject is congratulating women on a pregnancy when they "look" pregnant. This leads to awkward and humiliating interactions. If a woman doesn't orally confirm that she is expecting, it's best to assume she is not pregnant. "You look great" works on everyone. But "congratulations on being pregnant" can quickly ruin a chubby person's day. (Also, "you're glowing" works on pregnant women as well as on people who have been exposed to nuclear waste... but, when it comes to the latter, you might also want to finish the sentence with "... and you need immediate medical care".)


Congratulations to all you pregnant women out there! (And, hopefully, you know who you are.) You've done more for the world than I ever did. Society needs you... literally. Without you, our species is finished... at least until human cloning is perfected. What's taking so long for that, anyway?