Imagine if, when a couple decides to have a baby, they also have to decide which one of them will carry it. I know this already happens for same-sex couples, but pretend it is a standard conversation with all couples all over the world. My husband’s and mine would have gone something like this:
“You want to see if we can make a baby?” I might say, over a cup of morning coffee.
“Sure, may as well give it a try,” my husband would respond and then probably slurp on his coffee in a way that he knows really irritates me.
“Who’s going to carry it then?” I would ask, “you or me?”
“We could flip for it?”
“You can’t flip for it! It’s a baby. This is a little more involved than who drives the first leg of the car trip.”
“Ok then, what are the criteria?”
“For carrying it?”
“Yeah. What do you need to be a good incubator?”
“Diet for one. You have to cut out coffee and alcohol.”
“Oh, well why don’t you do it then.”
“What!” I would rage. “That is a total copout. And it wouldn’t hurt you to cut out alcohol anyway.”
“Focus,” my husband would caution. “Don’t digress. Stick to the subject at hand.”
“I like coffee and alcohol too you know.”
“All right, all right. We’ll leave that one alone. What else do you need?”
“Well they say the first trimester can be very difficult. They recommend lots of sleep and good amounts of healthy food.”
“Eating and sleeping? Sounds like a job for me.”
“That’s the good part. The bad part is fatigue. Apparently it can get so bad you can barely stand up. Your breasts will get sore and your nipples will increase to the size of five-cent pieces. Your gums bleed because of the increased blood flow, water tastes like metal, your scalp itches, your sense of smell increases until you can barely walk past a petrol station, you have to urinate frequently – multiple times every night, and sometimes the only thing you want to eat is laundry detergent even though you know that’s really, really bad. Your emotional response to situations will often be completely disproportional to what the occasion warrants, you may swell up like a beached whale retaining fluid in parts of your body you didn’t know had room, some people get skin rashes, thrush, urinary tract infections, headaches, nosebleeds, weight gain but no baby bump so you just feel fat, and then of course there’s the nausea.”
“Nausea as in vomiting?”
“Nausea as in vomiting. I’ve heard stories of people having injections every four hours because they can’t stop. They can’t eat anything but plain crackers and sparkling mineral water and it isn’t just in the morning like the name suggests. Sometimes it lasts all day and for longer than the first trimester.”
I would pause to let some of this information digest. “Still game?”
“It can’t be that bad or humans wouldn’t have lasted this long.”
“Maybe so. But remember you’ve still got to get it out of you nine months later.”
“Oh that, well, you know, I can be tough,” he might say, “that part should be all right.”
“You reckon? Have you read about childbirth?”
“Too much information. I prefer to go in blind.”
“Take a look at this,” I would say and hand him a booklet with some gruesome pictures and a couple of choice phrases like ‘thirty-hour labour,’ ‘stitches needed after tearing’ and ‘faecal matter from force.’
His coffee would splurt out onto the bench and he would head to the bathroom to do the only bit of vomiting he was ever planning on enduring.
And so it came to be that our creator (whatever or whomever you imagine that to be) saved us all the time and wasted conversations and made it so that females were the sole bearers of children. Foolishly lining up to reproduce not once or twice, but often multiple times.
Foolish maybe, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, I reckon it’s the men that miss out. Vomiting, nose bleeds, sore boobs and all.