(No – it’s really my own story.)
Pregnancy is a magical time in a woman’s life. The thought of a human being developing and beginning life inside a woman’s body is fascinating and wonderful. And for almost one year, a little human is totally and absolutely connected – every moment of each day – growing, kicking, swimming and counting on its’ life support to develop.
But for the spouse/partner of a pregnant woman, pregnancy can be mysterious and baffling. The cravings, the range of emotions and the physical changes of the pregnant woman can be difficult for a partner to understand.
I am eight months pregnant with my second child. My husband and I are having another girl, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. We’re having the time of our lives as parents to our daughter and can’t wait to meet her little sister. And although I find pregnancy to be a magical and beautiful and awesome experience, I am ready for my due date.
I would guestimate that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most severe of all the pregnancy symptoms, I’m dealing with about a 6. And, of course, some days are better than others. But in the worst of it he gets moody, complains of nausea, indigestion, heartburn, backaches, he has trouble sleeping and on occasion gets that horrible deep itch that not even lotion seems to soothe. Yes, I do believe my husband is pregnant!
It’s called Couvade Syndrome (kū-väd’), and it’s a real thing. It means that the spouse/partner is having a “sympathetic pregnancy”. Couvade has been recorded throughout history in numerous cultures around the world. The term comes from the French word couver, meaning “to hatch”. When it occurs, it begins toward the end of the first trimester (of the real pregnancy) and increases in severity until the baby is born. And the only cure for Couvade seems to be – birth. Once the baby of the pregnant woman is born, these sympathy symptoms disappear.
Is it just that my husband is deeply empathetic, and is so tuned into me that he feels my pain? That’s one theory. The other psychological theories behind Couvade state that it could involve anxiety, pseudo-sibling rivalry, identification with the fetus, ambivalence about fatherhood, or parturition (def: the act of giving birth) envy.
And then there are the physiological theories – that the spouse/partner of the pregnant woman actually experiences their own hormonal changes during this time.
I’m not going to put my egg in either theoretical basket. I really just needed to know that this happens, to other people too. And to know that it’s a normal part of the pregnancy journey with my spouse. And it makes me love and appreciate him even more, to know that he is willing to rub my sore feet, knowing that his must hurt just as badly since I mentioned it. And appreciate him for going to get the antacids, for both of us. And to know that we’ll get to spend some quality time together at 2 am, when I get up to use the bathroom and he’s right behind me in line. And the best part – the cravings – when I want that lemon tart that only the coffee shop four blocks down has – I love knowing that his craving for a slice of chocolate cake is just as impassioned. And so he will go. And I’m pretty sure that Couvade is bringing us closer together. Because I know he loves me so much, that he’s willing to have my baby.
posted Sept ’10