If you are one of the 16 million who owns a copy of What to Expect When You Are Expecting, or you've seen the new movie by the same name, you know at least one thing you can expect with pregnancy---to be surprised! The fourth edition of the book weighs in at 586 pages, and the movie adaptation tells the story of five couples. The book's length and the movie's multiple story lines highlight the reality that no one couple's experience is exactly the same as another.
This is not an excuse to remain ignorant but an invitation to learn. As a first-time, expectant father I am hoping to learn much (or at least become less ignorant).
Learning About Limits
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church" (Ephesians 5:25).
Want to love your future son or daughter? Then love his or her mother. We know it's the main way because it's the only option. During pregnancy you cannot hold or hug your child, nor do you get to assemble any of the parts. But you can and must love your wife.
Sadly, many men fail in this regard. This is the heart-breaking reality:
Domestic violence is the leading cause of death among pregnant women, killing more often than pregnancy complications or car crashes. Even without the homicides, the statistics are just as alarming: nearly 20 percent of women experience violence at the hands of their partners during pregnancy. This means, statistically, that pregnant women are twice as likely to experience physical abuse during their nine months than experience a preterm birth or preeclampsia (What to Expect, p. 84).
In Ephesians 5:25, the apostle Paul highlights the love of Christ for the church, not merely to give husbands an example of love, but also to remind them of the source of love. We are to love our wives as Christ loved, because Christ loved, and from Christ's love.
So love your child by loving your child's mother---and love them both by knowing and loving their Savior.
Learning About Life
"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).
Not everything in pregnancy is both fearful and wonderful; some of it is just fearful. In addition to revealing a father's limitations, pregnancy highlights the frailty of life. You need not read very far in pregnancy books or websites before learning about the many possible complications and risks.
I had never considered how differing blood types between a mother and a child could pose health risks (read about Rh Incompatibility). I had assumed that smoking before pregnancy created higher risks, but apparently only smoking during pregnancy has been clearly proven to be harmful. And your wife can follow all of the dietary advice others will give, but she might throw it up anyway---leaving you wondering how mother or baby can get the nourishment they need.
Life is frail. Thus, as a new life is formed in spite of all of its frailty, the fearful gives way to the wonderful.
Expect also to learn about the lives of many around you. The news of your wife's pregnancy will open up new conversations for you. For example, you would never have asked an adult woman about her experiences being pregnant. Once she hears of your wife's pregnancy, however, she'll tell you all about it without even being asked.
Enjoy it---the stories are beautiful and heart-breaking, reminding you to expect to be surprised.