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Pre-Natal Care: But What About the Father?

Questioner

M (34-female-Egypt)

Reply Date

Aug 07, 2018

Question

Hi. I am a Christian woman married to an Egyptian Muslim man. We have been married for three years. My husband wants 4-6 children. We recently found out that I am pregnant. Ever since I told him the news he has been distant. He doesn't talk to me, and when we do talk, it usually ends up in verbal fights.  He seems to have no interest in the pregnancy. He sees no need to go to any of the doctor's visits with me, and when I told him that I heard the baby's heartbeat he just said, "That's nice." Is this normal behavior for an Egyptian Muslim man? When I ask my husband he says that men act differently to women. Please advise me. I am so confused and upset. I just feel so alone in this pregnancy. Thank you.

Counselor

Answer


Pre-natal

In this counseling answer:

“In the upcoming week, practice making some really clean requests. They don’t have to be around pregnancy and they don’t have to be of your husband at the outset. And really start noticing the difference inside of you, because you can really feel the difference inside your body between when you make a request: this is what I love, this will help me, and I am absolutely not attached to you saying yes or no; and when you make a demand (which may be familiar to you already).”


Dear A,

Thank you for contacting us and congratulations on the pregnancy. What a wonderful experience that many women long for. I hope that you cherish every moment of it – and you know what? That’s something that is totally is under your control.

First, let us acknowledge that your husband is right! Not only do men act differently to women, women act differently to other women. We are different! So when others have different views, tastes or preferences, we shouldn’t be surprised or confused since this is a fact of life. The issue is whether such differences will lead to conflict and alienation, or will be a source of a richer life and stronger bonding with other human beings. We don’t have a say in the fact that each of us is unique. We have every say in how we perceive such differences and how to deal with them.

Now, if I was talking to your husband, I would tell him about how richer his life could be if he was to nurture his ‘inner-child’ and allow himself to get excited by the ‘smallest’ things in life, even if it is hearing the heartbeat of his yet-unborn first-child, and how that’s not necessarily a ‘female’ thing. (Typically, Egyptian men would go “OK. That’s nice” when given such news. In their minds, some would go “What’s the big deal?” when they see their wives get upset that their men are not as excited as they are by such news).


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I would talk to him about:

• The biological, emotional effect that acts of kindness have not only on you and the child, but on him as well.

• How happy parents and a harmonious atmosphere at home help the emotional, physical, and mental health of children (unborn ones included).

• How happy, healthy children will be qurat `ayn (source of extreme joy) for him, etc.

But I am not here talking to your husband; I am talking to you. So let’s shift focus to you: your role in this “tension”, and what alternate more productive approaches to life you can try. Please keep this in mind at all times: The best gift you can give any child is a happy parent. Then remind yourself: happiness is a decision; it is a choice of what to focus upon. All of the world’s great traditions agree on this, and all the great teachers have told us the same thing.

Also, I kindly ask you to reflect on the following:

[1]- Here is an equation to think about when we want to change anything in life:
E + R = O

E represents the events and the circumstances of life.

R represents our responses or reactions to those Es, and finally

O represents the output or the results we create in our lives.

To change the output in our lives, some of us mostly focus on the E: trying to control the events (that are usually outside our control), or trying to change other people (did you ever notice that this is almost a hopeless endeavor?) On another hand, some of us put most of our energy on the R: our responses to what happens to us: mentally (seeing what is under our control and what is not, not making assumptions, not generalizing … etc.), emotionally (not taking things personally, not being attached to outcomes … etc.).  Which group do you think is more effective in creating the O they desire and are more happy in the process? You are right; the second group.

People of the first group usually feel helpless and angry and they blame the world for it. They wait for a change that is outside their control and forget the power that is within them. If you set your life as in “I can only be happy if my husband changes his ways, otherwise I will remain confused and upset”, not only are you setting yourself up for disappointment, but you are not being kind to yourself or to your child who deserves a healthy, happy mother. A shift in perception can make a world of difference.

 

A request vs. A Demand

When you are asking your husband to go with you to the doctor and to show more interest in the pregnancy, are you demanding or are you requesting? Here is the difference:

• Request: this is what I want of you, and my own well-being and my care and respect and love for you is neither diminished or enhanced by your response to my request.

• Demand: here is what I want from you or else! The “else” could range from giving the cold shoulder or simply the look, to withholding love, withholding sex, manipulating, arguing, and to fighting and walking away.

Demands are at the root of violent communication. Requests, as described above, contribute to peaceful and loving communications and, consequently, smooth relationships. When you make requests of people, if they are truly innocent requests (in the sense that you are not attaching anything to the no you might get, and there is no underlying ‘threat’ in your mind about what you are going to do to punish the person refusing your request), people sense the energy of that, and they are never offended. As a matter of fact, they are more likely to give you what you want or if they can’t, they would gracefully tell you what they can do and discuss alternatives with you. On the other hand, people are usually offended by a demand, because it awakens a form of “defensive” energy inside of them.

So the more you can clean up your requests so that they are more genuine requests, the less your communication with your husband will end up in “verbal fights” as you described in your question.

Here is Some Homework for You

In the upcoming week, practice making some really clean requests. They don’t have to be around pregnancy and they don’t have to be of your husband at the outset. And really start noticing the difference inside of you, because you can really feel the difference inside your body between when you make a request: this is what I love, this will help me, and I am absolutely not attached to you saying yes or no; and when you make a demand (which may be familiar to you already).

Once you become familiar with that, place inside of you when you make a request (usually we feel open and relaxed, and a there is sense of expansion in our chest), make sure you are in it before asking something of your husband that experience showed you he might be very comfortable with.

When you make genuine, clean requests of your husband, I guarantee you that:

(1)  You will be a peaceful person, and a joy to be around, and

(2)  you are more likely to get what you want.

Because of what I wrote above and because of the following fact:

What your Husband really wants is to please you. This is something that I hope every wife always remember: That even if outward appearances and some events might suggest otherwise, deep down in the psyche of each man, what he really wants is to please her. This is hard-wired in men. And in many cases, women can get more from their husbands, and in a much easier way, by asking less, and not by asking more. This might seem counter-intuitive at first, but I invite you to try the following experiment for a few weeks and check it out for yourself.

 

Homework Part II

In addition to the above-recommended practice of making requests as opposed to demands, practice being grateful for the things your husband does for you, and letting him know that you are. As for the things you think are missing, let go of the need to bring them out, and to make him know how wrong he is. Most men, when they feel appreciated by their wives, would only want to do more for them.

Another thing that is hard-wired in every man is the desire to protect, support and provide for his wife (and children). When you complain or try to prove to your husband that he is not doing his job, he is likely to go on the defensive (this is more true for men in the Arab world) and to argue back. Hopefully one day, men would become more mature so they can listen to their wives’ complaints without perceiving these complaints as attacks on their manhood.

He seems to have no interest in pregnancy, is that true? So, he doesn’t want to accompany you to the doctor, and he only replied “That’s nice” when you shared the news of your child heartbeat. This is what happened. But what does it mean? Can you absolutely know for sure that your husband has no interest in pregnancy? Did you open his heart/mind and checked therein? Obviously not, since no one can. Please note that you have a choice here: you can interpret what happened one way and make yourself miserable, or interpret it another way and make yourself peaceful.

Ask a 100 people about what an event means, and you are likely to come up with at least 10-20 different interpretations. For your case, someone would say “He doesn’t care. He is unkind”. Another would say “He deeply cares. He is now concerned about the future of you and his son. It is likely that he is now exploring other things he can do in life to support you other than his factory job.

He didn’t tell you that because as a Middle-Eastern man, he is trained to believe that he should do so on his own without bothering you with his ‘job’”. One would say, “He is deliberately ignoring your emotional needs”.  Another would say “He doesn’t know how to express his love other than through working harder. That’s the only thing he was taught about love. For many reasons, Middle Eastern men have lost touch with their emotions or more importantly about how to express them to their spouses. It is not really about you so don’t take it personally”.

In principle, if you have to make up a story about what an event means, make up a good one. On a higher level, it is not to make up a story and simply observe, but this is not for most of us these days. If you really want to attach a meaning to an event, and you can’t come up with one that makes you feel good, ask for help (ask your husband and if doesn’t help or ask others as you did by submitting your question here).

Is it for Love or for Control? For me, marriage is an institution for the sharing of love, and for the spiritual development of each partner. When we lose sight of this and the objective becomes gaining-control over the other, everybody loses. So always ask yourself: “What am I doing here? Am I sharing my love (meaning no strings attached) or am I trying to force my partner to give me what I want?” Then try the following: if your husband was demanding something of you that you can’t give or you don’t want to give, how would you feel? Would you say “Oh he must love so much?”

However, if you feel your stressful thoughts about your husband become an obsession, then I advise you to seek professional help for your sake and for your child’s sake.

Finally, assuming your husband will act differently a month from now, how do you plan to live your life in the meantime? I hope you cherish every moment of the current pregnancy. Moments that pass, don’t come back. Enjoy your pregnancy even on your own instead of losing it by focusing on something that might or might not happen in the future or by trying to control what you really have no direct control over. Do you love your child? What would you love to offer him/her: a peaceful mother or a stressed one?

I thank you again for contacting us and please keep us updated.

Enjoy life in joy!

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides. 

 




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