In early March I found myself literally about to make the next payment on my wedding venue when it occurred to me that my period was literally more than a few weeks late. By the end of the work day I was staring at a pink plus sign as my fiancé and I instantly panicked about friends and family who had already booked their flights for our destination nuptials.
I was initially stressed. As much as I wanted to be excited about being someone’s mom by the year’s end, I couldn’t help but think, “Who gets pregnant during their engagement?”
Anyone who could do the math would know that I was engaged long before I was pregnant. But now as my bump is beginning to be clearly distinguishable from a bad case of bloat, I find myself needing to justify that I will be someone’s wife before I will be someone’s mother. Older managers at work and relatives often make side remarks that it’s some sort of accomplishment that a man wanted to marry me without the pressure of making me an “honest woman”. But every time I find myself comforted by the fact that I had an emerald cut on my finger long before I had a baby in my belly, a part of me feels that I shouldn’t need to live my life in any particular order to suppress the judgment of others.
As I waited for the elevator at work the other day, a man that I often see in passing who works on another floor caught a glimpse of my belly. My co-worker once labeled him “church pervert guy”. He’s the type that would talk about praising the Lord while staring at her breasts. He kindly wished me “Congratulations,” but of course he couldn’t leave it at that.
“I hope he’s doing right by you,” he continued, but when he caught me raising my eyebrows he finished, “You know? Put a ring on it.”
It was the first time I didn’t feel a need to make it public knowledge that a marriage would come before the baby. Still I thought, “Yes, he did put a ring on it. He put a ring on it way before this baby even existed. But more importantly he put love, trust and commitment on it for almost 8 years.” My fiance’ and I are looking at almost a decade of knowing one another and while I’m looking forward to officially being his wife, I’ve known for a long time now this would be the man I would grow old with. The point is whether you see a birth control patch on a woman’s arm or a her protruding belly under a maxi dress, it doesn’t give you a right to advise on her lifestyle or assume, “He’s only marrying her because she’s pregnant.” Just because you don’t see a ring doesn’t mean her partner is a trifling, unemployed corner boy hitting anything moving either. I could’ve just as well been a single career woman who chose to be artificially inseminated or a surrogate. Personally it’s no one’s damn business unless their footing the bill or helping me raise this baby.
If anything this pregnancy has taught me to be less judgmental because the older I get the more I realize there’s no one way to live life, there’s only the way that works best for each person. There will always be people who believe with every ounce of their being that being married will grant you stability and happiness when building a family. And that’s fine, but what isn’t is assuming that everyone else should have those same values.
And what if I hadn’t gotten engaged until I became pregnant? Is there anything wrong with a man motivated by the fact that a woman is having his child? When two people are truly committed and know they want to be together I don’t think it’s always necessary for things to fall in a traditional order nor does it discredit their commitment if they don’t. Now if a man is proposing ONLY because his partner is pregnant and he’s under pressure, that’s not healthy. I know too many folks that are obviously great co-parents but make horrible romantic partners because someone told them they weren’t living life right by having a baby out of wedlock.
There are plenty of situations where life happens faster than you can act on your feelings. And truthfully, rings rarely fix already unhealthy relationships. I know plenty of long-term partners who are awesome parents and husbands and wives I wouldn’t trust to care for an azalea bush let alone a child. We need to pay less attention to what’s on people’s fingers and more on what’s in their hearts and stop misleading one another into thinking marriage automatically makes it right. Is a proposal post-pregnancy in poor taste? I don’t know if “poor taste” can apply to such personal decisions, but I know for most women marriage and children can be the happiest and/or most stressful times in their lives and the last thing they need is anyone’s judgment or people smiling at their belly and frowning at their ring finger.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.