“Why can’t you date while you are pregnant?” My friend Robert asked, cocking his head to the side curiously.
“You have clearly lost your mind,” I responded, laughing and nearly spilling my coffee in the process.
Just a month before meeting with Robert for coffee, I ended a serious relationship. Robert wondered when I would start dating again, and I informed him that I was putting dating on hold for another few years to have another child. This wasn’t the first time I decided use a sperm donor to become a Single Mother by Choice (SMBC). One of the reasons I chose to be a SMBC with my first daughter was because I didn’t want my desire for children to cloud my judgement about romantic relationships. When I stepped back from this most recent relationship to analyze why I hadn’t ended it sooner – given that we had little in common and he wasn’t even parenting the child he already had – I realized that this was precisely what I almost allowed to happen.
While I always assumed pregnancy and dating were mutually exclusive, Robert challenged my conventional norm: Not being pregnant while at the same time trying to pursue a new relationship. While I was decidedly single when I chose to have my first daughter, I never envisioned myself showing up on a Tinder date while also actively pregnant. It seemed absurd as I imagined what it would be like to show up to an unsuspecting suiter, revealing a full on pregnant belly.
As I continued to push back on Robert’s suggestion that I should get back into the dating field as soon as possible, he argued that if a man really wanted to get to know me, he wouldn’t be deterred by a pregnancy – he would take things slow and get to know me – and he would support how I chose to have my family. A good man, in Robert’s opinion, wouldn’t feel threatened by my decision to take a man out of the equation on my journey to motherhood.
‘Why did the idea of showing up to a date, while pregnant, freak me out so much?’ I asked myself.
Robert’s questions forced me to address my own insecurities. I hadn’t considered continuing to date because I was afraid of being rejected for the inevitability of my growing body. I was afraid of how I would feel if a man rejected the way I chose to have children. I was afraid of judgement, similar to what I might receive if I bellied up to a bar while visibly pregnant.
Sure, going on an innocent date didn’t pose the same threat to my unborn child as binge drinking at a bar, yet I still felt intensely uncomfortable with the concept.
While I appreciated Robert’s male perspective, he wasn’t capable of seeing this from a woman’s point of view. What he was missing was that the woman would need to consciously make the choice to date while also going through this dramatic life change. But just as Robert’s opinion was one male perspective, I wondered if my discomfort with the idea was unique in my circle of single mothers.
Conveniently, I live in liberal Seattle where there is a large community of single mothers by choice. There’s an ugly stigma that women only choose to be single mothers because they can’t get a man; however, we are mostly a group of gorgeous, independent, smart, and brave women who love children and have always dreamed of motherhood.
We have a group where we share tips, plan playdates, and pose thought provoking questions like this –
“Ladies, what do you all think of dating while pregnant? Have any of you actually done this?” I posed to the group.
My post was one of the more actively discussed topics, and the responses were hilarious, intriguing, and wildly diverse.
“I kinda did but as soon as you tell guys you are pregnant they freak out and run. They automatically think you are looking for a baby daddy,” said Rachel.
“I put dating completely on hold through the entire process. I didn’t want dating during pregnancy to create a closeness that could lead to weirdness and cause the guy to have feeling of paternity,” Meghan added, in agreement with Rachel.
Both women expressed concerns I hadn’t been able to explain to Robert. I was having this baby on my own, and it was a conscious decision. I didn’t accidently get pregnant. I wasn’t looking for a stranger to be my child’s father. I was painfully familiar with the stereotype that single mothers must be looking for someone to take care of their child, and the idea of having to overcome that perception on a date made me nauseous.
As the comments rolled in, I found it interesting how we all had at least some hesitation with dating while pregnant, but didn’t seem to have the same concerns after the baby was born. Maybe Robert had latched onto something truly progressive.
“Ladies, wouldn’t these stereotypes and concerns continue even after giving birth? Is it just worse because the child would technically be on the date with you while pregnant, instead of at home with a sitter?” I wrote to the group, in follow up to my initial inquiry.
“I swelled up starting at about 3.5 months, and was huge by the time we were done. Hell no on dating in that condition!!” Stacy said, infusing some harsh reality into the conversation.
“This could be a great situation for the guy. He should relax because he can’t get you pregnant if you’re already there,” Alison added, followed by a virtual laughter emoji.
Many of us worried about how men would feel about our pregnant bodies before even giving the man the chance to choose for himself. While most of the women in the group admitted they wouldn’t date, others mentioned that they would be open to the idea. Dating is exhausting, especially since mobile app dating has become mainstream. I have long lamented that men no longer approach women in public, because it’s easier to go home and swipe right and left on your phone. If men still approached women in public, the concern over whether the guy would freak out when seeing the pregnant belly would be somewhat mitigated with an in-person visual.
I am not sure that Robert was able to sway me into continuing to date while also being pregnant. Though, I am hopeful that I could be brave enough to try, should I run into a good man while in the produce section of the grocery store – a man brave enough to say hello and flirt with a pregnant woman.