When I first read about dropping testosterone levels in expectant fathers, I thought, “Well, that’s not going to be me.” Don’t get me wrong: I’m not some meathead who treats feelings like a disability, but I am somewhat of a manly man, at least for a guy who writes poetry and wears the color yellow more than most men do. Crying isn’t exactly a pastime of mine, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve done it. Some moments that come to mind: my college roommate’s funeral, every time I’ve had my heart broken (I guess, deep down, I’m a romantic.) and anytime a pet has died. But ever since Jaime found out her eggo was preggo, I’ve found myself fighting off the tears with far more regularity.
I first noticed it when our dog Jelly hurt herself about a month ago. After a vigorous round of fetch where she slipped running up a hill and face-planted into the grass, Jelly came up limping. She’s had a limp before, so I didn’t think much of it until later that night when it was clear she was in pain. We gave her an anti-inflammatory, and she sulked around the house with that nervous dog look. “Jelly’s getting old,” Jaime said before she went to sleep that night. I stayed up by myself listening to music, and after drinking a few beers, I curled up on the rug with Jelly to cuddle. Reminiscing about all the good times we’ve had together (Jelly’s been my sidekick for seven years since she was an 8-week-old puppy that slept in the crook of my elbow.), I began crying–not one of those elephant wails, but there were tears as I stroked her furry blonde head. I took a few breaths, wiped my eyes with my hand, which Jelly then licked, and thought, “What the fuck is wrong with me?” I blamed it all on the beer.
But the crying hasn’t only happened when I’ve been drinking. For the last few weeks, nearly every highlight I’ve seen of Derek Jeter during his quest for 3,000 hits has made me choke up, thinking about all the moments–the Flip, the Dive and, finally, the Jack.–that I’ve witnessed, the last while sitting in my very own set of seats from the original Yankee Stadium. When I watched Lil’ Wayne performing Tupac’s “Haily Mary” as part of Weezy’s recent MTV Unplugged, I rapped along the lyrics with a shallow voice, fighting off one of those throaty near-cries, thinking about the life Tupac could have lived. Later, I’d tell Steve, who’s been calling the baby “Lil’ Tupac,” that ‘Pac will be my child’s John Lennon or Marvin Gaye, making me feel both old and even sadder. Then, just the other day on my lunch break, I read this article about the father who fell 20 feet to his death at the Texas Rangers’ game while trying to catch a foul ball for his young son who watched his dad’s brutal death, and I had to close the door to my office and collect myself, thinking about how much I wanted a father at all the games I went to as a kid to catch a ball for me and how sad it must be for that little boy to grow up knowing that his father died trying to make his son happy.
Apparently, what I’ve been experiencing is called “sympathy pregnancy,” or Couvade Syndrome, which is kind of like the whole phantom limb thing except instead of missing your lost leg you crave pepperoni pizza and cry every time Derek Jeter steps into the batter’s box. Sympathy pregnancy is caused by increased levels of prolactin, the hormone that triggers expectant mother’s to begin producing milk, and decreased levels of testosterone, the hormone that can cause men to have the libido of Pepe Le Pew and the body hair of a Labradoodle.
The effects of sympathy pregnancy are more than just cravings and crying though. Some men have morning sickness, headaches, nosebleeds, stomach cramps, diarrhea and other symptoms that spur pregnant women to Kimbo Slice people. (For example, just the other day my wife said she didn’t want to hang out with someone because she “hate[s] looking at his stupid, ugly face.” That’s a direct quote, people!) I haven’t puked or pooped myself since Jaime’s been knocked up, but the, at times, uncontrollable emotions I’ve experienced have made me thankful to have a penis.
The symptoms go away eventually though. Once the baby is born and begins its climb out of the crib and into the “real world,” testosterone levels return to normal, meaning I can put down the tissues and resume yelling “Suck it, [insert name of opposing team here.]” whenever Jeter gets a hit.
But if I do keep crying, I’ll just blame it on the beer.