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A friend of mine is in a long term relationship with her female partner. After deciding they wanted a family, my friend's girlfriend got pregnant.

Normally when talking about a couple expecting a baby you would use phrases like

An expectant mother or Mother-to-be (i.e., the woman is pregnant)

or

An expectant father or Father-to-be (i.e., the man's partner is pregnant)

According to my friend, having used the traditional phrases so far has led to people saying things like "But you're not even showing!" or "Well, I don't think you should be drinking!" etc... She's taken to humorously calling herself the Father-to-be instead which has got me wondering.

How would you convey the message that although somebody is a mother-to-be, they are not the ones that are pregnant?

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My partner/spouse/SO is pregenant –  mplungjan May 8 at 12:10
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You could probably say something very American such as "the non-carrying partner" –  Joe Blow May 8 at 13:27
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@JoeBlow or something like "the non biological mother-to-be" even? –  Ilythya May 8 at 15:07
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The non-baby mama. (Just kidding, please don't call her that.) –  Patrick M May 8 at 15:34
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@Ilythya Given recent advances in gene-splicing/in vetro fertilization/other sci-fi-stuff-made-real, it won't be long (if it's not already here) before same-sex partners will be able to have children that are in fact the biological offspring of both parents -- so while that term may work for the here-and-now, its days of relevance are already numbered. (There's even been promising research toward the possibility of children from more than two parents!) –  Kromey May 8 at 15:50

12 Answers 12

up vote 35 down vote accepted

Using the inverted-gender pronoun for the partner in a homosexual relationship who is not physically pregnant is entirely sensible, although a bit odd.

If you want an alternative, parent-to-be is a fair term which is not mismatched on gender and does not include the same health restrictions as mother-to-be. Of course, one wonders how you would describe a woman who is expecting a child through a surrogate.

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Removing gender from the equation seems sensible and I agree that the same issue is present when talking about surrogacy. Surrogacy has its own terms of Gestational Carriers and Intended Parents though. –  Ilythya May 8 at 12:59
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They could simply be "expectant parents" in that scenario. No one needs to know the mechanics of how their baby is being made. :-) –  Kristina Lopez May 8 at 13:39
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@KristinaLopez: Sometimes it does matter to someone else as to whether or not a woman herself is pregnant. Say, to doctors or anyone hosting the happy couple. (You wouldn't offer a pregnant woman alcohol, for example.) –  DougM May 8 at 15:19
    
You're right @DougM. I was thinking of more of a casual conversation where it might come up that "we're expecting". A quick glance at the belly might prompt the question, "How far along are you?" to which they could respond, "Our surrogate just started her 2nd trimester!" –  Kristina Lopez May 8 at 15:24
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I'm not sure that "parent-to-be" solves the problem. A person of any gender, pregnant or not pregnant, could call themselves a "parent-to-be" if they're going to have a child in the near future in any way. You could still call yourself a "parent-to-be" even if you were pregnant, so I'm not sure if gets the message across. –  WendiKidd May 8 at 22:13

The non-birthing part of a lesbian relationship having a child is often called the co-mother (last sense—ignore the previous senses, they're very rare in normal settings, at least in my experience).

So your friend would be a co-mother-to-be or (perhaps less likely to make you suffer a hyphen overdose) expecting co-mother.

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Perhaps something mildly humorous might do the trick. For instance:

"We're pregnant, but I'm still allowed to drink and go bungee-jumping".

"We decided that as I was better at rugby than her, she'd be the one taking a break".

"It turns out I'm having to drink for two".

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5  
Not really answering the question –  mplungjan May 8 at 11:59
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@mplungjan - I suppose that depends on how literal-minded you are. –  Erik Kowal May 8 at 12:02
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+1 for the use of "We" –  Ilythya May 8 at 12:53
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After reading the first two, I thought I'd read something like "She's carrying the football, I've got the launch codes" –  David Wilkins May 8 at 13:35
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+1 for drinking for two. I will have to see how many situations I can personally apply that to. –  WinnieNicklaus May 8 at 20:48

@DougM's answer of using the gender-inverted ("father-to-be") or gender-neutral ("parent-to-be") terms is a good one for general-purpose, quasi-impersonal descriptions -- such as when you are describing your friend to us. "Mother-to-be", despite the connotations, is still the most technically accurate moniker, however.

When she's asked, or it otherwise comes up for her, she generally has far more control over the structure of her response and thus can take a page from my own friend's book: "My wife* is pregnant." (Substitute "spouse", "SO", "girlfriend", or whatever other moniker she/they prefer.) Since our society is still very heavily hetero-normative, a woman saying she's a "parent-to-be" is still likely to be heard in the exact same light as if she had said she's a "mother-to-be", i.e. it will be too frequently assumed that she's the one who's pregnant. Using "father-to-be" is just likely to sow confusion.

*Note: My friend in this case is not actually married to her SO, as they live in a state that does not (did not? haven't been following progress on that front too closely) recognize homosexual marriage yet, however they think of themselves as being married and thus use those terms (well, term: "wife") in all except legal settings. Which just goes to show that the labels you choose for yourself really are entirely up to you, so to bring this back around to the question at hand: Your friend should use whatever description or moniker she feels comfortable with, regardless of what a hetero-normative society that all too frequently still despises her may think about it.

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She is a mother to be. Later, she will be a mother. If a male-female couple was waiting to adopt a baby (already being carried by someone else) or using a surrogate, would you need a special word to indicate "will be a mother soon" but "not pregnant"? I don't think so. Use mother-to-be when you want to emphasize the parenting that will be happening, and "pregnant woman" when you want to focus on the physical situation one of them is in. If you need to talk about both of them, "expectant parents" or "expectant mothers" will work.

Now sure, when she tells people she will be a mother soon, and they are confused because she's not visibly pregnant, she needs some sort of reply like "I'm not the one who is pregnant" or "there's more than one way to become a parent, you know" but that doesn't mean you need a word for it.

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She may be a mother to the child, but she is neither the biological mother, nor the pregnant mother. You do need a special term for the same reason as when cars start to be able fly, we will need a new term for getting out of the car. "Well, he got out of the car." "Yeah, so?" "He was forty thousand feet up! He's dead now dude!" –  Benjamin Wade May 25 at 22:00
    
Not every concept needs a word. And even if we do need a word, we don't currently have one, and this question asked for what to call her. The only word we have is mother at the moment. –  Kate Gregory May 25 at 22:07
    
I agree that not every concept needs a word, but since we will soon have aound 2.5% of the population that will likely be in this state at one point in their lives, we should have a clear way of stating it. I like, "my wife is expecting." –  Benjamin Wade May 27 at 13:55

The "combination" I would use is non-expectant parent. "Non expectant, to demonstrate that her partner is pregnant, and "parent" so say that she is not the biological mother.

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The interesting thing about this is that in a hetero relationship, they often say "We're expecting." So the non-pregnant spouse considers himself to be expecting, although he's not doing the heavy lifting. –  Barmar May 12 at 23:53
  1. I think my favorite, that is, the most natural and understandable way of communicating this, is to simply say,

    • "my wife is carrying our child"
    • "my wife is expecting our child"
  2. Along those same lines, if one were actually looking for a title of some sort that she could to use in cases when:

    • filling out a form... or
    • others need to refer to the non-pregnant partner

    then I think the following two terms could also work equally as well:

    • "non-carrying mother to be"
    • "non-expecting mother to be"
  3. I also really like mother-in-waiting, but I don't think it's quite as clear as the two above.

  4. A few others that I think can work as well:

    • "Parent to be"
    • "Non-pregnant Mother to be"
    • "Partner-Mother to be"
    • "Wife-Mother to be"
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1  
Wife-Mother-Parent-Partner-Spouse-Father-CoExpector to be... Sounds about right to me. –  WernerCD May 8 at 15:55

Just asked a doctor. They have to write notes in charts about this occasionally. The term is non-biological parent or non-biological mother.

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I speak with a bit of authority here, as the lesbian non-birth parent of a 15-year old. Before the blessed day, I was his "mother in waiting." Brought a smile to frowning lips, and we all got on with things.

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I really like that answer :) –  Ilythya May 14 at 8:27

To make sure I am answering the question:

How would you convey the message that although somebody is a mother-to-be, they are not the ones that are pregnant?

As you would with a heterosexual couple:

My friend's wife/girlfriend/spouse is pregnant.

If the person to whom you are speaking is aware that your friend in question is female or a woman, then they will probably infer that they are lesbian and that would be the end of that. It is a common enough situation in the United States, anyways.

The more difficult question would be how to easily discuss a pregnant trans man. It would probably require more explaining which could get tiresome.

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2  
So if the person in question enters the room, you might say 'Here's the expectant father!', what would you say in this case? 'Here's the person who's wife is pregnant!'? –  dwjohnston May 8 at 21:27
    
@user1068446: What is wrong with 'Here's the expectant mother!'? –  dotancohen May 9 at 11:20
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@dotancohen - The problems that the OP described. People say 'You don't look pregnant', or 'You shouldn't be drinking'. –  dwjohnston May 9 at 12:32
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@dotancohen: If a non-pregnant woman arranges with a pregnant woman to adopt her child when it is born, I would describe the former as "expectant adoptive mother", rather than as an "expectant mother", since the latter would strong imply that she was expecting to give birth herself. Likewise someone who describes himself as an "expectant father" is implying that he should be regarded as the biological father of the baby in question. I would suggest either "expectant mother's partner" or "expectant adoptive mother" would be appropriate, depending upon exact circumstances. –  supercat May 9 at 18:13
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I would just address those concerns and comments when someone makes them, rather than try to pre-emptively preclude them with awkward terminology. –  dotancohen May 10 at 11:18

Doesn't it depend on the relationship? If I (say 'Chris') am partnered with Pat, don't I just say, "Pat is expecting/carrying our child"?

Not like I'd go around telling strangers, wouldn't the conversation be with people I know at least casually? It seems the question itself is phrased to create a way to explain something that one isn't likely to do. Once Pat is really showing, let a stranger ask, and I'd just say, "I'm the other mom."

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I think that referring to the wife of the mother as the step-mother is a good convention to use. People unfamiliar with it being used this way may pause when they first encounter the concept, but the meaning should be understood quickly without needing to stop for an explanation.

I think the terminology that is most likely to be adopted will be established using familiar words to which we have extended additional meaning. Inventing completely new words or attempting to establish new and unfamiliar conventions for describing parental roles seems more likely to fail because of human nature, if not active resistance.

The words husband and wife once identified specific gender roles in a marriage relationship which was only defined as being between a man and woman. Describing the spouse of a woman as a "wife" had no meaning. When we later extended the definition of marriage to also include a relationship between a woman and a woman we also extended the meaning of the word "wife" to include both women in the relationship. It was a natural extension. We didn't invent completely new terms for the roles of two women married to each other. Likewise, I think it seems natural to refer to a child's mother and step-mother. If the two women adopt a child then revert back to calling them both "mother", unless you want to be pedantic and insist on calling each an "adoptive mother".

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I disagree that the process of extending the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples is complete, or even inevitable. –  ErikE May 10 at 19:46
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"Stepfather" is a man entering a serious relation with the birth mother after the child is born. "Stepmother" would likewise only be suitable for a woman entering a serious relation with the birth mother after the child is born. Definitely not for the situation described in the question. –  gnasher729 May 10 at 20:59
    
@ErikE, I agree, but I don't think I said it is complete; although, I presume it will be. –  Noah Spurrier May 12 at 9:10
    
@gnasher729 What other legal relationship is the supposed model for the non-biological lesbian partner's license to be called a "mother"? Adoption? Marriage? Fostering? Intentionally depriving a child of his own biological mother and father seems a grave human rights violation, to me. –  ErikE May 12 at 18:15

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