Pregnancy is a delicate time. A woman’s hormones are raging and she might even feel a little bit crazy. She suffers morning sickness, she’s at the doctor all the time (especially at the end), and she’s often exhausted. She needs her husband to help her!! (And yes…feel free to substitute “partner” for husband, but as I’m married, I just automatically think “husband.”)
So how can men help?
1) Don’t expect her to be the same
Right now, she’s not the same. Her body might feel out of control, especially if this is her first pregnancy. And she can’t help it, either. If she tells you that she just cannot stand to eat her favorite food, don’t make fun of her. If she wants to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon, let her. If she cries, just hold her. She needs your support and understanding right now, rather than bewildered criticism.
2) Let her rest
She needs extra sleep right now. She’s growing a baby, and her hormones are all over the place! Women tend to be especially tired in the first trimester and in their last few weeks. Let her sleep in on weekends and let her take naps if she can. When you’re both home, let her rest more than usual instead of expecting her to keep her usual pace with chores. Don’t be afraid to pitch in on those chores, either!!
3) Understand her food cravings — and aversions
Pregnant women do not do this on purpose. Something that sounds delicious one day may sound completely disgusting the next. That is normal. Don’t be upset with her or ask her why she wanted it in the first place if she won’t eat it now. Quietly finish the leftovers yourself, or put them in the freezer if you don’t like them. She may decide in a week or so that she wants it again! And never ask her to eat something she is averse to. It could literally make her sick right now. If she’s really sensitive, don’t eat it in front of her, either, because just seeing and smelling it can make her sick, too.
4) Listen to her
Naturally, you should do this all the time. But she’s extra sensitive and emotional right now. Something that might not bother her ordinarily might make her break down in tears now. She has a lot of worries and fears — is the pregnancy normal? Will the baby be normal? Will labor and birth go okay? Will the baby love her? Will she be a good mom? These are legitimate and real worries. Let her talk to you and share these thoughts and fears. She may also want to share her excitement, over finding the perfect bedding, getting an ultrasound, or feeling the baby kick for the first time. Let her share that too!
5) Attend her doctors’ appointments…or at least ask about them
If you can, attend doctors’ appointments with her. Try to attend at least a couple of them — when you hear the baby’s heartbeat, when you get the “big” ultrasound at 20 weeks, if she’s getting major blood work, etc. Sometimes it’s just for emotional support, but if she’s getting blood work (especially if she’s prone to sickness or fainting), she may need you to drive her. If your work schedule makes it impossible for you to go with her, ask her about the appointments after she’s had them. Ask how they went, if everything’s okay, if she learned anything new. Show an interest in what’s happening!
6) Plan for the future together
Pregnant women have a lot to plan. They have to pick the baby’s name, buy clothes, bedding, furniture, and so much more. If she’s going back to work, she may need to select a daycare and getting on a waiting list now. Help her with these tasks. She’ll especially need help painting the baby’s room and assembling/moving the furniture — stuff she really shouldn’t be doing by herself. And of course, naming the baby is a big deal that you’ll both want to be in on.
7) Pamper her
We all expect pregnant women to be completely normal, to go on about life exactly as it was before. But really, they’re doing a lot even when it doesn’t appear that they are. Pregnancy can make you tired and sore, and it takes a lot of your body. A little bit of pampering is nice! Draw her a bath with yummy essential oils in it (make sure they’re pregnancy-safe, though; not all are). Make a romantic dinner. Book her a pregnancy massage. Rub her feet yourself. Let her go shopping by herself (probably for baby things, but hey, she likes that right now!). Help her to feel good when she’s dealing with so much.
8) Attend a birthing class with her
If she wants to have a natural birth, a childbirth ed class is a must. It is not optional, it is not extra. A good class can prepare her about what to expect in labor and ways to cope with it. Armed with this knowledge, her birth will be more peaceful. If you attend with her, you can learn to help her cope. Remember what behavior to expect from her, who you need to call and when, and what you can do to make things easier for her (offer water, rub her back, hold her and stare into her eyes — whatever she needs at the time). This is important.
9) Help her write her birth plan
This is mostly so you know what she wants, when it comes time for the birth. Know what she’d prefer if anything went wrong. Know what she wants to happen with the baby after it’s born. When she is in the throes of labor and can no longer think or speak (yes, that happens in transition), she will not be in a position to tell anyone what she wants or advocate for herself, nor ask questions. It’s up to you to know what to ask, and make sure the staff knows. Make sure that you have her birth plan, are familiar with it, and pass it out to everyone in the hospital (hopefully her doctor has it ahead of time, but you’ll need to give it to the nurses who come in for sure).
10) Help her in labor
She is at her most vulnerable here. While in early labor she can sit and joke with you, maybe pausing briefly when a contraction hits, late labor isn’t like that. She will moan and groan. She may scream at people. She may want all of her clothes off because they’re bothering her. She may want music or absolute silence. She may want you to hold her or press on her back — or leave her alone. And likely, she won’t know what she wants until she is there. Don’t take anything she says or does personally. She is out of control of her body, exhausted, and in pain. She needs you to do exactly as she says, when she says it. Once the baby’s born, she will be more herself, and in the days and weeks following, she will become more and more “normal” again — that is, who she was before she was pregnant at all! It will happen!
How do you support your wife during pregnancy? Or, how can your husband support you during pregnancy?
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