Partnering in Pregnancy – What Your Pregnant Partner Needs from You
From conception, for an expectant mother, everything changes. How should her partner change too?
Along with the excitement and anticipation, a pregnancy brings so many new and unfamiliar conditions to a woman’s body and mental state. Shifting hormones may render her exhausted, nauseated, and emotional. Her body may become unfamiliar and strange, suddenly populated with aches, odd colorations, and swellings, along with the expected weight gain and growing baby bump. Soon there are obstetrician appointments, tests, maternity clothes and baby gear to purchase, baby-proofing to install, and so much studying to do about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting a newborn. It’s a thrilling time. It’s also a lot to assimilate and absorb.
So what, can you, as partner to a pregnant mama, do to ease the way?
Pregnancy can be a major stressor on a woman’s mind and body, and until they happen, there’s no way to know which symptoms, if any, she might experience. She might be down for the count or she could be happily busy taking the world by storm. Your job is to tailor your care to her needs, and in order to do that you have to listen, but you also have to observe. She may not ask for help. Offer it anyway. Better yet, just assess needs and wants and handle things before she has to ask.
Creating a new human takes a lot of energy. She might be more tired than she’s ever been in her life. She might feel sick around the clock and be limited in her ability to get things done. And in the face of her symptoms, you might feel helpless. While you may not be able to alleviate her fatigue or nausea, you can make her life a little easier by allowing her to rest while you step in and pick up slack. Walk the dog, rub her feet, be quiet while she naps, and pick up dinner.
Yes, she’s the one gestating your soon-to-be-new baby. But don’t hold her responsible for every aspect of pregnancy, birth, and everything that comes after! With so much information available in books and online, you can be just as up to speed as she is on the changes, growth, and processes of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Ask friends with babies about their experiences, and get their thoughts on what you can do to be a solid support. It’s common for partners to pregnant women to feel apart from the process, but there’s no need to be. The more you involve yourself, the more you’ll deepen your partnership, and the more bonded you’ll be to your baby when it’s born.
The hormonal shifts of pregnancy are real. She might be moody, she might cry in moments that make zero sense to you, she might seem to have no control whatsoever over her feelings…because she doesn’t. Don’t take her moods personally and try not to hold her too accountable for snapping or seeming less than perfectly reasonable. Be as patient and supportive as you can, even when it doesn’t seem fair. To diffuse, ask what you can do to make the rest of her day better, ask what you can get for her. The more empathy you show her, the more likely she is to feel cared for, which will help release the stress she’s sending your way.
Being present for your pregnant partner is vital in sharing the experience. As much as possible, attend every prenatal appointment, ultrasound, birthing class, parenting class, and support group she goes to. And there’s another way to show up for your partner: remember that pregnancy is a condition, not a disease. She’s still the woman with whom you chose to create a new life, and while being pregnant is a HUGE part of your lives during those months, she still needs to be seen as the person she was before she became pregnant. Be present for her as a partner, just as you were before the plus sign.
Read so much more about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, postpartum, parenting, and all things baby in the digital Main Line Parent Baby Guide!