Let’s be honest. Having a baby for the first time is exciting but also somewhat terrifying for some people. After all, it’s a brand new experience and one that holds a TON of responsibility for all parties involved.
I’d venture to say more men (or partners not carrying the baby) freak out about the whole thing than women, and I’m not saying that because I’m a woman. I’m saying it because as a woman, you’re carrying your baby inside of you. Your life starts to change the minute you see those two pink lines.
While your life changes from that moment too, Dad, you’re still not feeling all of the effects of being pregnant. You’re not hugging the toilet, experiencing food aversions, watching your body expand or wearing compression stockings (true story, I had to do this when I was pregnant with Callahan).
On the other hand, though, you’re also not feeling those little flutters that turn into kicks and somersaults. The baby isn’t with you 24/7, and so forming that bond may be something that doesn’t happen until the baby is earthside.
Even so, you’re still connected to and bonded with the beautiful woman who is carrying your child. And you likely want to support her through all stages – pregnancy, labor, delivery and parenting. Many times, though, you may be at a loss when figuring out how exactly to do that. So, here are a few tips.
More often than not, your hormones get a little wacky when you’re carrying another human life inside of you. Totally understandable, right? This can result in a multitude of things, and does often result in some moodiness and unexpected emotions from your partner.
Here’s what you need to know: SHE CAN’T HELP IT. Hormones are really freaking weird. So if she’s acting extra sensitive or gets an attitude with you, call up your friend, Patience, and take a double dose of her.
Other than patience, though, being more mindful of how you’re acting towards your partner during this time will work wonders. Go the extra mile for her. Speak more kindly, take on more household responsibilities, show up at home unexpectedly with that food she’s been craving. This won’t eliminate the hormones, but it may help in keeping the uncontrollable emotions at bay.
Before your partner is showing or before you have an ultrasound, sometimes it’s hard to understand that this is real. But if all of the foods are making her stomach turn or she’s always exhausted, let me reassure you that it’s very real to her. I promise you she’s not being a drama queen. That piece of chicken really may send her running for the toilet if she eats it and growing a human (even a really small one) will wear a person’s body out.
I’ll also say that my husband had a hard time understanding my urgency to go into labor once our first baby was full term. And I’ll fully admit that I was a bit of a monster once we got to 38 weeks and I had yet to encounter any signs of labor. As a woman who has carried and grown a baby for nine months, you feel like this unborn child may very well graduate high school in the womb. Sometimes it literally feels like you’re never going to go into labor.
This can make you irrational at times. If this is your partner, know two things – 1. She’ll look back and admit to her unreasonable craziness. And 2. Even though she is being unreasonable, you still can’t fully understand how she feels. So it may feel difficult, but try to be as understanding of her emotions as possible. The last thing she needs is someone to tell her that her emotions are unjustified.
The bottom line is this – you’ll never be able to walk a mile in her stretched-out-pregnancy-shoes, so own that and be as understanding as possible. She’s carrying your child, after all.
You thought she was a glass house of emotions during pregnancy? Just wait for labor. Contractions are no joke. And if your partner is one of the brave ones foregoing an epidural, she deserves a medal. While the most serious injury I’ve endured in my life has been a fractured elbow, I can promise you that contractions were the worst, most intense physical pain I’ve experienced.
Before you think you know the perfect cure for your partner while she’s rallying through this pain, ask her what she needs (or doesn’t need). Because even though a joke or running your hands through her hair is usually comforting to her, it may not be the answer when she’s seven cenimeters dilated.
I remember Justin rubbing my back and my arm, and while I would usually find this comforting, I absolutely did not while I was in labor. I’ve also heard other women say that they did not want to be touched, so make a mental note.
But maybe your partner would find it comforting. Or maybe she wants to listen to music or eat ice chips or take a walk around the hospital. You won’t know unless you ask her, though, so ask!
For the first week or two after we returned from the hospital with Beckett, our oldest, my husband would wake up with me in the middle of the night for feedings. He’s the best hands-on dad, and for that I’m immensely thankful. But we quickly realized that his presence at 2AM was serving no real purpose. I was the food source, after all, and I was fully capable of changing Beckett’s diaper after I fed him.
And so we decided it made more sense for Justin to sleep and maybe take an early morning waking with Beckett and let me get a little extra sleep instead. I’ve also heard women say that they found their partner’s company comforting for those middle of the night wakings. So it’s truly a case by case basis, and you have to figure out what works best for you.
Another very real thing that happens? Postpartum depression. After Beckett was born, I would cry for reasons unbeknownst to me. The feelings of overwhelm and sadness were confusing to me, as I thought this was supposed to be a happy and magical season of life.
For some women it is. For me, it was not, and I know many other women have similar experiences. The whole experience of becoming a parent for the first time can be jarring. When you compound that with recovering from the physical pain from giving birth, uncontrollable emotions due to hormones, milk leaking from your breasts and running on minimal sleep, you can see why a woman might not be herself for some time.
So if your partner cries, gets upset or simply seems down for reasons that make zero sense to you, I urge you to be her soft place to land. I can certainly appreciate that it’s a life changing experience whether you were the person whose body was inhabited by this baby for nine months or not. But please understand that it’s on a totally different level when you have all of these added elements to deal with.
The physical recovery is real, and the emotional recovery is real. And if the postpartum depression seems to last longer than what you would normally expect, encourage her to seek help from a doctor, therapist, counselor or pastor.
Being pregnant can be a really amazing experience, and for some women it can also be a really trying experience. There’s no way to know where your partner will land on that spectrum, but in general embracing the need to be more intuitive towards her ever changing emotional and physical needs will serve you both well.
And when in doubt, ask her what it is that she needs from you. Every woman and every pregnancy is different, and the only way to know for sure is to ask the woman who’s carrying your baby. In the end, you’ll both be grateful you did!