Caring For Your Wife During Pregnancy

Caring For Your Wife During Pregnancy

The moment my wife told me she was pregnant, I was flooded with more emotions and feelings in that moment than I had ever had before. My heart instantly felt heavy and full, my eyes began to tear up, my face boasted one of the biggest smiles it’s ever made and my mind was racing with everything from names for our child to finances to the notorious “what’s next” question. Being a first time dad is exciting and scary. It’s such a unique experience and one part of that, that I wanted to make the best of, was the pregnancy. From day one of the pregnancy, as the husband (or partner), you take on a new role that will require you to do a lot of learning.

I wasn’t completely sure what to expect during those ever so important nine months and wouldn’t have minded knowing a little more ahead of time. I definitely learned and figured most of it out quickly, but I certainly didn’t learn it all on my own. I had help from baby apps, books and of course, my wife Jessica. She would let me know or hint at anything I wasn’t doing or anything I needed to know. That got me thinking about how great would it have been had she not needed to hint at things and I already knew how to fully support her, keep her comfortable, happy and feeling loved? For a first baby it’s completely normal to feel like a fish out of water but if you want a head start and major brownie points, take these tips and be proactive with your wife during her pregnancy. Also, I’m using the term “wife” here because that was who my experience was shared with, but of course, this can apply to anyone you are supporting through pregnancy.

One important piece of info to note right away, is that a mother’s health and state of mind is important to her and the child she is carrying. Stress and anxiety can have negative effects on an unborn child, so her feelings and emotions are just as important as the food she eats. By helping mama keep her stress levels down, feeling good about herself and remaining sensitive to her needs, emotions, cravings, etc., you are doing both her AND your child a favor.

SUPPORT HER. As obvious is it sounds, you really have to support her and not just verbally. The ways I supported my wife came in the form of listening to her, being sensitive to her ups and downs and remaining understanding. I quickly had to learn not to take it personally when she was unhappy, for whatever reason whether it was something rational or irrational that upset her. It is hugely important though to understand that to her, it’s all very rational in that time and place, so jump in with both feet and remember that you don’t need to provide a direct solution most of the time, just a listening and understanding ear. Stay engaged even though you may be lost. Show her the support and understanding she needs and she’ll love you all the more and be super appreciative.

EDUCATE YOURSELF. Knowing the process of pregnancy and what’s going on with your wife and child will help you both. There are some really great apps (What To Expect, Pregnancy+, Who’s Your Daddy)  out there that helped walk us through each week and explained the changes that were happening to both mama and baby. These gave me a better understanding about the symptoms and even emotions she was experiencing and how to help her with them. Plus, it was also really awesome to learn about the development of our child. It’s pretty incredible stuff. The point is though, that to be the best husband and support to my wife during this time, I had to educate myself, I gathered as much info as I could. If you don’t know where to start don’t be afraid to her for suggestions. She’ll love the fact that you care. Here are a few great books to check out

LESSEN HER STRESS. Even though you’ll both be on cloud nine and filled with excitement, pregnancy is demanding in it’s nature and just like a demanding job, it can cause stress. It’s both physically and emotionally difficult, so do whatever you can to rid her of any unneeded pressure. Tackling tasks around the house is a huge help and will allow her to relax. Something that Jessica voiced to me during her pregnancy was that she actually didn’t want me to do everything. I had to reminder myself that she isn’t handicap, but pregnant instead. So, let her do what she’s comfortable doing and then handle the rest yourself. And as a heads up, the things she is comfortable with doing may change randomly, one day she’ll find the smell of glass cleaner completely repulsive. Just embrace it.

Caring For Your Wife During Pregnancy

LET/HELP HER SLEEP. Let her sleep in, let her nap, let her go to bed early, let her sleep whenever the heck she wants. There is a lot of activity going on within her and it’s exhausting, especially during the first trimester. So if your wife or partner is sleeping like it’s their job, just pretend it is. Sleepiness was one of the first signs that Jessica was pregnant and that continued for the next few months. While the first trimester is a snoozefest, during the second, she’ll regain some good energy. The third trimester is when she may have more trouble sleeping. The discomfort from the weight of the baby and belly bump make it very hard to get comfortable, so sleeping on the side is pretty much the only option. I got Jessica a Snoogle (full body pregnancy pillow) which she used every night and brought that huge thing with us on any trips we had made. She began to not even be able to sleep without it. And yes, it took up half of our bed, but it was well worth it.

GO WITH HER TO DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS.  I went to all but one of the ob/gyn appointments, but that was only possible because I work from home and make my own schedule. But even if you don’t, you’ll still want to try to make it to as many as you can and especially the more telling appointments. Besides the fact that you are there supporting your wife, you also get to hear you child’s heartbeat and at some appointments, you’ll get to see him/her. Another reason I wanted to make it to as many as possible is because I never wanted her to be there alone if she were to get bad or concerning news, which we actually did receive at one appointment. It was very scary news to hear at the time and even though everything turned out fine, thank God, I couldn’t imagine her sitting in there alone getting that news. Being able to grab her hand, comfort her and tell her everything will be fine, even if I wasn’t completely sure it would be, was everything to us.

BE PATIENT. If you’re lucky, you are naturally a patient person. If you aren’t, which I fall somewhere in the middle, you are going to need to learn how to be. The hormones in your wife’s body are all over the place and she obviously isn’t used to have to deal with them, so you may find her happy and excited one moment and enraged and frustrated shortly after. It’s just her hormones, so don’t take it personally and just go with the flow. You’ll also need patience for the frequent visits to the bathroom to pee. Pregnant women pee so much and I know you’ve heard it before. But again, they pee so much. I felt like Jessica thought of herself as an inconvenience, especially if I expressed any degree of annoyance or frustration and I imagine most women feel similar at some point. Practice patience at all times.

Caring For Your Wife During Pregnancy

COMFORT HER. The physical changes that happen to your wife will certainly make her feel uncomfortable. Carrying a developing human being creates all sorts of soreness, pains, aches and stiff muscles. Jessica loved a gentle back and foot rub. I also learned how to properly massage her belly from the book we read in our birth class, which she loved and so did our baby. He would kick like crazy when I’d do that. I’d also get the bathtub going and add some oils and epsom salt to help get rid of some of the pain and soreness.

SATISFY HER CRAVINGS. I don’t think I could have ever imagined that I’d end up eating so much watermelon and Mexican food, but that was what Jessica wanted. Those were her cravings and yes, you could say I got lucky because I’ve heard of much worse cravings. There were definitely times though, when even the thought of Mexican food almost made me sick, but because it made her happy, I was all about it.

COMPLIMENT HER. Guys, reassure and affirm. It’s safe to say that it never hurts to tell your wife she is beautiful and that you love her, especially during pregnancy. The physical changes going on can be a lot for her to handle. Give her no reason to doubt you still find her beautiful and that you love her and are in love with her.

Caring For Your Wife During Pregnancy

SPOIL HER. Your wife is doing a lot and going through a lot both physically and emotionally. Beyond your words and actions, you can also show you are thankful, love her and care about her by doing some nice things for her. For example, I treated Jessica to a spa day where she got a pregnancy massage. From time to time, I’d take her shopping for maternity clothes. And we also took one last trip together without having kids. Neither of us had ever been to Portland, OR so we used some miles and spent a week out there and it was rather perfect. Just make sure if you plan a trip that you’ll be flying for that you do so before the cutoff period for her to be able to fly which is somewhere around the 35 week period.

DATE HER. It’s easy to get caught up in the baby prep mode and forget that the reason this baby is on it’s way is because you two dated in the first place. Keep it going. Just because she is pregnant doesn’t mean she needs to be treated like a pregnant women all of the time. I’d try to take Jessica out to dinner several times a month and not only talk pregnancy and babies but also talk about the kind of romantic stuff we would talk about before we were expecting. This made her feel like more than just the person growing and carrying around my child. We would never make it through a whole evening without switching to the subject of our little human on the way but be sure to give her some of that old romance, pre-baby.

TAKE HER PHOTO EVERY WEEK OR MONTH. We had a lot of fun doing this and looking back on the photos now is just crazy. Jessica wore the same outfit every time, or at least something very similar, so that it was consistent and the only thing that was dramatically changing in the photo was her belly. Some people like to do it by the week and some like to do this by the month, but either way, she’ll love it and love you for doing it. And on top of that don’t forget to just take random photos of her and the two of you. It’s super fun to look back at and remember that time. We took bi-weekly photos but definitely wish now that we had taken more random ones of just her and of us. Lesson learned so, at least we know now for next time.

Caring For Your Wife During Pregnancy

If any of you dads have any additional advice on taking care of your wife during pregnancy, share it in the comments below. Mamas, you too.

Recipe: Old Fashioned

Bulleit Old Fashioned Recipe

It wasn’t but a couple of years ago that my wife and I began to actually appreciate and enjoy adult beverages – beyond beer and $10 bottle wine. From the very beginning of our journey into liquor, bourbon has been our drink of choice. If I’m being completely honest, when we found out Jessica was pregnant, I was actually sort of bummed that we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our occasional drink together for the rest of her pregnancy, but of course, the reward outweighed that sacrifice by far. During that time, I often felt guilty when I poured a drink after a long day of working, especially because Jessica was also doing the same work I was and couldn’t enjoy a drink with me.

As my taste matured and I learned more about mixing drinks, I found myself experimenting and practicing so that when she was able to have a drink again, I could make her something special. I started with the basics and an old fashioned was the perfect cocktail to make her. It can be enjoyed all year round and can be tweaked to taste. I played around a bit with a few different recipes and methods and the recipe below is the one I made for Jessica for celebratory drink after Forrest’s birth.

Bulleit Old Fashioned Recipe Ingredients

– 2 oz. bourbon
– 1/4 oz. Angostura bitters
– 1 sugar cube
– 1 splash water
– 2 brandied or maraschino cherries
– 1 orange slice

– Rocks glass
– 1 jigger
– Muddler – stainless steel | wood
– Spoon

– Add sugar and bitters in a rocks glass, muddle.
– Add bourbon and ice and garnish with orange twist, cherry and add splash of water. Gently stir.
– Optional: To sweeten things up a little bit, add a spoon or half-spoonful of juice from the cherries.

Bulleit Old Fashioned Recipe

Now, go make this classic boozy drink for you and your baby mama after you put the kid(s) to bed, because we both know she could probably use one about right now to help wind down this evening. Trust me when I tell you she’ll certainly love it!

Birth Expectations

Natural Childbirth ExpectationsEvery birth experience is different in one way or another. Sometimes they are very different. Other times, it’s just a minor difference. Either way, when your wife or partner goes into labor, the birth expectations, whether for natural (no medications) childbirth or not, are very important. They set an important tone and as us husbands are often times the biggest supporter, our expectations need to be of love and help, not of pressure or fear of disappointment.

My wife and I prepared ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally for the labor and birth of our first (and currently only) child. A lot of that was done by setting a tone and plan for how we hoped this to all go down. We knew, setting expectations was part of it all, but also knew that it was a tricky situation. Since there is no way to predict how a woman will labor and birth a child, we didn’t want to set ourselves up for disappointment. So we prepared ourselves mentally all along to accept however her labor would ultimately be. It was critical for me to make sure that no matter what, she felt proud, loved and respected.

During Jessica’s pregnancy, we took a 12 week course on natural childbirth. We were committed to the course and attended every one of them. Although, it was hard, we made sacrifices to make sure we were there each week. We knew the benefits of a natural birth and hoped for that for our son, if things worked out that way. We wanted to know everything we could about it and how to achieve it. We did our class homework, our exercises and we even read extra books on our own that weren’t part of the class. A few of the books we read, loved and learned so much from were The Birth PartnerIna May’s Guide to Childbirth and Husband-Coached Childbirth. They were all amazing to read and really opened up my eyes to the intense work we (more so Jessica) had ahead of us. During all of this, even with the encouraging and motivating stories of all these beautiful natural childbirths, we promised that we’d each keep our heads level and understand that this way of birthing was our ideal plan, but as long as the mother and baby are okay, we’ll take whatever happens and be grateful.

Natural Childbirth Expectations

Of course, the last thing either of us wanted was a cesarean section, let alone any medical intervention at all. Our birth plan detailed what our desires were and that we’d only accept intervention out of necessity, not out of selfishness from us, the nurses, midwives or the doctors. That’s why we chose the hospital and practice we did. Both supported natural, no/low intervention childbirth, had great natural childbirth records and low c-section rates. Jessica’s midwives were all on board for her to have a natural childbirth and so was the hospital. She was cleared low-risk and we were ready to go.

Roughly three days, give or take some hours, before our son was born was when Jessica went into labor. She labored from home for a full two days. That was our plan. To spend all of first stage labor at home. We ideally wanted to wait until she was 6 centimeters dilated before we made our trip the hospital. After two very intense days of laboring at home, it was early on a Saturday morning when things took a turn and contractions were getting a little too intense and were happening a lot closer together and lasting very long. We grabbed our bags and headed for the hospital at around 4am. Upon our arrival, she was given a cervical check and was told she was only 3 cm. Yes, we felt somewhat let down. Jessica was crushed but she immediately leaned on me and we hugged and prayed. We were starting to pick up on the fact that she was a long laborer. We didn’t let that really get into our heads though and reminded ourselves of our goal. Her mother and grandmother were both long laborers too, so it’s possible genetics play into these things too. But really everybody varies. You just never know. Soon after, her water broke and once her water broke, there was no turning back and going home. We were there and we were having this baby. Words could not contain the excitement and anxiousness we felt over finally getting to meet our baby boy so very soon.

For the sake of keeping things as short as possible, I’ll cut to the chase. Jess labored naturally for 8-ish hours. Once the midwives decided her progression wasn’t adding up to the amount of pain she was in, they carefully advised we tried pitocin to help speed things along a little since a woman is really only supposed to be in labor for up to 16 hours after your water has broken. The pitocin kicked in and contractions got more intense. At this time, Jessica and myself had hardly slept at all in the last 72 hours and the pain was beginning to wear her down. A few hours later, we decided it was time for her to get an epidural. Although, not according to our idea plan, we remained positive. Jessica was certainly on board with it at this point. She had reached her max. Her birth experience up until then, because she just so happens to be a long laborer with highly painful contractions, wore her down to a point of total exhaustion. After the epidural, she was finally able to catch her breath and relax for a moment. She smiled at me for the first time all day. That was a moment that I didn’t realize really how much I needed until it happened. That night, she pushed for hours and hours and hours. It was hard to watch, but she was actually enjoying it now. There were so many moments when the midwives, nurses and our doula were telling us his hair color. HE WAS SO CLOSE!! They prepared his bassinet/cart thing and notified the doctor that a baby was about to be born.

After another hour or so of pushing, they noticed that our son had turned his head just so making it lodged against her pelvic bone. His parietal eminence (top rear part of his head) was being forced out and moving forward, but his forehead was caught on her pelvic bone. They worked to get him to turn, but because so much of the rear part of his skull had already made its way through, he was nearly impossible to turn. Jessica insisted on trying to push more. After all, she had already put in so much work and was ready to meet our son. After another 30-45 min, the doctor came in and checked things out. As she was doing so, during a push, our sons heart rate spiked and a minute or so after, the midwife noticed some meconium. This meant our son was in distress and considering his position, we needed to figure out something out quickly. Swallowing meconium could lead to a list of serious issues.

Natural Childbirth Expectations

Shortly after, we discovered that because of the intensity of Jessica’s labor, at one point her temperature rose too high that her amniotic fluid became infected, which was not good for her or the baby. Because of this infection, Forrest was going to have to be hooked up to an IV and receive meds and close care for three days following his birth. So, I spoke with the doctor and we both agreed that it was time for an emergency c-section; the absolute last thing Jessica and I wanted in all of this, other than something tragic happening to her or our baby.

Yet, we both went into it, as hard as it was, knowing it was best and we weren’t going to let this ruin the birth experience. The entire length of her labor, I remained positive and reminded ourselves that no matter what, as long as her and the baby are healthy, we don’t care how he comes into the world. Looking back I am able to realize how truly important it was for me to keep myself together and stay strong, confident and optimistic for the both of us. Yes, we had our ideal situation, but the ultimate goal was to deliver a healthy, happy baby while keeping Jessica safe and healthy too. Going into the operating room was one of the hardest things I have ever done. To see my wife laying there, drugged and numb from the chest down was painful and I felt so helpless, but I tried my hardest not to show it. We held each others hands tight and when we heard our sons first cry, we both lost it. Nothing else mattered anymore.

Natural Childbirth Expectations

To this day, I have never been more proud of my wife and the work she put into bringing our son into this world and our lives. By not holding too tightly onto the expectation of having a quick, perfect and completely natural childbirth, we were able to avoid guilt, depression and remorse. If you take anything from this, that would be the one bit of advice I’d say is most important. There should be no reason to feel bad in any way about your child’s birth story. If everyone is doing their best and working hard then it’s a success. If anything, I am even more proud of Jess for trying her hardest for nearly three and half days to get our son out completely naturally, then accepting that she was too worn down and had reached her breaking point, she’d keep up the hard work with medicated help and when we hit a bump in road again, she was so willing to do what the doctor, her mom, doula and I felt was best and at 8:06am the following morning, we met our son. We were in love with him and each other in such a fuller way that we didn’t even know we had the capacity to feel. It was breathtaking. Life changing.

After all that reading and preparing for a natural childbirth, our experience took on a journey that couldn’t have been any more different from what we planned for. And that’s okay, because that was just our ideal situation, not our absolute goal. All the information taken from our class about pregnancy in general was so insightful and invaluable to us. The goal we absolutely wanted/needed to achieve was to have a healthy baby and a healthy mother. Today, Jessica is still healthy and happy and is still exclusively breastfeeding a healthy (possibly too healthy given his weight – haha) almost four-month old baby boy who is developing just perfectly. Agreeing to not put too much pressure on expectations and go into it with more of an ideal plan with the understanding that we are not the ones 100% in control of how things will happen has allowed us to enjoy this experience so much more. It also left Jessica feeling far less pressure than had I been unsympathetic to her pain, the situation at hand or the overall well-being of her and our son.

Natural Childbirth ExpectationsPhoto  by Julia Wade

All in all, my advice is to go into things with an open mind. Hope for the best, but realize that the number one goal in this whole birthing experiencing is for you to leave with a healthy wife/partner and a healthy new baby.

Working From Home With A Baby

working from home with a baby

When my wife, Jessica and I decided we both wanted to work together and for ourselves, we were a little over four years away of finding out we were expecting. During those years, we were working together full-time (and we still are). The majority of our time was spent in our home office editing photos, writing emails, compiling blog posts and marketing ourselves. The other portion of time was spent traveling the country and photographing weddings on the weekends. We loved it then and love it now, but the dynamic of how it all worked before a child differs greatly from how it is now. Before our son arrived, it was simply easier. We knew that would be the case, so we tried our best to prepare for the change.

Being a work-at-home parent also means stay-at-home parent, at least for us. We both share a dual role. Our business relies on the both us and therefore, so does our child. We even named our business simply Brett & Jessica because we wanted it to be such a “together” type of thing. So, both of us play a major role in the success of our business and it being our only source of income, we have to make it work or we need to start applying for something else now.

Working from home with a baby is hard. But we love it this way. It’s flexible. We get to witness our sons milestones together. He is able to learn from us and watch our work ethic. We save on caregiver costs.

working from home with a baby

It just takes extra work and discipline to make it work. Realizing that some days you’ll be more of a work-at-home parent and other days you’ll be more of a stay-at-home parent is a major key to the success of this as well. The following are some tips we implemented into our life and business to make it work and will work for parents who both stay at home or if just one is staying home.

Be flexible, work when you can. Especially during the earlier months of a baby’s life, you’ll need to flexible with them and their routine or their lack thereof. It can be frustrating and your days may be longer than before, but remember why you chose to work this way. It’s a pretty nice tradeoff.

Nap time is prime work time. Since setting definite work hours while working from home is baby or child is nearly impossible, hopefully you’re child naps (recently, ours has not) because that’s obviously going to be your best and most productive time to work. If you’re working together, this is the best time to do any work that requires your collaborative efforts.

Sleep When Baby Sleeps Does Not Apply. How can it? That’s when those of us who work from home do our work. It’s great advice while on maternity leave (and paternity leave if you’re lucky enough to get that), but after that, it’s essential to either work, spend time together or take some time for ourselves whenever your baby or child is sleeping.

Co-work with baby. The Bumbo Seat and the Baby Bjorn Bouncer have been amazing for this. During the time Forrest wasn’t able to support his head, we sat him the bouncer and just used a foot to help bounce him in it while we sat at our desks, which usually helped him sleep. Now that he’s able to hold his head up and is interested in more, we have him hangout in his Bumbo seat on our desks. Both of these were really great, but we’ve been very conscious not to just sit there with a laptop in from our faces or getting lost in the screen of our iMacs while he is needing to communicate or needs our attention. This goes back to first topic, which can be the hardest.

Wear your baby. Yes, some men are actually down with it. I am all for it. I even use Jessica’s Solly Baby Wrap from time to time, although I do prefer our Baby Bjorn Carrier One. Our son can nap right against us and we have both hands free. Sometimes we’ll put our laptops on a bookshelf and work standing up, so his legs don’t get scrunched up too much in the carrier, plus it’s great for our backs and it’s easy to find yourself sitting all day. Simply put, carriers are amazing.

Master multi-tasking. We have had to learn to multitask way better. Somewhat surprisingly, we learned how to utilize our iPhones better, especially while Jessica is feeding. Or emailing clients, taking care of social media, etc while holding our son as he sleeps in our arms because we dare not to put him down in his crib. Make sure to plan ahead if you’re running errands that can be combined. Have to head into town for a meeting? Hit up the post office, bank, supply store, etc on your way back so you don’t have to make another run.

Know/understand each others roles. If you haven’t already established roles within your business together, shame on you and get it done now. Who is going manage the emails? Who is responsible for the website, keeping up with social media or in our case, editing photos? It’s much harder if you’re both trying to tackle the same things or assuming that the other already finished something that you were supposed to do.

Take a step away from your work. If you find yourself getting stressed, overwhelmed or frustrated whether it be from feeling like you are being pulled in a million different directions or because you just cannot get focused, just walk away. Take a minute or two or even a half hour and just regroup yourself.

Make some time for yourself.
We all need a little downtime. We need to decompress and clear our minds. Carve out a little time during the day to leisurely read a book or magazine, cook up a nice meal for yourself or go for a walk/run. Work with your partner to help ensure you’re both able to make sure this happens. It’s vital.

I wish there was a magic formula that worked for the work/life balance of dual work-at-home parents, but there just isn’t. Each case is different, let alone each day. The struggles are absolutely real and some of the challengers are more than some can handle. It’s not for everyone and that’s okay. So many people do great with working from home before kids, but after kids, the pressure, stress and anxiety is just too much. But if you’re looking to give it a go, hopefully the tips above will help.

If you have any tips about being a working-at-home parent or couple, I’d love to have you share them in the comments below!

Valentines Day Gifts For The Expecting Mother

Gifts For The Expecting Mother

Even if you are usually not the type that participates in this holiday or you just go through cliché motions, year after year, with doing the standard roses and variety box of chocolates, it’s never a bad idea to step it up once in awhile, especially if your lady is pregnant. It’s the least you can do, besides reassuring of her beauty and your love for her, which you should already be doing. She’s either been carrying around your child for months now or has months of doing just that ahead, so get her something for herself. Something that’s about her, not about the baby she growing for you. Here are some Valentines Day gifts for the expecting mother in your life that she’ll be sure to love and can enjoy during her pregnancy and after. These gifts also tell her you still see her as more than just a tiny human making factory.

Dead Sea Bath Salts from Herbivore Botanicals ($24) | Sustainable Pitcher & Plant-Based Water Filter from SOMA ($49) | The Kinfolk Home: Interiors for Slow Living ($27) | Model A Slippers from Glerups ($95) |  Cone Thinking Music Player by Aether ($270) | Tesora Jewelry Box from Umbra ($25) | Walkabout Jumper from HATCH ($238) | Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm from Aesop ($30) | Bringing Up Bebe ($11) | Water Bottle from bkr ($35) | Basics Bundle from Storq ($250) | Sylvan Mug by Arrow + Sage ($32) | Expecting You: A Keepsake Pregnancy Journal ($13) | Pop Candle from Johnathan Adler ($35) | Organic Bath + Body Oil from Fig + Yarrow ($33) | Sundowner Hat from Needsupply ($42) | Delos Necklace by Anotherfeather ($150) | Harper Chukka Boot from Nisolo ($178)