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
- – The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin
- – Dude, You’re Going To Be A Dad by John Pfeiffer
- – The New Dad’s Survival Guide by Scott Mactavish
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.