As the significant other of a pregnant woman, your main job is to be the leader of the support team. Granted, almost all of the time you are the only member of the support team. But if you’re the type who mainly sits back and waits to be called for service, consider yourself promoted for the next +/- 40 weeks. Pregnancy requires you to get proactive, pal. She’s driving the car, but you are the entire pit crew.
Don’t worry, it’s not as much pressure as it might sound like. All it takes is honing your powers of observation and intuition, while capitalizing on the skills you already have.
Let’s start with the aspect of support that gets the most press: emotional support. That thing you’ve heard about pregnant women’s mercurial mood swings? They’re 100 percent true. And guess what? As hard as those moods are for you to deal with, they’re just as hard for her. Don’t be a wimp in the face of raging hormones. If she needs to cry, give her a shoulder. If she watches a sad commercial and wants to talk about it how it made her feel, have a seat and take her hand. If she wants to be alone a lot, check in frequently—behind that closed door, she might be spiraling into hormone-fueled despair. But just a smile and a few words from you can turn it all around.
Mental support means taking things off of her plate. Does she normally plan meals for the week? Time to step in and help with the planning (and the shopping, too). Is she the one who pays the bills? Maybe you can be in charge making sure those rent, utility and student loan payments get out on time. Little things like this can really mean a lot to a pregnant woman who now has more important things to worry about.
Another big aspect of mental support is helping her stay positive about the changes she’s facing, both now and in the future. Motherhood represents a giant step in her sense of identity, and as excited as she might be, she’s probably wondering sometimes whether she’s ready. Tell her how cool it is to see her growing into this role. Compliment her on her maternal glow (which is totally a real thing—you’ll see it). Remind her that she’s incredibly strong. And for God’s sake, tell her she looks beautiful.
As your wife progresses in her pregnancy, ordinary life gets more difficult for her. That’s the easiest way to put it. If this is a shock to you, imagine carrying a 15 to 30-pound fanny pack around all the time, and maybe you’ll get the idea. Oh, and not only is she carrying around more and more weight by the day, she has tiny limbs poking into the spaces where her lungs, stomach and bladder used to be. Literally. As they grow, babies crowd up against lots of different organs. Ever taken an elbow or heel to the face while playing backyard football? Imagine that happening inside of you. Yeah, it’s not comfortable.
This means you do more and more of the physical work around the house. Do the laundry, the dishes, the heavy lifting. Once she gets into the third trimester, she’s going to need help just getting off the couch. You might even need to adjust how you share the bed, since her changing body is making it pretty hard for her to get comfortable.
A Word About Massage
As everyone will constantly remind you, once you make the announcement, your whole life changes when a baby arrives. While this is very true, it’s also true that a woman’s whole body changes during pregnancy. It changes in ways you and she never thought possible. It’s even more exhausting than going through puberty—after all, it’s all happening in just a matter of months.
Even before her baby belly starts to show, her back, legs and hips are going to begin to ache, thanks to her body preparing for the changes to come. Late in pregnancy, walking to the mailbox is the equivalent of at least a half-marathon. Everything starts to ache and get sore.
One thing you as the partner can do to help is to give massages.
Just a ten-minute massage offers a great time to talk about each other’s days or ask how the other is feeling.
You don’t have to be a masseur, you just have to have hands. A good partner will put in a lot of time over the forty-week period rubbing and massaging their wife’s feet. It’s easy to do, and it helps to connect you to your partner through physical touch. A good rule of thumb (get it?) is that any time the two of your are sitting down together, whether to watch TV or while hanging out with friends, get those hands going. Don’t overlook the opportunity it provides for good communication, either. Just a ten-minute massage offers a great time to talk about each other’s days or ask how the other is feeling.
If you want to instantly know that you’re making a difference, start with massaging her feet, ankles and calves. For a pregnant woman, a foot massage is the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, a birthday party, and winning the lottery all wrapped up into one amazing, life changing event.
In addition to foot massages, back and neck massages are right up there on the list of things that feel amazing to pregnant women. Refer once again to that 30-pound fanny pack analogy. Every day brings a new challenge in how to stand, sit, and hold her body in a way that isn’t going to hurt too much tomorrow. Add in the stress she’s going through, and you’ve got some serious tension in the neck, shoulders and lower back.
Basically, imagine how your joints and muscles would feel after a week-long backpacking trip through the mountains. Then aim to massage those spots on her. Listen for the groans, and you’ll know you’re getting it right.
Sharing in the Excitement
Pregnant women need to feel that they’re not alone in this life-changing event. You’re supporting your partner, giving her daily massages…what else could she possibly need? Lots of things, that’s what. But she really just needs a partner. Since she’s doing all the real work, the least you can do is be there for her and share in the excitement of having a child. This means helping with planning and having a voice on various topics having to do with the baby.
Helping with Healthcare
Go with your wife to as many doctor/midwife appointments as you can. Not only will you learn some things (and save her the trouble of explaining them to you later), but you’ll understand where she’s coming from if she has concerns about her healthcare provider or procedures. This happens more often than you might think, and she’s going to need you to help her think them through. Get comfortable with the terminology, understand what her hopes and expectations are, and be ready to advocate for her if issues arise. The things you learn through being involved in her prenatal care early on will be very helpful once she goes into labor.
Be the One Who Talks About the Baby
Few things make an expectant mother prouder than being able to show off the fact that her child’s father gives a damn. You don’t have to go on for hours about the colors you’re painting the nursery during poker night, but it’s really nice for her to have someone else sub in when someone asks for the eighty-eighth time, “How’s the pregnancy going?”
You should both anticipate that female relatives and friends will get very…um, involved?…as the pregnancy progresses. Mothers and mothers-in-law in particular want to give advice about every aspect of childcare, from the foods she should be eating to the type of breathing she should do through contractions to the car seat you should buy. This gets overwhelming as hell for a pregnant woman. You can win major hero points by stepping into these conversations and tactfully but firmly ending them.
Make Friends with the Belly
When your wife is pregnant, everything revolves around the belly. It’s just out there, calling the world’s attention, getting in the way of simple tasks like tying her shoes, preventing her from wearing her favorite clothes. This might shock you, but even the most excited mother-to-be sometimes feels some resentment toward this rapidly growing watermelon attached to her midsection.
You can really help with this by learning to love the belly. Touch it as it’s growing—a great approach is to hug her from behind and put your hands over it protectively. Even before the baby starts kicking, rub and stroke her belly when you’re alone together. Tell her how beautiful it is. You can even give it kisses, or talk to the baby “through” it. You might feel silly at first, but this means so much to your pregnant partner. It reassures her that you’re not just there—you’re engaged. It might seem like a simple thing, but it’s important and she will love you for it.
As the partner of a pregnant woman, it really doesn’t take much to be a hero. Just amplify the best skills and traits that you bring to your relationship, keep your eyes and ears open, and remember that the better you look after her, the better she can look after your new best friend.
And now that Junior is on his way, maybe instead of throwing a baby shower, you should opt for a “Dadchelor Party” instead.