Pregnancy presents a set of unique challenges to both parents-to-be. While dads may not go through the physical demands of pregnancy, they still experience the stresses of preparing for a baby. It’s natural to be worried about becoming a father for the first time, but it’s possible to manage those fears while still being supportive.
Here are five thoughtful ways to support your pregnant partner while mentally preparing for fatherhood.
1. Talk Things Out
The worst thing an expecting father can do is leave his pregnant spouse alone with her thoughts. Pregnancy makes women prone to emotional instability that often manifests in mood swings and impulsive decision-making. You must be a constant stabilizing presence throughout the nine months. Stay by her side so she can vent her feelings in a healthy, constructive way.
The ability to listen is crucial for any long-term relationship, but it becomes more important during pregnancy. Your spouse won’t always be in high spirits, and you shouldn’t expect her to be. Her body is enduring major changes, and she’s going to have more bad days than good. Now is the time to show off your best listening skills. Be patient and understanding.
A rational approach to your spouse’s problems won’t work, either. She’s not looking for logical explanations — she wants comfort and reassurance. Tell her everything is going to be OK. Reminisce about your first date, first kiss and other special moments in your relationship to distract her from her pain. Make her fall in love with you again.
2. Help Her Relax
Your spouse will be in a constant state of stress and exhaustion throughout her pregnancy. Smoking and drinking alcohol are off-limits. She can’t sleep well due to her bodily changes, and she can’t enjoy certain foods anymore. She’s extremely concerned about her baby’s health. You’re worried too, but you can’t let it show. You need to help her relax.
Whenever she has cravings, get her the food she needs. When her back becomes sore from bearing the baby’s weight, give her a massage. Create a calming environment with lights, ambient sounds and cool temperatures to help her sleep. Cook her favorite meal if she’s having a bad day. Surprise her with a bouquet of your baby’s birth month flowers to help her get excited for her due date. These small gestures will mean the world to her.
3. Do Your Research
Men can never fully understand the challenges of pregnancy, but we can still educate ourselves. To empathize with your spouse’s pains, you need to understand what she’s going through. Do your research on the stages of pregnancy week by week. Attend her doctor appointments to learn more about the baby’s development.
Once you understand the biological reasons behind her actions, her mood swings and cravings may become more predictable. You will be able to anticipate new behaviors as she enters the next stage. Riding her emotional waves will also become easier. A predictable pregnancy is a happy one for both parents.
4. Pick up the Slack
You can’t expect your spouse to maintain her daily responsibilities after the first few months of pregnancy. Her physical limitations will increase. That means you must pick up the slack around the house, so take the lead on all chores and let her rest. Wash the dishes, take out the trash and go grocery shopping. She shouldn’t have to ask.
Your spouse is carrying all the weight – literally and figuratively – so the least you can do is keep the house clean. Doing chores can also ease your anxiety and take your mind off the impending challenges of parenthood.
5. Handle the Prep Work
Expecting couples need to do a lot of work in preparation for a baby. They must childproof the house, keep loved ones in the loop and plan for the big day. Your spouse may be emotionally and physically incapacitated, so you must handle most of the prep work. Think about how your new schedule will look once the baby arrives. Here are some questions to consider:
- Will you have to hire a nanny or day care service?
- How many months of paternity and maternity leave can you expect?
- What do you want for your baby’s educational future?
- Is your current living situation safe for raising a child?
You should also pack a hospital bag about a month before the due date. Preterm deliveries are more common than you think, making up about 10% of all births in the United States. Fill it with bathroom supplies, snacks and sources of entertainment. You never truly know when labor will begin, so you must be prepared.
Make Her Life Easier
To sum all of this advice into one sentence, you must do one simple thing: Make her life easier. Your stress and anxiety as a father are valid, but they pale in comparison to your partner’s physical and emotional trauma. Do everything you can to lighten her burden, from listening to her problems to doing menial chores around the house. Every effort helps.
Cora Gold is a family blogger and the Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. Connect with Cora on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.