If you’re a woman bearing a child, you obviously bear the brunt of the responsibility and there is a lot to cope with in anticipating all the unknowns and challenges ahead, even as you may be very excited about your very own baby. But if you’re going through this pregnancy with a partner, your partner can go a long way towards participating in the pregnancy and in helping to make the journey an easier and more meaningful one for the both of you.
So partner, here are the ways you can provide support:
CONVERSE HONESTLY! Pre-pregnancy is the crucial time when you are making decisions together as a couple. You might have certain preferences about when to have a kid, about the kind of budget you foresee for the baby in the next two years, about the number of children you’d like to have overall. Be as honest as you can be during the time when you are both considering having a child. Do not hold back as you are investing in an entire family’s future happiness in these preliminary conversations.
START PLANNING AHEAD. If you have both decided to have a child, all the decisions you make will likely be entangled with this decision. If you have decided to have a child together, the future of your baby should be your priority. The upcoming birth of your child should be taken into consideration in terms of your professional career (can you relocate; how much responsibility can you take on at work and still be a good dad; should you curtail your work hours, etc.), your house search (if you are searching to buy a place) and your own maintenance of good health (a healthy baby needs both a healthy mother and father).
Remember that a good partner will get into the habit of learning to prioritize the child that is coming. And it is a comfort to the mother-to-be when she sees her partner being all in.
BE THERE! Accompany the mother-to-be on doctor visits. Try as much as you can to rearrange your own schedule so that you can attend as many if not all doctor visits. Sure, your wife/partner could come home and tell you all about it. But trust me, nothing will assure an active participation in this magical process than if you were there yourself as much as you can possibly be. It is also a chance for you to bring your own questions and concerns about the pregnancy to the doctor. You should be just as informed about this pregnancy as the mother is, not an iota less!
GET EDUCATED! Remember, this is your bun in the oven too. Participate in all the preparatory decisions like childbirth classes and birth plans. Ultimately, the mother should have the final say on what she wants her pregnancy and birth to look like. But you should get educated on what her choices entail. Think about all the practical ways you can help to ensure that her birth plan goes smoothly (come up with contingency plans together, plan routes to the hospital, prepare her overnight bag, etc.)
MAKE CHANGES TOO! If your wife/partner is quitting smoking and drinking in preparation for this pregnancy, support her by making the appropriate changes in your own lifestyle. For instance, if you give up deep-fried food and start cooking out of a healthy nutrition cookbook, your choice influences the entire household and helps to ensure the pregnant woman’s and the developing baby’s health.
PRIORITIZE HER. Pregnancy is not easy. There may be mood swings, anxiety, changes in your sex lives and sleeping patterns even prior to the arrival to the baby. Try to put your own needs in the back seat and see to her emotional and practical comfort. Do tell your partner that she is beautiful (it seems dumb, but it can be important to hear this when your body starts to change beyond your recognition), accept whatever changes come your way and help out without being asked (doing the dishes, giving massages, showing your appreciation for her in small and big ways, etc.).
SPLIT THE RESPONSIBILITIES. If the mother pumps, the father is able to take on some of the nursing duties. There should also be equal hours tending to the baby in general. There are some things like breastfeeding that only a mother can do, but a partner can see to a lot of things after birth. Make the follow-up appointments, make sure the mother gets time to recharge, take on some extra housekeeping duties so the recovering mother can get rest.
NURTURE THE MOTHER. Sometimes, a mother can feel depleted from all her nurturing of the newborn infant. Make sure she gets enough loving and care in return from you. Reassure her that she is doing a wonderful job, make sure you are available to lend a good listening ear if she unloads about her problems and anxieties being a new mother, look after her.
If as a partner, you feel inadequate or like you are not doing “enough” for the baby, look at the list above (it is only a start), rest assured that there are plenty of ways that you can participate in the whole birthing process and become the supporting partner of her dreams. You can think about it this way–your job is to look after her while she looks after the baby. And you should do a great job at that!