Let’s get real. Pregnancy might have its perks—but it’s rough work. As an expecting woman, it’s crucial to take time to prop up your feet and relax. Yet it can be all too easy to ignore the needs of the guy who lovingly got you into this situation in the first place. After all, we’re doing the hard part of the job, right?
While that might be technically accurate, chances are, your man isn’t exactly feeling 100 percent during this time wrought with anticipation—especially if he’s a first-time parent, too. When my husband and I were expecting our first, I realized that constantly reminding him that he got off easy—while maybe true—wasn’t exactly doing either of us any favors.
“The partner, unfortunately, may feel scared or inadequate if they don’t feel as strong of a bond that is innately happening to the mother, which sets the partner up to feel alienated from the start,” shares Dr. Charlotte Howard. “The mother should understand that it doesn’t feel truly real to a lot of people until the baby arrives!”
Fortunately, if you play it right, pregnancy can be a great time to prepare for those feelings, while also gearing up your relationship for the ultimate shift. Considering that, God-willing, your baby will be with you for the next two decades, here are five ways to help your relationship thrive before an adorable, tiny tyrant comes along.
01. Get Away (Even Just for a Weekend) to Talk and Stuff
Few things refurbish a relationship more than pulling yourself out of your routine. “This is a must if you can make it work with your schedule. It doesn’t even have to be far, but staying at a hotel for a night or weekend can be so refreshing. You don’t have to worry about household duties, ” shares Meygan Caston co-owner with her husband Casey, of Marriage365.org. “We encourage you turn off the television and any other electronics for your weekend. Put the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door all weekend and enjoy being in each others’ arms.”
Getting away is also an opportunity to take time to talk over the changes that are happening. “You’re both going to change over the next few months, and if you don’t talk about it, there’s the danger you may not change together. A great question to start with is: What are you most excited about in the next six months?”
02. Keep Him in the Loop
Ashley Kusi, author and blogger on My Peaceful Family, explains that it’s little updates that make a big difference. “Including your partner in the development of the baby can go a long way. Learning together what stage your unborn child is in, how big, what important systems are developing this week or month and the changes in your own body is crucial,” Kusi explains. I simply downloaded the What to Expect app and made him watch those cheesy videos brimming with puns. While it might have seemed minute, it really set the tone in keeping open communication—which will be imperative during those first early months.
03. Listen to Him and Give Him Props
You might already be leaning on your partner more than usual—whether you realize it or not. Cathryn Mora, Australian Relationship Advisor and Speaker and founder of LoveSparkMe believes that it’s imperative that we recognize his efforts. “Be open to listening to his feelings. While you might feel he has little to worry about—you’re the one about to push out a baby after all—it’s a whole new world for him too, and his head will likely be swimming with all his own fears and worries. Respect them and take the time to listen, without interrupting with your own worries in that moment.” If he seems like he’s struggling to communicate, she suggests buying him a book such as The Expectant Father, which might stimulate discussion.
Caston shares that it’s important to compliment generously. It might sound a bit basic, but “Partners or husbands want to hear things like, ‘thanks for taking out the trash,’ and ‘I really appreciate how hard you work for our family.’” By outwardly valuing his contributions, you’re making it clear that you’re noticing his effort—which is an excellent habit to get into, considering there’s a whole lot more effort needed down the line.
04. Let Him Know You Lean on Him
“It is very important to practice ways to ask for support and help during pregnancy that will extend to the post pregnancy period,” shares Dr. Julie Von, a Manhattan-based holistic doctor specializing in fertility. “Pregnancy is a wonderful time to practice teamwork. For many of us, who are geared toward individual accomplishment … asking for help can be a huge transition.”
Personally, I could have used this advice much earlier. In an effort to look like I had it all together, I carried the baby’s mattress up three flights of stairs while eight months pregnant—and I paid for it in aches and pains. Dr. Von shares that finding new ways to ask for help and support is key in showing your partner that you love and trust them “while acknowledging that they are an integral component in your care and the care of your child.” In other words, there’s no shame in depending on someone else. In fact, it’s great practice.
05. Be Honest About Expectations (with Yourself and Him)
Needless to say, babies create extra work. So while you’re enjoying the last few months of diaper-free euphoria, Mora suggests setting expectations before stress induces conflict. If you don’t know where to begin, ask your partner what his parents did during his childhood, “as this will give you an indication of how he is likely to view parental roles, even if he’s not consciously aware of it.” Ask questions like: Did his dad help with feeding? Changing diapers? Making dinner? Or do washing and or housework? Keep in mind, your relationship needn’t emulate his parents’ but talking about what they did sets the conversation in motion. “Talk about your partner’s thoughts in an open and loving way so that he can be honest and you can be prepared,” Mora adds.
As most people with kids will tell you, there’s no way to adequately prepare for how this little adorable diaper bomb will transform your lives. Priorities shift, habits change, and your heart grows more than you thought possible. The key during these nine months is to prepare for this epic shift inadequately together.
Photo Credit: Amy Frances Photography