When I started this website nearly 5 years ago, my wife was pregnant with our second child. We knew that we were winging it as parents (aren’t we all?), but somehow had gotten through our first pregnancy with a minimum of fuss and stress. Midway through our 2nd pregnancy, my wife & I (and with some help from friends) wrote up a list of 11 things we’d learned that helped both of our pregnancies go through with a relative absence of stress and mutual suffering.
Now that we’re just past the halfway mark in generating our third munchkin, I wanted to revisit what’s worked well for us, in hopes that it might help.
Make Some Basic Husband/Wife Agreements Early in the Pregnancy. Any successful marriage is based on agreements made by the husband and wife about how things go down on a daily & weekly basis. I.e., who does the chores, who goes to work, who puts the kids to bed, who makes the meals, etc. The obvious thing that I’ve seen too many friends miss, is that once the wife gets pregnant, all of those agreements need re-thinking. Pregnancy is exhausting, and so paramount is getting my wife enough rest. That means naptime on the weekend, and early bedtime – as early as she wants – on weeknights. That means a change-up of how dinnertime and bedtime for our two kids works, it means a re-jiggering of who is meant to do what chores in the house, etc. It means a part of my job is to make sure she gets a cal-mag and a foot massage every night to keep the headaches away, and to ensure that, on the weekends, it’s the death penalty for waking mom up — she sleeps as long as she wants.After we found out that my wife was pregnant with our third, we sat down and talked for a good 2-3 hours, and put together a basic framework for our next few months – outlining things like the above, working out how we’d each get time in at our church, time for exercise and time for relaxing, each without it being a stress on the schedule.But first and foremost was the basic agreement we have in having kids – that when the wife is pregnant, it’s mommy’s job to generate the baby, and it’s daddy’s job to do absolutely everything under the sun to make mommy’s job bearable.
Read a few good books on the subject (such as “What to Expect When You’re Expecting“) and take childbirth classes (even you ladies that don’t plan to do a natural childbirth!). One of the biggest sources of unhealthy stress which we’ve experienced is fear that something is wrong. There are so many new feelings, symptoms, sensations, cravings and emotions which go along with being pregnant, that it can make for an absolutely unhealthy level of stress, shouting matches and puddles of grief unless you’ve educated yourself on what’s happening with your body. Getting both mommy and daddy educated gives you enough data to be able to think with and make decisions about your own pregnancy, labor and delivery (beforehand and in case of something unexpected!). It gives the great confidence which comes with knowing what to expect, at least as best you can without having yet experienced it. I cannot stress this point enough. If you don’t know what’s happening, don’t know what to expect, don’t understand the things going on, are not aware of some of the things that might be asked of you or pushed on you, you feel and are EFFECT. Wouldn’t you rather have a good understanding and be IN CONTROL?
DADDY – This applies to you too – GET EDUCATED. A huge part of the job of the husband is making sure that when some crazy new sensation happens to mommy, that you either know what it is, or find out quickly, so that you can assure her that it’s totally normal. Another part of this is to make sure that the books that your wife has selected to read are the good, informative sort, and not the sort that make her think that every last thing that’s happening to her is a sign that she’s possibly going to have a deformed, sickly, brain-damaged child. On our first pregnancy, we went out and got a stack of books to read, and my wife and I each chose one. Unfortunately, the one she chose (one I sadly can’t remember the title of) spared no opportunity to tell the frazzled reader that every symptom, emotion or feeling she had could potentially be every manner of birth defect or pregnancy complication. It was awful. That book ended up getting incinerated on the spot, and thankfully we could piece together enough other texts to put us at ease at what was factually a pretty normal pregnancy. But it’s up to dad (who is the member of the family who isn’t having rapid hormone shifts) to be the stable one who can be on the lookout, who can be getting educated and informed.
Find Good Prenatal Care After you’ve laid the groundwork for your education on the baby & birth process, you can piece together the groundwork for how you want your birth to go down, and for the things you’re really looking for in prenatal care. Between husband and wife, then, you can decide the things that are important to you, like whether or not you want a home birth, what you want your birth environment to be like, whether or not you have risk factors that would make it prudent to have specialists on hand, etc. Then, you can shop for and locate a partner for your prenatal care. This is more important than it seems at first blush, as you not only want to have someone available for the birth, but also for the times when you’ve got middle-of-the-night questions that are freaking you out and that you need answered. Having someone stable whom you can call and go to for all of your prenatal needs, and one who is with you on your philosophy of how you want to approach your birth – this is of utter importance.
With Enough Naps, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. Yes, this is our basic pregnancy philosophy. Getting mommy sufficient rest is as much the husband’s job as it is the mommy’s. Make it possible for mommy to sleep as MUCH AS SHE WANTS TO, and constantly work to arrange life so that she can sleep. Do the dishes for her, do the laundry, watch the kids when they wake up at 6am – do anything to make sure that she gets the extended sleep that she needs as a pregnant mommy. So much stress gets relieved simply by being well-rested.
Proper Nutrition. Proper nutrition, including frequent small healthy meals/snacks, plenty of protein, and plenty of leafy greens. There are an immense number of books and websites out there that list good things for a pregnant momma to be eating – so finding out what to eat is not the problem. Remembering to keep all that good stuff in the house and available to eat can be a problem, and in our arrangement, it’s been daddy’s job to be the food policeman to make sure mom’s eating well.
Doing a Scientology Pregnancy Assist Program:
Doing a pregnancy assist auditing program (preferably mid-pregnancy, before you get too big or uncomfortable or have trouble sleeping because rolling over becomes an event in itself). The Scientology Pregnancy Assist program is explained here. Ask anyone who’s had one and you’ll see how vital it’s been in having a stress-free, calm pregnancy. My wife included!
Daily Walks & Exercise: Taking regular walks was a massively successful action when we were expecting both of our first two, and is a big plus that I’ve gotten from nearly all of my friends. Getting in light but regular exercise is widely recommended by nearly any medical-type text, with swimming being a highly-rated one, as it gives one a nice break from the weight of your giant belly.
Dates with your Spouse:
Make it a point to have regular “dates” with your spouse–at LEAST once a month. Time for just the two of you to go out and spend time with each other.
Don’t Believe the Merchants of Pregnancy Fear:
Take everything you hear (or read, especially on the internet) with a grain of salt. Keep your head about you, stay calm, and use common sense. When you’re pregnant, you’re likely to hear the worst stories (as well as the most wonderful), the wildest things, and EVERYBODY’s opinion. You are yourself. Everyone has their own unique experience in pregnancy and in birth. Do not accept or worry over everything that’s thrown at you. Again, you can achieve stability and common sense with good education, as above. Also, if there’s a particular person in your environment that just has to tell you every terrible story ever heard, dramatic versions of their own horrific experience, every painful detail, or other things that cause you to constantly worry, stay away from that person! (At least as much as possible.)
Make a Birth Plan:
A good site is www.birthplan.com for the basics on what a birth plan is, why you would want one, and a sample birth plan. Give copies in writing to your doctor or midwife (and make sure they read it and have it on file), also make extra copies and have them handy for any nurses, assistants, or last-minute substitute doctors. Having a birth plan removes a lot of the stress of the unknowns of the big day, and lets you really see that you’ve got everything straightened out for when things start to rock & roll on junior’s birthday.
I mention this last to make sure it has sufficient emphasis. It’s the job of the husband to be in as near-perfect communication with mommy throughout the pregnancy, and to make sure you’re understanding her needs and responding. With communication, one can get through just about anything smoothly and without stress.