This one is for the moms-to-be.
When you become pregnant, your body starts to undergo a lot of changes so that it can successfully grow a person. Some of those changes combine with your knowledge of what’s going on (i.e. that you’re growing a person and relatively soon will have a baby to take care of) to lead to emotional effects.
In short, mother-to-be, you’ve got a lot going on right now.
And at some point as this is going on, you look over at dad-to-be, and you think to yourself “he’s just going on with life, hasn’t had a single day of morning sickness, his belly’s not getting any bigger, and he certainly isn’t feeling compelled to ‘nest’!” Without meaning to, you get a bit grumpy with him. “It must be nice,” you think, “to not have to go through all these changes.”
Yes, yes it is.
Do you think that not having to go through those changes means he’s free from having to make adjustments?
Well, everyone is different, and some men don’t make adjustments until very late in the process. Most men start experiencing some sort of change-related stress early on. Usually, though, they don’t talk about it. They realize that you have a lot going on, and so they deal with their changes while (hopefully) helping you deal with yours.
Some of the changes and adjustments a dad-to-be might experience include:
- Realizing the responsibility of being a dad and having to provide for a baby
- Realizing he has no idea how to be a dad and hoping he’ll figure it out
- Watching you go through morning sickness, experience other various aches and pains, and not feel like he can help
- Giving up (or planning to give up) activities he enjoys for baby-related reasons (e.g. preparing the nursery, or realizing that you can’t go cliff diving with him right now)
- Dealing with pressure of keeping up with his normal tasks, adding any normal tasks you’re not able to do (cooking is a common one during scent-sensitive periods of pregnancy), and adding any baby-preparation activities.
That’s just some of them. Each guy is different and will adjust differently.
There are two things you can take away from this, mom-to-be, that might be helpful.
First, realize that he’s making adjustments–mostly emotional ones–and even more than usual, he’s not going to talk about those feelings much. He knows you have a lot going on. If the time is right, you might be able to have a great discussion with him about it, but don’t expect him to bring it up.
Second, when you ask him for help (and that’s a reasonable thing to do), be assertive and not controlling. “You need to get the nursery painted this week” is controlling. Not cool. “The baby is due in a month, and we’ll need some time to get furniture assembled after it’s painted. I would feel much better if we got the nursery painted this week” is assertive. He wants to make sure everything gets done, he wants to make sure you’re taken care of, he wants to make sure the baby is healthy–but he also needs some time to process all of this. He may not understand that in the moment, and may not be able to articulate it, but if he seems to resist doing something, the need for time to process may have something to do with it. Assertive requests take less effort for him to deal with than controlling demands–besides, it’s good relationship advice anyway.
Understand that he’s making adjustments. Be assertive (not controlling) when you ask him to do something. Those two things will help you both get through pregnancy with a stronger relationship.
(And, believe it or not, that by itself could help you have a better birthing experience!)