Posts for Her

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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!)

This one is for the moms and moms-to-be out there.  For this post, just to make the writing easier and clearer, I’ll assume that “he” (the non-mother) is Baby’s father.  You can customize this for your own situation.

Last week’s post urged him to become a competent caregiver.

Today, I want to make sure that you’re willing to let him.

“Of course I’m willing to let him!  Are you crazy?  Why would I not want him to be competent at taking care of Baby?”

I’m glad to hear it.  Let’s dive in.

Many new mothers are protective of their new babies.  That’s good.  There are a lot of dangerous things in the world, and babies are, well, a bit helpless.  If things aren’t ideal for Baby, Mom is going to fix it, no matter what it takes.

Almost all the time, this is a good thing.

Once in a long while, though, it’s not.  Especially when it comes to someone else taking care of Baby.  Sometimes, dads do things differently than moms.  Sometimes those differences are mistakes (for example, abruptly opening a baby boy’s diaper all the way), and sometimes they aren’t.  Sometimes they’re dangerous (for example, leaving Baby unattended on the changing table), and sometimes they aren’t.

Now, if you see Dad doing something dangerous, it’s okay to make sure Baby is safe, then talk about safety.  By all means.

If you see Dad making a non-dangerous mistake, he might appreciate you suggesting why it’s a mistake (“did you know the sudden cold air can make Baby pee?”).  Keep in mind that experiencing the consequences of a mistake is a much faster way to learn than being told.

If you see Dad doing something that’s just different, let it go.  Yes, Baby looks goofy with that green shirt and those different-shade-of-green pants.  Yes, those are from entirely different outfits.  Yes, I know.  And yes, you can tell anyone who asks that Dad dressed Baby today.

Different ways of doing things that don’t matter–and except for safety and health, most of it doesn’t matter–is okay.  If you want him to become a competent caregiver, especially if he’s a baby rookie, give him the chance to make some mistakes and learn.  It’s okay to offer advice and suggestions, but don’t scold or mother him.

Laugh at the outfits he picks out, shake your head at his strange ways of doing things, respect his growing competence, and enjoy having someone that you can trust with Baby.

This one’s for the moms-to-be out there.

As a mother-to-be, you’ve almost certainly been getting prepared.  You know your due date.  you know what week you’re at.  You’ve got the nursery planned out (or set up already), started figuring out which diapers to use, which bottles will be best, and of course, decided whether to go with froggies or birdies on baby’s bath towels.

You’re probably also looked at, registered for, or taken birthing classes at your hospital.  You might have pre-registered.  As a very pro-active gal, you’ve also started working through the Plan-Ahead series (or maybe the planning checklists in the book).  You’ve got this as under-control as you can (and, you admit, there’s a lot you can’t control, but what you can, oh boy, you’ve got that!), and you’re feeling pretty good about things.

What about him?  You know, your husband (or boyfriend, or whomever your birth partner is going to be–and if he’s a she, just adjust pronouns and other words as needed).  That guy that’s going to be by your side through the birthing process.  Do you trust him as a birth partner?

We both know he’s a great guy.  Funny, smart, handsome, fantastic at grilling burgers.  We both know he cares about you and would do anything for you.

But…there’s something in you that’s just a bit concerned about him.  Your concern probably falls into one of two categories (they’re listed in the book, and I’m not going to list them here, lest you decide that you should be concerned about both categories), and that makes you feel just a little bit uneasy.  You absolutely want him by your side during the birth, but you kind of, just a little bit, also want someone that you know will be steady and fully equipped as a birth partner.

As a side note, that’s one reason people hire doulas, even if they’re having a hospital birth.  They’re experienced, generally pretty steady, and they’re usually pretty well equipped as birth partners, that being their job and all.

Let me paint a different picture for you.  What if, instead of that little bit of unease, you looked over at him.  Funny, handsome, smart.  And you thought about him by your side during the birth.  You realized he’s going to be steady, solid, and he’ll know what to do.  Even if he doesn’t know what to do, he’ll know enough that he’ll be able to figure it out and you know he will completely take care of you.  You can trust him.

Did you have a little shiver there?  That’s a pretty exciting scenario.  And if that’s your scenario, you’re in a much better situation that most women heading into the birthing room.

If you can trust him as a birth partner, you’ll be able to focus on birthing your baby.  You won’t be splitting your attention.  You’ll be able to relax, knowing that he’ll do the right thing, the thing in your best interest, and that you’ll be surrounded by steady loving care.

I’m not a woman, and I’ve never given birth, but I’m pretty sure that sounds appealing.

If you want that, don’t just dream about it (though even as a guy, that scenario sounds pretty great).  Figure out what your concerns are about him as a birth partner.  Then work through them together.

There are resources out there that can help.  The Field Guide to Being an Awesome Birth Partner is, I think, a great resource.  It may not be the right resource to address your concerns.  Leave a comment below, or email me, and I will do my best to help you find the right resource for you.

This one’s for the moms-to-be out there.  Men, you’re welcome to read it.  (If you do, read it to see how that lines up with your reasons, not because you’re looking for excuses!)

You may have noticed that there are a lot of baby and pregnancy books out there.  You probably own some of them.  Your hospital or birth center may have handed you a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  Your family and friends may have given you some for a baby shower.  You might have bought a few yourself.

First-time mothers, especially, are curious about everything that’s going on.  Your body is changing and there’s a tiny little person growing inside you.  That does all kinds of weird things to your body and brain.  It’s comforting to know that there’s a reason your hip hurts, or that you’re not alone in craving unusually large amounts of guacamole, or that your sudden urge to “nest” is normal.  Odd, but normal.

With these books being so useful, comforting, and informative, you naturally expect your man to read one or all of them as well.  For some reason, he doesn’t seem excited about the idea.  And he just hasn’t quite gotten around to reading the book yet.

Why is that?

Frankly, part of the reason is that the books aren’t intended for him.  They’re written for you, the mother-to-be.  It’s not that he can’t or won’t read a book that he’s not the intended audience for, it’s that it’s much harder work to stay engaged with the book.  If he’s being “asked” to read it in the first place and is already feeling a bit reluctant, the audience mismatch can be enough that he’ll give up by page ten.  And before you protest that the books are equally applicable to anyone, look at the cover (yes, judge the book by its cover!):  a color scheme tested by the publisher’s team to appeal to women; words about “you” having a baby; a picture of a smiling gal with a bulging belly?  Yep, that tells him that it’s aimed at you, not him.

Another reason that doesn’t apply to every book you ask him to read is that, to be honest, some of them seem just plain weird.  Because everyone has a different definition of “weird”, I won’t assume that what I find weird is also weird to your man.  And that’s exactly why you shouldn’t assume that just because you think “12 Chainsaw Juggling Techniques for a Healthy Baby” was awesome and he should read it, that he won’t end up thinking it’s weird and not wanting to read it.  (By the way, I don’t think that book exists, but it sounds awesome and I would read it.)

Another part of the reason he might not read that book is that it’s just plain long.  What to Expect When You’re Expecting is over 600 pages.  Over six hundred pages of stuff that might not interest him and might get weird?  “No thanks!” he thinks.  It might be chock-full of good information, but his this-is-more-work-than-it’s-worth alarm is going crazy.

The final major reason he might not want to read that book is that he doubts there is anything in it that’s actionable.  It’s nice to know that at 10 weeks, baby is the size of a kumquat.  But that’s just information.  And it’s information that you’ll give him anyway, or that he could look up if he wanted to know.  He’s concerned–and probably right–that he’ll spend time reading the book, and come away with almost nothing that he can do or know that will help him or you.  He’s got other things on his mind–like what it’ll be like to be a daddy, and whether the crib manufacturer put all the correct hardware in the box.

You may not agree with these reasons, and that’s okay.  Not every guy feels the same way, and not every guy can articulate his reasons.  In short, the most common set of reasons a guy doesn’t want to read that book is because it’s a non-actionable, long, potentially weird book that’s intended for you and not him.  If you can look at the book through that lens, you might understand why he just hasn’t gotten around to picking it up (even if you don’t agree with him).

Want a book that is actionable, short, and intended for him?  The Field Guide to Being an Awesome Birth Partner is written for your guy, to equip him to love and support you through the birth process.