True, he’s not actually carrying the baby but he can feel the pain and happiness with all the excitement of becoming a father. There’s plenty of effort to go around when it comes to pregnancy and plenty of sacrifices to be made on both sides. You get sciatica (backache); he does more walking. You turn green at the sight of uncooked food; he does the broiler. You crave watermelon in the middle of the night (and the middle of winter); he’s driving around trying to find an open market that sells fruit out of season. You get mood swings, he gets swung at. You couldn’t do it without him, or you wouldn’t want to try.
And while much is said about his responsibility to baby and you, don’t forget that he deserves some babying, too. Just to acknowledge that you’re glad he’s along for with you and that there’s no one you’d rather share the ride with. After all, you’re partners in pregnancy who are about to become partners in parenting as you make that life-changing transformation from twosome to threesome, nurturing the relationship you share as a couple has never been more important. Here are some tips for strengthening that bond during your 40 weeks:
1. Be thankful – Whatever his efforts and even if they don’t seem like much of an effort to you acknowledging them is the best way to keep them coming. It’s called positive reinforcement, and not only does it work (and work a whole lot better than its negative counterpart, nagging), but it’ll make him feel appreciated. So when he goes that extra mile (or even those extra ten feet to the hamper to drop in his dirty socks, instead of dropping them wherever he takes them off), let him know you’re grateful. Give him a big hug when he folds the laundry (even when he folds your sweaters the wrong way). Give him a friendly squeeze while he’s vacuuming (even if he’s clearly missing all that dog hair under the sofa). And say “thank you” often.
2. Be patient when he gets it wrong – Unless you’ve done this before, your partner has no idea what lies ahead, either. So try not to explode when he can’t read your mind well enough to anticipate your every need. If you’re crazy for honeydew in week nine, don’t melt down if your honey doesn’t remember to pick up your nightly melon on the way home from work…or if he surprises you with one in week 11. You specifically told him that the smell of garlic makes you gag but he comes home smelling like he inhaled forty cloves? Give the guy a break (and hand him a bottle of Listerine) it’s hard for him to commit your 12-page list of “don’ts” to memory, or not confuse it with your 20-page list of “dos.” You’re racing to figure out every fluctuation you’re having (you’re up, you’re down, you’re hungry, you’re queasy, you’re in the mood, you’re not) how can you find fault in him if he can’t keep up?
3. Include him. You get the smiles from strangers, the cooing from coworkers, the showering of gifts, and all the attention. He gets the regular load at work plus the extra load at home. Don’t leave him on the outside looking in rather invite him to the pregnancy party. Include him in your practitioner visits and not just at the side of the exam table — in your conversations with your practitioner, too. Take him shopping for baby gear, and ask him to test-drive the stroller. Even consider making him a guest of honor at your baby shower where should be part of the fun. And most of all, take every opportunity to let him know that he’s as much a part of your pregnancy as you are. Try to encourage and make him feel to cuddle up or to touch your belly and start bonding with that amazing baby of yours.
4. Turn the tables. Offer him a massage, buy him a little something special when you’re out shopping for the layette, and cook a romantic dinner during your second trimester when you’re feeling up to it. He’ll appreciate being indulged and you’ll both be reminded of the mutual love that got you here in the first place.
5. Make him a priority. Sure, you’ve got baby on the brain and in your belly and a certain amount of preoccupation with that new life is expected, and important. But as you make room for a baby, don’t forget that you’ll need to leave room for him too. Keep this in mind in the months and years of parenting that lie ahead: The single most significant relationship in your life is the one with your partner, even after the baby comes on the scene. Fetuses grow into babies, who grow into children, who grow up and move away from home, but a spouse is yours with a little luck and a lot of hard work into old age. Nurture your baby, but don’t forget to take the time and put the effort into nurturing your spouse as well.