None of these.
All of these and more.
As the father of three, I can tell you that the most magical time of my life was during the pregnancies and birth of our children. And I can also tell you that there is no one “right way” to think or feel about this time of expectancy.
Many emotions are normally experienced by both partners. Above are just a few options in a very wide range of how someone may react to the news of pregnancy. Reactions to the revelation of another life growing inside you (or your partner) can run the gamut of feelings. If this was a planned adventure, then often people are excited about what’s in store. Or you can still be scared out of your mind, regardless of how many books you’ve read, how many videos you’ve watched, and how many friends talked to. Even in the best of pregnancies it is quite normal to experience a range of emotions. This is true for planned as well as unplanned pregnancies.
If this is an unplanned pregnancy, there may be a lot of “uh-oh” feelings that could conflict with inner excitement on your side, but not your partners. Or lots of back and forth feelings about what this means to your body, your lifestyle, your income, and your home.
Go Easy On Yourself
No matter the situation, any and all feelings you have are totally OK!
Whether you are the one carrying the baby, or the partner in the scenario, both of you will have your own reactions. There are no wrong feelings. When faced with the reality of a truly life-changing event, you need time to process the effects and understand that you are normal people, having normal reactions, to the reality of bringing a baby into the world. This is a big deal!
Sometime even in the best of circumstances, conflicts can understandably occur during pregnancy. Clients are commonly referred to me by their OB-GYN because they are feeling overwhelmed by the entire event! You might be feeling overwhelmed in a good way, and other times not. Having a trusted third-party to help work through the issues has been invaluable for many of my clients.
Knowing what is coming, for both parties, can help take away much of the anxiety around the next eight to nine months. I’m sharing some common things I hear from couples in my office in the hope that this can help you as well!
Your Body Changes
Yes, yes. We know that your stomach will enlarge, your breasts will swell and become tender. But the physical changes are not just limited to those two areas. Aches and pains arise where there weren’t previously any as skeletal structure prepares to bear the extra load of another life. It can be difficult for women to watch their features change and wonder if they are going to return to what they once were. Hormonal changes are also happening as life grows in your body.
One worry women have is that their partner or spouse will no longer find them attractive. I must say, this is almost never the case. I’ve observed in so many cases the exact opposite! I found my pregnant wife to be incredibly sexy!
Consider the physical changes you are experiencing nature’s way of allowing you to bring life into the world. All the changes serve a purpose. It’s like a beautiful metamorphosis into a new version of yourself!
As the future mother becomes acutely aware she is carrying a child inside her womb, her partner may not be as aware. They can’t feel all the soreness, tenderness, and stretching that is going on. And, in the first trimester at least, they can’t SEE any changes either. This can cause stress in the relationship as the mom-to-be is very quickly having to alter her lifestyle to accommodate morning (or night) sickness, fatigue, decreased sex drive or any number of other things. Her partner may not fully understand this at first.
Then, as the mom-to-be feels more and more vulnerable because of the changes that are happening inside and need more support, her partner may or may not pick up on this situation, creating tension and anxiety, or more of a sense of ease if you are both tuned in.
Talking to each other and really listening will be tremendously helpful so that each of you can understand what this experience is for both of you. Expecting a baby is a big deal!
Either way, it is important to understand that both people have their own experiences, and they may not always overlap. Remembering to take time to communicate and let the other person know what you need before you expect them to be able to read your mind is key right now – even when she’s asking for her feet to be rubbed for the third time today!
It’s OK to Have Sex
It’s even healthy for you! Libido varies for women (and men) during pregnancy. Sometimes men are afraid of harming the baby. Sometimes women are so tired or nauseous that it’s the last thing on their mind!
If you’re feeling up to it, sex as a pregnant mother can lower your blood pressure, relieve stress (for both of you), help you get better sleep, and even make you happier. Biology has built in ways for you to keep having sex during pregnancy, if you’re feeling up for it. The strong muscles of the uterus, as well as the mucus plug that seals the cervix, protect the baby from harm. You may have to change the positions you normally use, but no need to worry! It’s part of the adventure!
Involve Your Children
If you already have children, you certainly want to consider involving them during the pregnancy. This is a time of great change not only for you, but for your family. Involving your children truly makes this a more complete family event. Taking pictures like this one can also help them understand more about the birds and the bees when they get older!
Can I Do This?
The gravity of childbirth can shake the most confident person’s psyche. Pregnancy and childbirth have a way of cutting to the very core of people. The fears and anxieties we thought were long-resolved can rear their ugly head once again. New fears and anxieties can come up around labor or breastfeeding or infant baths!
Or maybe you are worried about the actual act of giving birth? There is a lot of information out there, and (sometimes frightening) stories abound about childbirth! Inform yourself as best you can and consider wise counsel of friends and family. You will find that when you educate yourself about the options, you will feel more at ease.
Prenatal education classes for both you and your partner are one of the very best ways to help you understand that you are not alone with your feelings, in addition to providing helpful information about the whole process of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and new parenthood.
A word about advice… you will receive a lot of it! Sometimes requested, sometimes unsolicited. You are the one having the baby, so it’s your (and your partner or spouse’s) opinion that matters most. Take it all in and evaluate, along with other information you’ve gathered, what is best for you and your family. Your confidence will grow as you become clear on what works best for your family.
Your Go-To Support System
Speaking of advice, this is a great time to consider your support system. We are talking about the network of people who shower you with love, compassion and caring throughout your life and can be there for you now. I specifically mean people in addition to your partner or spouse. They are part of your support system, but they can’t be the ONLY support system.
Different friends and family might have different areas of greatness, and can fulfill different roles for you during your pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. One friend could be great at listening to your worries over a pedicure, while your sister-in-law could talk to you about birth since she already has three kids! Maybe your aunt loves to plan. She may coordinate your shower for you and help you register.
Being able to rely upon your partner will be the very best support overall because this is the person with whom you are going to parent. They are the person who, hopefully, will be with you throughout all of this and the person with whome you are starting or growing your family. Whether it’s going to the doctor for regular checkups, birthing classes, needing to talk to someone, or setting up your nursery, just remember that you don’t have to do this all by yourself. It’s also more fun having your partner and the rest of your team to help out!
And both of you need all this support, in all ways. Having this support feeds our basic need for community and connectedness. As they saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.” And that starts before the birth of your child!
Counseling women and couples who are in this stage of life is one of my most favorite areas of expertise. Please don’t continue to feel overwhelmed by the gift before you. Give me a call in my office, and I am more than happy to spend 15-minutes speaking to you to see if working together might help you.