With the mood swings, the nausea, the weight gain, the sore breasts, the aching back, and the myriad of other complaints, pregnancy is not exactly a walk in the park. But through it all, we as women, get to experience the wonder of human nature first hand, and at the end of those agonizing nine months, we're presented with a beautiful, breathtaking reward.
For our partners -- until those agonizing nine months go by and they get to hold that beautiful breathtaking reward -- their participation in the pregnancy is somewhat limited to bearing the brunt of the mood swings, cleaning up after the nausea, and listening endlessly about the weight gain, the sore breasts, the aching back and the myriad of other complaints.
How can your partner be more involved in your pregnancy? "The most important thing my husband has done to become a part of the pregnancy is show me how excited he is to be having this baby with me," says Melanie Richter, who's expecting her first child in July. Here are 10 more ways to include your partner:
1) Pain, pain go away
It may seem like a strange time to get to know your each other better, but now's the time to talk about certain topics, like pain, explains Tasha MacDonald, a registered midwife in Toronto. "Knowing that when the person is in pain they like to be left alone or really pampered is helpful when it comes to the labour."
2) Here's baby
You'll also want to discuss what will happen after your beautiful newborn makes his or her first appearance, says MacDonald. "Talking about what the pregnant woman might need or want postpartum, like help with meals, keeping visitors at bay, those kinds of conversations make the partner feel more involved and a part of the process."
3) Picture perfect
Taking a photograph of your belly-in-progress is not an easy task, making it the perfect gig for your partner. "We took pictures of my wife starting from month four or so, every month, with a sign near her belly showing the month we were in," says David Bercovitch, a father of three. "It was a cool way to show progression of the pregnancy. Eventually, with the next two pregnancies, the older kids got into the pictures, too. They thought it was a hoot."
4) The name game
For Rosanne Shpayer, a mom of two who's expecting her third child in November, picking a name has been the burden. Luckily, her husband's been a pro at it. "After two children, I was convinced I had run out of names I liked. But he came up with some good names once again (he came up with a great name for our first child and we had a very easy time on the second). It may sound small, but it's a big help."
(Discover 7 myths about predicting your baby's sex.)
5) Natural beauty
Nothing can perk up a person like a compliment, and when you just don't see that "pregnancy glow" everyone else does, a few kind words can go a long way. "My husband loves pregnant women, he adores them," says Hsiang Fei Lu, expecting her first child in October. "He thinks I am sexier than ever and spoils me with attention."
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6) Empathy pains
For Howard Trottenberg, a father of one and expecting number two any day, just trying to understand what his wife is going through has been a learning process. "Emotionally, I have tried to remember the difficulties my wife goes through. No matter what hurts for me pales in comparison; how tired I am is immaterial," he explains. "Physically, I have tried to do my part to lessen the burden on her. Things like making breakfast and dinner, doing the laundry, sweeping, helping to avoid her having to do bend and do strenuous work."
7) Gentle caress
A perineal massage, the gentle stretching of the muscles around the vaginal opening, can make a partner feel more connected with the impending birth. "It hasn't been shown to be very useful for preventing tears, but perineal massage does help women get used to the feeling of stretching," explains MacDonald. "And in women over 30, it reduces the incidence of episiotomy."
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8) Class act
Being at all the important events and finding out information as mom does is another great way to feel included. "In the beginning, when my wife wasn't showing, it really hadn't hit me yet," says Neal McComb, expecting his first in July. "But now that the baby is growing and it is quite clear the delivery is imminent, I've been attending prenatal classes and reading some of my wife's pregnancy books." Trottenberg also took prenatal classes and went to all the doctor's appointments.
9) Hello baby!
Just because baby is inside mom doesn't mean the other parent can't begin the bonding process. Reading books, playing music and just talking to that growing tummy helps prepare your child for the new world and both parents' place in it. Want two-way communication? Do as Michelle Stapleton, a naturopathic doctor, did. "I brought my stethoscope home from work so that we could both listen to the baby's heart."
10) Little things make big differences
Richter finds that even the smallest details make her and her husband feel like they're participating in the pregnancy together. "Sometimes just little things like helping me off the couch, bringing me water, walking down the stairs in front of me (because I actually fell once and it really scared both of us), e-mailing me during the day to see how I'm doing are the things that mean the most."
Read more: 6 fun things to do with your new baby.
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