Recently, an old friend and his wife became pregnant. Shortly thereafter, he realized I write about motherhood and pregnancy and asked me to write a message to his wife imploring her to not act crazy toward him while her hormones are raging during pregnancy.
To my friend I say: Sorry bud, no chance of that ever happening.
Instead, my advice to expectant fathers goes like this:
Now that she is pregnant, your wife will be emotional, crazy, forgetful, moody, exhausted, needy, insecure, unsure of herself, exhausted, clumsy, forgetful, (see I'm already repeating myself as I type and I'm not doing it on purpose) and a million other emotions will take her prisoner for the next nine months. Once the baby is here, it could get better, but chances are that it will get worse first. Especially if she decides to nurse the baby as nursing mommy brain really turns to mush.
Some key phrases you as a husband should quickly incorporate into your daily conversations with your wife include:
I love you. (That should already be there but just in case it isn't and I really have to start at square one, it made the list.)
You're the most beautiful woman in the world. (ditto)
I love your changing body.
You are not fat. You're body is making room for the baby and some things are going to be more flattering than others. We just have to find something that flatters your new figure.
Everything is going to be just fine.
You're going to be a wonderful mother.
Slow down, relax, incubate.
Can I get you anything? (water, backrub, footrub, heating pad, foot rest, you're favorite mac and cheese from down the street that you crave)
If it is supportive and reassuring, it should be on this list. You get my point.
You're wife's body is going through an incredible transformation. Most men I know could not handle pregnancy, and if they could, it wouldn't be any better than we women handle it.
Pregnancy is not easy.
Just think about it. We try not to get pregnant for years until we are "ready" (whatever that means). Then we try to get pregnant and worry that we won't be able to. If it doesn't come naturally, there are layers of issues that come with that. If it does come naturally, we're still told not to count our chickens before they are hatched since the miscarriage rate is so high. Then we are bombarded with what to eat and not eat, how to exercise to stay in shape but not overexert ourselves and stress the baby. We have to go to doctor appointment after doctor appointment to get poked and prodded and weighed and measured. We take blood tests to screen for potential birth defects and have to nervously await the results. We then go in for ultrasounds to find out the sex of the baby, or not, and again make sure everything is in it's place. We hear horror stories about preemies, SIDS, postpartum depression and all that can go wrong with a pregnancy, not to mention how every mom we meet will volunteer her awful labor and delivery story just to prove that she's done something incredible, thereby scaring the pee out of us, literally -- because our bladders can now only hold so much and we have to go to the bathroom every five minutes.
And then there are the foods that we crave and the foods that we find repulsive. Our doctors are telling us to gain weight or not to gain too much weight when all we want to do is eat, or not eat.
And we sometimes have morning sickness or feel queasy, we get heartburn and other ailments. We, near the end of pregnancy, can barely walk/get off the couch/tie our shoes. Not to mention the leg cramps in the middle of the night, wild and crazy dreams and nights of restless sleep.
And do I even have to mention feeling fat and unattractive and worrying that we are no longer sexy in our husband's eyes? Or the fact that our wardrobe doesn't fit and we have to buy new things to wear, but we don't want to spend money on ourselves since we are saving up for the expense of having a baby. Then nothing fits once the baby is here and our body is completely changed, so we again need a new wardrobe, and have to dip into baby's savings.
Add to that the fact that you may or may not be working and have to decide if you are going back to work or not, and how you're going to make ends meet when you sit down with the family budget. Can you say stressful?
On top of that, you must consider that the baby is going to need a name and everyone has an opinion on what you should or shouldn't name the baby. Maybe there is family pressure to honor your twice removed great great uncle Elvis even though it totally doesn't sound good with your last name or his initials spell out something that he'll clearly be made fun of for his entire childhood. Can you live with that decision?
And what if you are having twins? It might be a two-for-one deal to some, but it terrifies the rest of us completely.
Briefly, let's chat about post-pregnancy. She'll doubt her mothering skills. She'll wonder if she should nurse, maybe feel like she's failed if she is unable to nurse (which she hasn't failed...sometimes it's just not meant to be and you need to be supportive of all of her choices.) Your friends may change now that you have a child and your social life might just go MIA for awhile. (Not everyone wants to talk poopy diapers over dinner you know.) Your sex life as you know it is over for at least 6 weeks until you get her doctor's clearance. And then who has time for sex? And how hot are you when you have spit up all over your shirt? Just you wait and see.
Then she'll wonder if doing sign language is good for the baby, if the baby is developing on schedule, if his height and weight percentile are okay, if he is getting enough milk, if she should vaccinate the baby (YES, but do your own research to form that opinion), and if she should get a nanny or enroll in daycare. Her mother and your mother will be all over her parenting skills, and that advice my fall on thankful, or insulted ears. (Don't get me wrong, Dad may be in charge of many of the decisions, but that's still pretty rare and to those fathers, I feel your pain.)
I mean, seriously, you want me to be on your side and suggest your wife go easy on you? No chance in hell buddy. Not a chance.
Now go give her a hug and tell her she's the most beautiful woman in the world.
Moral of the story: Having babies is not for the weak or unstable. It is a daunting process on an emotional roller coaster that will change your world forever. Be supportive of one another, prepare as best you can, and know that it won't be easy, but it sure is rewarding.