Andrew: Pregnancy is always viewed from the woman’s perspective – and rightly so. However in many ways, it’s also a journey that the man goes through and increasingly so, as men step up to play a greater role in parenting.
Having gone through two (almost!) pregnancies, I wanted to share my own journey and what I’ve deemed as being helpful to Jas during her pregnancies – some things learnt thru the hard way, as always. Some of these are tips I’ve learnt from friends too and put into practice with good effect. In many ways, these tips are similar to how a husband should support and communicate with his wife in a marriage – just amplified 100x because of the pregnancy! Without further ado, here goes:
1. Your wife is your first focus, the baby second.
Andrew: Doesn’t this sound wrong – shouldn’t the baby come first? However, this is akin to what they always say about how to be a good dad – love mommy more.
While caring for your wife, always make sure she knows that she is your priority and not just the baby. During her pregnancy, your wife will receive a lot of advice on what to do – from the gynea, from family members, from well-meaning friends etc. Your wife might feel that everyone just cares about the child’s needs and not hers, but as a husband, you must let her know that she is important too. Not just in actions, but even in the way you phrase your advice to her and the words that you say – always phrase advice from the perspective of you caring for her and not just the baby. For example, when Dr said Jas was at risk of pre-term labour, I got so worried for the baby that I said very stern things to her like “You better stay at home and rest or else our baby will come out early” or “You mean you’re not concerned about our baby?” – obviously these comments backfired and got her even more frustrated. Looking back, I should have just expressed how concerned I was for her and her health.
This is arguably even more important when you have more kids, when it becomes even more difficult to balance the need of your existing kids and the new one. Your wife should know that she’s still valued as your wife and not just the mother of your child.
2. No request is too trivial.
Andrew: Yes, I’m sure everyone has heard tonnes about the wife’s cravings during pregnancy – which is true! Admittedly, I’ve been a bit lazier during the second pregnancy and Jasmine’s cravings haven’t been that difficult to obtain and also, her mother is a good cook who can help make what she wants. (Jasmine: Yes, there was this one time I was craving Tasmanian sausage rolls, and my mum actually Googled a recipe and made her own mince rolls with black pepper! Yum!) I do see many of my husband-friends faithfully meeting their wives’ cravings by driving out in the middle of the night to get what they want, and yup, that should be the way! Be attentive to your wife’s needs and that means fulfilling her cravings as fast as you can – just think of you as becoming the 24-hour womb service for your little child inside! (Yes, some creative visualisation helps one to manage too!)
Jasmine: Yes, I read somewhere that cravings are not just an emotional thing, but may supposedly be related to a nutritional deficiency in the mother, for instance, I have been craving yoghurt a few times this week, which may be due to lack of calcium leading to severe backaches. (Andrew: Oh, so is your body very deficient in potato chips?) Also, the thing about cravings is that they must be fulfilled now– we held back on my MacBreakfast craving for almost a week, and my Kinder Bueno White craving for a few days, and the craving, instead of dissipating, kept building up until I was so unhappy and moody… that I messaged Andrew nonstop about hotcakes while he was at work.
On the other hand, Andrew woke up early one morning and bought me my Macbreakfast Deluxe while I was still asleep… And that was a great start to my morning! Just ask him, I was pleased as punch (when usually at 730am I’m a grouch).
That being said, not all cravings are healthy, obviously. To try to stave off those hunger pangs (and nausea in the first tri), we try to keep some healthy snacks in our fridge- these have included Hup Seng crackers, hummus and breadsticks and grapes. Don’t expect it to eliminate your wife’s cravings, but consider yourself lucky if it saves you a midnight trip out to buy Ramly burger!
Andrew: Your wife will have strong nesting instinct and get you to help her move this or that (as you would have read in the previous posts – though honestly, she did most of it herself. Hmm, why am I even qualified to write this post? Anyway…). Even if you think it’s a silly request, just do it and do it when she asks you to. Dearie would not just rearrange the house – she would ask me to take photos of the ‘completed’ products and I would sometimes just groan…
Jasmine: Yes, that nesting instinct is also quite normal as it’s the urge that women feel to prepare everything for the arrival of the baby. For some, it could involve doing up the nursery or cooking and freezing large batches of meals that can be reheated when the little one arrives.
For me, it’s manifested itself in the form of rotating Dylan’s toys (to a different weekly theme) and more recently, re-organising my kitchen and Andrew’s frightful bedside table. Actually, the husband does not have to say much- just go along with it, help move heavy objects if asked, and by no means comment on how much the wife is spending- though agreeing on a budget beforehand is certainly fair, and I get most of my storage stuff from Daiso.
3. Bedrest is a great concept – but extremely tough in reality.
Andrew: During pregnancy, the gynea may give the wife/mother bedrest if there’s over-exertion or pregnancy risks. In our minds, bedrest sounds like heaven right? Because your wife can just lie down in bed and do nothing. For the husband, maybe it sounds good because you no longer need to worry about your wife being overly tired and stressed at work. Wrong!
Bedrest, while good in concept, can be extremely boring and your wife, who’s also hormonal during her pregnancy, might end up feeling stressed, frustrated and also very handicapped, like every small move she makes can cause distress to the baby.
Your role as a husband then is to remain attentive to her while she’s going through bedrest. Buy her magazines, brainstorm activities to do with her while she’s on bedrest (as you can see, this is why our blog has been more active lately), and especially as the pregnancy gets on, don’t assume that bedrest = well-rested wife – your wife can still be tired, even while on bedrest. Lying down is not necessarily comfortable anymore, without the right support and even lying down in the same position for too long can cause backaches and for Jas, contractions. Continue to be attentive to her needs and be there for her.
Also, while bedrest is important, it can be quite stifling to be cooped up at home all the time. So, do find ways you can bring her out without her over-exerting herself – the best option probably being restaurants/food places where she can be fetched directly to the door-step. I know gyneas will always say complete bedrest, but honestly, nobody can stay confined to the bed for one week continuously.
Jasmine: Boredom aside, I also found it almost impossible to be on strict bedrest- which happened quite a few times this pregnancy because of contractions and the risk of early labour, which would pose health risks to the baby if born so prematurely. As a mother of an active little boy who just learned how to walk and is practising his walking skills all day, I found that I had to chase after him, bend down to clean the high chair and floor, carry him when he needed comforting etc. This of course would lead to increased frequency and painfulness of contractions- not good!
Of course, we tried to outsource our cleaning to a part-time cleaner before we got our new helper, but there were still daily tasks that needed to be done that were somewhat strenuous, such as the cleaning of the high chair and floor.
Even when my new helper arrived, things got slightly better as I could leave the housework to her and even let her watch over baby occasionally while I rested. However, whenever I was at home, I would always feel compelled to check on them, or take care of baby so that she could get the housework done. Perhaps it’s just a mother’s instinct?
4. Your wife will be hormonal and emotional – no matter what you do. Patience is the key.
Andrew: Mood-swings are part and parcel of pregnancy and frankly, you won’t be able to stop the mood swings from happening, so don’t even try. Nonetheless, when they happen, be patient, listen to your wife (regardless of how emotional or unreasonable she might get), don’t take things personally and do not – I repeat, do NOT – try to talk your wife out of her emotional state, she will naturally come out of it.
Honestly, Jas does try to help me through this part by alerting me and saying, “I’m feeling extremely hormonal today” before she goes into her emotional state. I’ve at times tried earnestly to advise her and talk her out of her negative emotions, but I’ve since realised how silly that is. Usually, once she’s had her say, expressed all she feels – she’ll usually come out of it, as if nothing happened and I’m like what? This process can be rather long though, hence the need for patience.
Jasmine: I can’t explain it. I remember that even the strangest things could set me off, like when I was expecting Dylan I would suddenly cry when watching some Youtube video. Sometimes, I would message Andrew with a string of complaints about my contractions when he was working- even if you are busy, do try to respond to your wife in a timely way so she knows you’re there for her, or at least let her know that you are at a meeting and will get back to her in an hour or two (and honour your word!).
5. Find time to intentionally enjoy the process.
Andrew: Welcoming a new child is something joyful and nobody would deny that it’s an exciting process. However, as pregnancy is also tough and tiring, there must be intentional effort to enjoy the process and make it a positive one, so that the tough parts don’t seem so bad.
Yes, maternity photo-shoots are one way (and Jasmine’s favourite way), but it’s also about little things that the husband can do to make the wife feel excited, like spending time to talk to your baby, initiating trips to buy things for the baby, talking excitedly about how the new baby will be like and the things you’ll do with him/her. Spend time every night praying together with your wife for her and the new child.
Continue to do fun things together with your wife, so she’ll have positive memories of the pregnancy. It’s not just about one-off events, but also consistent actions.
Miscellaneous other tips:
Learn how to do basic massage (especially back massage) for your wife: You’ll probably be the best masseuse for her because she’ll be able to tell you exactly where to massage and for how long, unlike those paid ones – though those are good too! Learnt some pretty good techniques from Mills and Wayne too! (Jasmine: our gynea showed Andrew how to knead his fists and knuckles into the lower back to disperse the lactic acid buildup which causes the backache, and it’s really shiok. Andrew now does this for me almost every night, if not he knows I will not be able to sleep much at night due to the discomfort, which increases as baby grows.)
Invest in a good pregnancy pillow: Yes, my wife has spoken at length about the miracle below that she bought from Amazon, but it really is that good. Once having that pillow, her complaints reduced by almost about half (okay, maybe a quarter).
Keep affirming your wife and telling her how beautiful she is. Pregnancy makes a big dent on a woman’s self-esteem and she’ll feel like she’s totally lost control of her body. (Jasmine: Totally agree here. I used to be very sensitive when people would say “wah you so big” and wanted to tell them that it wasn’t me who was big but the baby!) Just keep affirming her, hold her and tell her how beautiful she is, keep appreciating her.
Andrew: Now, I have to add and end off by saying that once you have two kids, the things above become more difficult to do by practically two-fold – additionally challenging for us because the first kid is less than one year old, hence still very needy.
When all else fails, falling back to Strategy 1 will never fail you. Your wife should be first priority, above all. That’s not to say you ignore your kids’ needs completely, but don’t ignore hers either or deem them trivial in the midst of the babies.
A final important tip to husband is to find time to take care of yourself. Yes, to many, the baby will come first, then the mother and the dad last. Hence, while staying involved, don’t forget to also rest enough and do things to refresh yourself, so that you can also stay positive. Enjoy the pregnancy journey!