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How Can Women Help Their Husbands Deal With Pregnancy?

by Amy Wright Glenn

Many soon-to-be fathers feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of changes transforming their pregnant wives. For example, pregnant women normally experience a wide range of emotions -- or mood swings -- and this can be confusing to their partners. Sadly, some husbands see themselves primarily as "bystanders" in pregnancy. By shifting their focus together, creating bonding rituals and inviting husbands fully into their prenatal world, women can help husbands cope with -- and even embrace -- the wonders of pregnancy.

A Shift in Focus Is Normal

The wisdom of nature intends for a pregnant woman to shift her focus inward in preparation for nurturing her soon-to-be born child. This is instinctive and healthy. However, such a shift isn't always easy for husbands who do not experience the pathway to parenthood as viscerally. Many men also miss being the focus of their wives' attention. Women can help their husbands embrace this shift in focus by emphasizing how parenthood itself is a life-altering and transformative right of passage. Both parents-to-be benefit from reflecting individually -- and as a couple -- upon the joyful and awesome responsibility that awaits them.

Encourage Written Expression

Women can encourage their husbands to write letters to their soon-to-be born children. As the editors at "Pregnancy" magazine note, even writing down how "they felt the first time they heard the baby's heartbeat" can be very meaningful. Even though husbands don't feel the same "maternal pull" experienced by their pregnant wives, writing is an excellent way to participate in preparing for parenthood. Letters composed by fathers-to-be can contain wisdom, humor, insight, stories and reflections on important life milestones.

Cultivate Weekly Rituals

While it can seem to last forever, pregnancy only lasts 40 weeks. Husbands can better deal with -- and participate in -- this time by joining their wives for special weekly rituals. For example, setting time aside for a weekly walk, yoga class, swim or art project is a wonderful way to celebrate the passage of pregnancy together. By marking each week with a visit to a favorite museum or trip to a local bowling alley, couples create bonding memories and set aside time to talk about their feelings regarding the responsibility and joy of parenthood.

The Importance of Reading and Prenatal Visits

Expectant fathers benefit tremendously from both reading about pregnancy and attending prenatal medical visits. Many excellent prenatal books have been written for men on how to best bond with their unborn children and support their wives through pregnancy. In addition to reading, pregnant women should invite their husbands to attend all of their prenatal medical visits. According to Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash, authors of "The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be," attending prenatal visits "is an ideal way to tell her you love her and to reassure her she's not going to be alone."

Consider Hiring a Doula

As women enter into the final months of pregnancy, intense emotions surrounding the upcoming birth naturally arise. In particular, first-time fathers can feel anxious, inadequate and insecure in the role as birth partner. The presence of a skilled doula -- a professional labor companion -- can significantly ease fears on all sides. A husband shouldn't have to worry about being the sole provider of emotional comfort at a time when he is also in need of support. In addition to helping the husband learn important comfort measures for labor and delivery, doulas extend compassionate support to the husband on his journey into fatherhood.

References

Resources

  • The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions; Penny Simkin

About the Author

Amy Wright Glenn holds a Master of Arts in religion and education from Teachers College at Columbia University. Glenn taught in the religion and philosophy department at The Lawrenceville School for over a decade. She is a birth doula, hospital chaplai, and author of "Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula."

Photo Credits

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