So it's on, she's pregnant! Life – and your relationship – is changing, no matter if you’re having your first baby or an addition.
The first trimester can be an intense time for both partners, however men experience it very differently than women do. But as a man, it's your golden opportunity to set strong foundations in your relationship, for pregnancy and beyond. In this article, i’ll share 5 simple keys to grabbing that golden opportunity.
But before we get to those, the first step you need to recognise is what a massive stage this is for your woman. She is now sharing her body with your child. It's likely her body won't be fully ‘hers' again for a couple of years. This shift is massive for her, especially if this is your first. Her body is going through some amazing changes to grow another human being inside her womb. It's good to get a handle on what's going on.
Psychologically there's some deep shifts occurring as she embraces this journey. Along with these changes, many women find the first trimester pretty tough. Fatigue and morning sickness (for some unlucky women, it’s all day sickness) being the most obvious symptoms, but a whole range of other experiences come into play – bearing in mind that every woman's experience is unique. When you’re fatigued like never before and feeling hungover day after day, it can take a physical and emotional toll. For some ideas on how you can help her with fatigue, see BellyBelly’s article on pregnancy fatigue here.
On top of all these shifts, many of us try to keep the pregnancy news quiet, as we wait out that magical 12 week milestone. At that point, we're more confident that pregnancy will go all the way. Until then, she can feel isolated as well as excited.
With all of the emotion, changes and experiences, it can be a real challenge to stay connected to your partner, and to maintain a healthy relationship as we deal with a shifting landscape. It can be stressful, challenging and can impact on your connection with each other. However, it's also one of the most important times to build your relationship.
The key to doing this is to see the long term perspective – you need to hold the bigger picture of what's going on in your relationship.
Research has confirmed the vital importance of connection between partners during pregnancy. A large study in Scandinavia identified that the biggest factor in antenatal anxiety was a woman's relationship with her partner. There is also a big link between mood disorders, both antenatally and postnatally.
With that in mind, the following 5 tips can help you to keep the connection strong and perspective firmly in place:
Staying Connected Tip #1: Show Her That You Are A Trustable Man
This is a crucial time. Your partner is most likely feeling vulnerable and needing your support. Letting her know she can rely on you will work wonders for your connection. This may require you to really step up around the house as well as keeping things afloat financially. She'll also want you to be there for her emotionally, willing to listen without reacting, telling her she's loved, and letting her know that she can trust you will be there for her. All this can be a big stretch, but get this right and your relationship will be deeper and smoother for the rest of the journey.
Staying Connected Tip #2: Don't Take It Personally And Be Willing To Change
In the first trimester, it is completely normal for a woman to be highly emotional – she may even throw some of her emotions and dissatisfactions at you. This isn't about you, even if it's about something you have done or are doing. She is having your child. Trust her choice in that. Hold her openly as her emotions flow and be willing to look honestly at yourself – and make changes if you need to.
Staying Connected Tip #3: Be Adaptable
Where she's at emotionally one day could be completely different the next day. Or even the next hour. Try to let your preconceptions go and embrace her exactly as she is in the moment. What works for you one day may not work the next. Be willing to continually explore and adapt. See her changes as a challenge to stay present and playful rather than as something being wrong.
Staying Connected Tip #4: Handle The Finances
Step up what you're taking care of. Financial security will likely become much more important to her – so take this off her plate of things to be focussed on. This might mean taking responsibility to pay all the bills, or it might be setting a clear vision of how things are going to work out financially. If she has a sense that the finances are solid, she will likely be much less stressed and will connect with you more easily.
Staying Connected Tip #5: Set A Vision For The Pregnancy
Develop your vision for how you'd like the pregnancy to be: how do you want to her feel? Held, loved and special are all good starting points. If she feels that you're rock solid and 100% supporting her and your child's journey, your connection will deepen – even when you're feeling on the outside of the process.
These five tips can require a big step up for a man. I put all these 5 into play when we became pregnant for the first time and it was transformational – the basis of trust and connect it built continues to see us through the tough times, and makes the good times that much sweeter.
Some other BellyBelly articles which can help you to understand and relate to your pregnant partner include:
- 16 Things Pregnant Women Want Their Partners To Know
- 8 Tips To Help Prevent Postnatal Depression (ideal to read during pregnancy to have the best chance at avoiding it in the first place)
- 11 Things You Should Not Say To A Pregnant Woman
- ‘Becoming Us: 8 Steps To Grow A Family That Thrives‘ by Elly Taylor – read this individually and/or as a couple.