“Comparison is the thief of joy,” it’s said, and the maxim certainly holds true when it comes to pregnancy.
The fewer, ahem, preconceptions you go in with about what you’ll do during pregnancy as a couple, and how your partner will experience pregnancy, the better. Some women love being pregnant, and happily stroke their belly the whole way through. Others find it drudgery on their best day, torture on their worst.
One of my friends was hiking and running into her eighth month of pregnancy, and another was in and out of an urgent care clinic with waves of severe nausea from the very start. Some women can’t fathom being touched sexually while they’re pregnant, while others find their libido cranks to eleven at points.
Even within the same pregnancy, things can fluctuate wildly. If you project disappointment about that things aren’t going as you envisioned, it will only add to the stress level in the relationship. So be kind to yourselves:
Allow space for any and every emotion in your pregnancy expectations.
Neither of you should place a sense of morality on something either of you are feeling. Your partner may feel resentment at feeling like her body has been taken over, or a sense of mourning over something she feels she’s losing, or a hundred other things. None of it means she’s “doing pregnancy” poorly. Ensure you’re not passing judgment on emotions she expresses, and give her explicit permission to process them with you. Your pregnancy expectations should price in the fact that not every passing moment is going to be magical.
Completely ignore any and every pregnant person you see on social media.
I don’t care if it’s one of your partner’s friends from high school or an A list celebrity, treat every likeness of a pregnant person as patently fake and divorced from reality – because even if the image isn’t thoroughly Photoshopped or filtered, it assuredly represents the person at their most polished and presentable.
A feed full of such images is going to, whether you’re conscious of it or not, give the impression that pregnancy is always, or at least should always be, a polished and presentable experience. It is not. And while it’s easy to tell yourself that you’re just going online to get information, it’s practically impossible to not be affected by the exposure. An Australian study from 2020 determined, in part, that digital media use during pregnancy is “associated with higher self-criticism, higher negative affect and lower social quality of life.”
Your partner is allowed to be just as rumpled and frumpy and exhausted as all of those social media people are when the barrel of a loaded camera lens isn’t pointed at them. The pictures you see are not a standard, they are a figment of fantasy, a single frame of a stage play. Treat them as such. Otherwise your pregnancy expectations are going to be way out of the line they should be in. Have a hard look at what and whom you want to allow within your mental margins during your partner’s pregnancy.
Your partner’s subsequent pregnancies will all be unique.
Just because your partner felt a certain way during that first pregnancy doesn’t mean that will hold true in a second or third. This doesn’t constitute a failing, it’s simply to be expected. Each of your kids will be unique – why shouldn’t their originating pregnancies be any different?
Every pregnancy is beautiful and rough and tender and tough in its own ways. Don’t fight it, roll with it. If you go into it with the mindset that you’re going to allow it to unspool as it will and that you’re going to treat yourselves with kindness no matter what it looks like, you’ll be leagues ahead of the game.
There’s no Right Way of taking the journey that is pregnancy. There will be ups and downs – sometimes an even split and sometimes far more of one than the other. Your ability as a team to flow with this dynamic, to take each day as one discrete unit to tackle before you move onto the next, will dictate how you come out of it and into the newborn phase. So take care of the essentials – be tender with one another, look after your mind and body, get plenty of rest.
Because trust me, you’ll soon need it.
This post was previously published on THEUNBOTHEREDFATHER.COM.
From The Good Men Project on Medium
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