This one is for the partner of the mother-to-be.
You don’t need me to tell you how difficult pregnancy is. For her, the next nine months will likely be filled with swelling, discomfort, and no small amount of vomit.
When pregnant with multiples, these issues are likely to be even worse. In fact, there’s a good chance she will find herself on bedrest at some point in the pregnancy. If you’ve had trouble conceiving before, her doctor may be quicker to pull the trigger on bedrest.
All of this is to say that she has a difficult time ahead while her body works to create life. Because of her swelling, nausea, etc., there are going to be a lot of things she can’t do. There will also be a lot of things that she can do but will be very difficult for her.
As the non-pregnant member of the relationship, our job is pretty straightforward: simplify her life as much as we can. It’s going to be a big job, so here are 5 tips to help you along the way.
Accept that it’ll be tough and you’ll be tired
There’s no dancing around this; taking care of her is probably going to be exhausting. There may be a lot of things she needs your help with, especially if she is on bedrest. You’ll be cooking, cleaning, getting her food, possibly helping her to the bathroom, helping change her clothes, and whatever else is needed. All of this is in addition to whatever is on your own to-do list.
The best thing that you can do is to accept that you’re going to be tired.
The best advice I can give you for how to do that is to keep reminding yourself what your partner is going through.
If she could do these things on her own, she probably would. As difficult and inconvenient as it is for you to keep up with all of this, you can bet it would be much worse for her. That extra stress can’t be good for her or the babies. At the end of the day, it’s just better for you to be overworked than for her to be.
Get on the same page
People hate feeling like a burden on others, so she’ll probably feel guilty letting you do so much for her. You have a delicate balance to find here; on one hand you need to let her do some things for herself so that she’s getting what little physical activity she can, but on the other hand you don’t want her to overwork herself because she doesn’t want to inconvenience you.
To find this balance, you both need to be on the same page. Because everyone is different, I can’t tell you exactly how to find this balance in your own relationship. I can, however, tell you what worked for us.
At the beginning, my wife often felt bad about letting me take care of her as much as I did. Her pregnancy was extremely difficult on her, so the list of things I helped her with was extensive. Not only did I do everything but go to the bathroom for her, we also have two large dogs who needed taking care of. Taking care of everyone was time consuming and left me constantly drained, and my wife felt terrible about it.
So what did I do to ease her guilt? Did I lie to her and try to hide how much it took out of me each day? Not exactly, although I may have put on a brave face from time to time when necessary.
For the most part, though, I was honest with her and told her that I was stressed and tired. I could have lied and told her I was unfazed by it all, but she would have seen through that.
Instead, I chose to be honest with her and to remind her that it’s all for the babies. Even though she felt guilty letting me take care of her, she wanted what was best for the babies.
Reaching this understanding allowed us to strike that delicate balance I mentioned earlier. I felt that I could trust her judgement when she said she could handle a task on her own; I didn’t have to worry that she was overexerting herself for my sake.
Get a routine going
Taking Care of Others
A lot of the day-to-day needs are going to be the same. Start with the daily needs of the expecting mother and figure out where they fall on your daily schedule.
If you’re responsible for her food, meals and snack times will probably be the best place to start. This would be followed by things like medicines, lotions and creams, compression socks, etc.
One of the major benefits of getting these on your schedule is that it allows you a chance to prepare things ahead of time when possible. For example, if you’re doing compression socks around 8:00 PM, you can have them on the donner by 7:45 PM. If you don’t know what a donner is, you’ll want to look it up if compression stockings becomes one of your tasks.
If you have others to take care of, these may fall ahead of or just behind the needs of mom. For us, taking care of our two dogs was my second priority after taking care of my wife. If we had other children, their needs would have taken top spot at least part of the time. Either way, figure out what responsibilities in this area will need to be done regularly (food, bathing, homework help, etc.) and determine where you will fit those in your calendar as well.
Taking Care of the House
After all living creatures in the home have been considered, it’s time to think about those additional tasks that exist in day-to-day life for most adults. Things like dishes, laundry, and general cleaning would fall into this category. Find those gaps that are left in your schedule and determine where these tasks will fall.
Don’t forget to consider how activities will affect one another when scheduling. In other words, if you have limited hot water, dishes, laundry, and showers should be scheduled with a couple hours between them to replenish the supply.
You can use the time that remains to work on tasks that need done rarely or just once. Home repairs, for example, should not need done repeatedly (hopefully). If you’re like me, you may be tempted to get through your whole to-do list or to-fix list at once. This will leave you frustrated by only getting a few of these things done per day while you work around the rest of your schedule.
Just keep reminding yourself the important of prioritizing. If there are tasks that urgently need done, you may be able to convince one of her friends or family members to come help with some of the expecting mother’s less personal needs for a while so that you have time to get other things done.
Try to anticipate her needs
Pride is a powerful thing, as is love and concern for a romantic partner. For these reasons, she may not want to let you in on every little thing struggle or discomfort. Part of your job is to keep your eyes and ears open for ways to make her life easier.
At one point during the pregnancy (Valentine’s Day I think), I surprised my wife with three new bras. These were in a larger size than her pre-pregnancy bras she was still using at the time. She had been complaining about how tight they were getting, but had dismissed my suggestions to purchase a few new ones so that she could be more comfortable. Despite this, she later expressed that the gift was one of the more thoughtful I’ve given her.
Not only had she not asked me to address this issue, she had actually declined my offer to do so. And yet the joy and relief she felt when action was taken anyway could not have been more obvious. To put it another way, just because she’s not asking you to do something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
At times you may feel tempted to ignore these unrequested concerns and needs. You’ll be so tired and stressed for time that volunteering for additional work feels almost masochistic. At the end of the day, you’re only human, so these feelings are understandable. Some of the more minor concerns can be put off until there’s more time to tackle them.
Again, the best advice I can give you is to remember that you’re doing this for her and the babies. You might surprise yourself with how much extra strength and willpower you can pull out at that thought.
Find some time for self-care
Think of your brain as a balloon and stress as the air. Each time something stressful occurs, a certain amount more air goes into that balloon. Some events just add a small burst of air, while others equate to emptying a set of healthy lungs. Conversely, some of that air is released as you manage to relieve a bit of your stress.
While all of our balloons are sized differently and can hold more or less air, they all have their limits. What happens when you push too much air into a balloon? The balloon pops, obviously. What happens when you push too much stress into your brain? It won’t exactly pop (hopefully), but it’s definitely not pleasant for you or those around you, including the mother-to-be. This is why it’s important to find time whenever possible to let out some of that air.
Whatever your method for relieving stress, it’s important that you continue to make time in the schedule for it. This will be a stressful time, not just because your to-do list will be much larger than normal, but also because you’re forced to watch the woman you love struggle uncomfortably every day.
If you don’t take some time to let yourself unwind and re-center, the stress will build and that will get ugly. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to take as much time for these activities as you’d prefer or as much as you did prior to the pregnancy, but dropping them off altogether would be a mistake.
Even if you can’t ride your bike for an hour each night, you might be able to do a half hour a couple of times per week. If art is your thing, hopefully you can pick up your pencil and sketch here and there as time allows. It may be far from a perfect situation, but it’s a great deal better than letting yourself become overwhelmed.
That about wraps up my advice on how to take care of the woman you love during her pregnancy.
If you’re reading this and you’ve already had the experience of taking care of your partner during pregnancy, I’d love to hear about some of the things you took on to help her out in the comments below. It may be good inspiration to those for whom this is new territory and aren’t sure where all they can be helpful!