If you’re pregnant, it turns out you’re not the only one who’s expecting. Technically, your partner is expecting, too.
In today’s ever-changing world of gender equality, it’s not all cigars and fast food runs. Your partner is actually going to have a new full time job. It involves getting you to the delivery room healthy, sane, and supported.
For soon-to-be dads and partners, these are the top unexpected, essential, nobody-else-tells-you-this realities.
1. You’re no longer just her partner, you’re also her short-term caretaker.
Sure, you fell in love with a party animal. Or maybe your partner is Miss Independent and loathes the idea that she needs help or advice.
But once she’s pregnant, she will absolutely need your help at some point. You might need to take over the dog walking because she’s too sick in the mornings. You might need to constantly reassure her that she won’t be next to appear on “My 600-Pound Life.”
My advice? Start now and pick up on the little things. Pay attention to when she’s tired, and then offer her time to take a relaxing bath. Or, maybe just nod and laugh at your father-in-law’s bad joke. Nobody really needs extra stress.
Caring for your partner doesn’t mean you know what’s best for her. It means you give her the support to do what she deems best.
2. You won’t get much sleep, which will be followed by a lack of sleep.
For most dads-to-be, it comes as a shock that they’ll be sleep-deprived before the baby arrives. But for many couples, the third trimester involves some sleep disruption.
You can thank the back pain, night waking, restless leg syndrome, and the baby kicking.
In our household, it was the snoring. Snoring increases for many women during pregnancy. After I gave birth, my husband revealed that for almost the entire third trimester, he would sleep on the couch but sneak back into our room before I’d wake up. He didn’t want to hurt my feelings.
Not only does he get major spouse points for this, but trying to sleep next to his pregnant wife was excellent sleep training for having an infant.
3. You can’t always help.
This is perhaps the toughest reality of all. There will be times that there’s nothing you can do to help.
In our case, my pregnancy was a helping, supportive partner’s nightmare. There was nothing he could do about the endless nausea that didn’t respond to even the strongest anti-nausea medication.
There was nothing he could do about a fluke ovarian cyst that required emergency surgery, not to mention the intensive recovery period. There was nothing he could do about another hospital stay due to an are-you-kidding me kidney infection.
The disheartening truth is this: Being there is the biggest help there is. Simply being there is the greatest gift you can give your partner during pregnancy.
And you know what? That’s the greatest gift you can give your future kid, too.
4. Labor will most likely refute everything you’ve ever heard.
Once you’ve decided on a hospital or birthing center, they will most likely show you a video to walk you through the evolution of labor. While this video undoubtedly has a purpose, according to my dad friends, it has a terrible track record for accuracy.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand someone, somewhere, determined it had value. But there wasn’t a single dad that I spoke with whose partner’s birth experience mirrored the video.
For example, the first stage of labor is “inactive.” The video depicts a fairly calm woman taking a walk with her husband to get things moving. She occasionally pauses to take a deep sigh.
I’m not sure if anyone actually experiences inactive labor like that. I certainly didn’t. In my case, dilation wouldn’t happen, so I struggled for 24 hours through “inactive” labor until I could finally get an epidural.
I napped through most of “active” labor. One friend dilated so quickly she barely made it to the hospital, never mind the stages of birth. Another friend got preeclampsia, a whole other wrench in the birthing plan.
In short, you should expect the unexpected. If you can take that lesson into parenthood, you’re already way ahead of the game.