The vocation to be a father is an incredible calling God places on a man’s life. Part of that vocation means being helpful to your wife, particularly when she’s pregnant. A pregnancy can be a wonderful experience for a couple but it also brings a level of stress and fear making the relationship tricky. How can you, a future dad, be helpful to the woman God has placed in your life during this complicated time? Here are five tips that can help you be a supporting husband:
- If this is your wife’s first pregnancy you need to know this is a key developmental milestone for her self-understanding as a women. Even well-established professional women find motherhood transformative in regards to how they think of themselves. This milestone should be celebrated and you should do everything possible to make the pregnancy a special event in her life. Often a small celebration with close family and friends can suffice to make this special moment memorable. However, it’s important to keep the celebration small and respect how your wife wants to disclose the pregnancy because early in the process there are still fears about the pregnancy terminating early. The key is for you to initiate the celebratory tone and ask her what she wants to do. She may be happy to keep it simple and something the two of you celebrate alone as a couple. If there are already children in the family, it might just be something the immediate family celebrates. The key factor is to remember, when God blesses you with a child it’s ALWAYS a time to celebrate and give thanks, even in the most difficult situations. Find ways to do that.
- With any pregnancy there’s a strong need to communicate with one another about fears, expectations, and emotions. Each pregnancy is surrounded by a great many contextual factors having to do with employment, living arrangements, extended family, etc. There are fears about how well the baby is developing, how the child will impact the current family configuration, and confusion about how each partner is feeling about all these changes. Additionally, partners too often assume they know how each other feels about these issues during the pregnancy. It’s incredibly important both spouses share their thoughts and intentionally avoid assuming they know how the other feels about these concerns. Communication must be ramped up and often it’s important that dad be even more willing to talk about things since men have a tendency to be less inclined to talk about emotions than women. Don’t guess how she’s feeling and don’t let her assume she knows how you feel, become a communicator!
- During the first trimester of pregnancy most women feel physical fatigue and experience a great deal of change in their bodies. Dad needs to be available to help with work at home, even when the partnership has been very egalitarian. The growing child in mom’s womb takes a great deal of energy from her and its important dad picks up the slack. Studies show that even in the most equal of relationships women tend to do more housework than men so guys, step up your game, particularly during this period of your wife’s life.
- During the second trimester mom can really feel the growing baby. The baby kicks, moves, and makes himself or herself known to her in a very pronounced way. Mom will begin to make a real attachment to the child because she recognizes a living person is growing inside her. Dad will not initially have that level of connectivity simply because he doesn’t have the continual experience of the growing child as obviously as mom does. It’s important dad makes an intentional effort to feel the child, connect to the child, and reassure mom he’s invested in being a dad and helping her raise the child. Dad must make sure mom knows he’s connecting with the baby just like she is by making intentional efforts to “feel” the baby, physically and emotionally. You need to make psychological space for your soon to be born child.
- By the third trimester mom’s physical abilities are definitely getting in the way of doing most things she’s used to doing. Many moms have to take maternity leave from work and can’t attend to duties in the home. If there are other children, they need attention and help and most women are frustrated when they cannot take care of these things, even if dad has always done a significant amount of the work with childcare and housework. Dad can help mom best by not just taking care of tasks she normally does, but by reassuring her of her value and that being pregnant and having the baby is a further extension of the value and gift she is to the family. If this is your first pregnancy as a couple you need to start thinking about the fact you are now a family of three, not two, even though the child isn’t born yet. At this stage women have already accepted this shift in the family configuration because of the obvious sense of the child within her. Its important dad make that part of his experience as well and express that to his wife. Each time the family configuration changes you need to make psychological space for the new member of the family. Women do that much easier than men because the physical reality is obvious to them during the pregnancy. Dads can be a great support to their wives when they develop that new sense of family early in the process.
I have found through prayer, communication, and intentionally making yourself available to your wife pregnancy can be as spiritually transforming as it is relationship transforming. Having children is an opportunity for us to love more profoundly. For husbands and future dads it’s a chance to fulfill the mandate to live as Paul asks us in Ephesians 5:25-26:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
These five tips are well grounded in psychological and family research. But more importantly they reflect the human need to give of ourselves unselfishly. When we love our wives in such a profound way we are rewarded with an abundance of love not just from her, but from the gift of children that complete every father’s life. Embrace this vocation, be willing to be vulnerable to your wife’s needs, and grow a family devoted to love and care for one another.