Here are a few ideas from dads who have, with their partner, successfully navigated that treacherous last month.
Appreciate Being in the Home Stretch. You have made it through the first greuling months of pregnancy. You have lived through cravings, mood swings, morning sickness, maternity clothes, readjusted sex patterns and more. And for you, it's fun to recognize that the process of pregnancy is almost over. For your pregnant partner, however, it is not such a simple matter.
Understand How Your Partner Feels. I talked with my wife and my daughter and tried to identify exactly how they felt during the last month of pregnancy.
- Huge. At this stage, the baby doesn't just keep growing, it also changes position. Your partner feels like her belly is going to pop. The skin is stretched tight; her maternity clothes won't fit as well; and she'll get discouraged looking in the mirror.
- Tired. Her body is working overtime at this stage. The baby is growing larger and consuming more of her energy. She will just be drained most of the time.
- Moving is an effort. The size and position of the baby will make every movement of her body a challenge. Getting up out of a chair, getting into bed, even walking from the bed to a chair can be a challenge.
- Moody. Sometimes she'll be so excited, she can't stand it, and she'll want to be close to you. Other times she'll be so miserable that she can't even handle being touched. Because she is tired, she'll often be a little snappy and impatient.
- Bathroom runs. The baby tends to push on her bladder more at this stage of pregnancy, so she'll need to go to the bathroom a lot — even more than just a week or so ago. So you'll need to plan ahead, especially if you are out of the house with her.
- Anxious. The reality of the impending birth is setting in for her (as well as for you) and she will tend to feel a little anxiety at that realization. She may want to clean a lot (known as the “nesting instinct”) to get the house ready for the new baby. She may be nervous about finances, about relatives, or about being a mom.
What To Do About All of This. Given all these feelings, a man can sure make some mistakes if he isn't sensitive. Here are some thoughts about responding to the mass of feelings your partner is experiencing.
- Follow her lead. Sometimes she'll want to talk and cuddle. Sometimes she won't want you anywhere around. Sometimes she'll just want her mom, or another woman to be with her. Your best bet is to follow her lead. Don't try to impose your attitude on her. And don't feel hurt or rejected if she doesn't want much to do with you at any given time. Listening a lot and responding to her needs will pay big dividends throughout the process.
- Don't try to fix it. There is very little you can do to make her feel better. The only thing that will give her relief is having the baby (they don't call it “delivery” for nothing). So just listen without trying to be Mr. Fix It.
- For physical contact, keep it gentle. She will appreciate little things like a foot rub, a gentle rubbing of her calves, a soft hug. But don't try to pour on the affection. The only real exception to gentle physical contact may be a good lower back rub to work the knots out. But again, follow her lead and listen to her along the way.