It was at “my” baby shower when I first realized that dads are often pushed to the side during pregnancy. I was surrounded by family and friends who wanted to know how my pregnancy had been. Had I experienced morning sickness? Did I feel the baby kicking yet? Did I have any strange cravings?– I watched my typically extroverted husband withdraw from the conversation, grabbing a handful of peanuts and a cigar before heading for the porch swing – alone.
I felt sad for him, though I wasn’t quite sure how to draw him into the conversation, especially as he was the only man at the shower. I let him smoke his cigar in peace as I talked about what it was like to suddenly detest coffee during the first trimester and described how much I was enjoying the second trimester. I told my captive audience about the sonogram- how the technician couldn’t determine whether our baby was a boy or a girl because it moved around so much its sex wasn’t immediately evident.
Francisco had shared every single one of those events with me. He’d rubbed my back as I stood over the toilet, dry heaving the breakfast I couldn’t keep down. He’d tried different teas as coffee substitutes. And he’d been with me at the sonogram, tearing up as he watched our baby moving around and as he heard the technician say, “Your baby looks perfect.”
As the pregnancy went on, I noticed that this tendency to push men aside occurs a lot and it troubled me. If we expect men to be full partners and parents in our families, why don’t we treat them as equals during pregnancy, labor, and delivery?
I asked that question on my blog and elicited some howling protests in response. “Because women are the ones who carry the baby and it’s hard work!” said one commenter. True. But that doesn’t mean that your male partner isn’t having his own experiences of pregnancy, labor, and delivery: he is. And he’s usually experiencing them alone.
Involving your partner in all stages of getting ready to welcome your baby to the world not only makes him feel involved, it makes your experiences of pregnancy, labor, and delivery more fulfilling, too. Here are a six ways to make sure your partner gets included:
By accompanying you to your prenatal appointments, your partner has the opportunity to ask your midwife or obstetrician questions that may be on his mind that you haven’t considered. And most midwives and obstetricians welcome the partner’s presence- they realize that he is a vital support and that he’s likely to remember information and perform tasks that you can’t.
Whoever perpetuated the notion that men don’t like to talk should be sentenced to talk with a man whose partner is expecting. When their partners are pregnant, men are confronting all sorts of anxieties and excitements, but they rarely have anyone to share them with. Make time to talk with your partner and ask how he’s experiencing the pregnancy. Ask how he wants to be involved in the labor and delivery.
Some men want to be present for the birth of their children; other’s don’t. Long before your due date, you and your partner should have a conversation about what you both want, and should make a birth plan that clearly defines the roles of both partners. The plan doesn’t have to be formalthough it could benor does it have to be shared with anyone else.
My husband wasn’t thrilled that we had to spend two beautiful weekend days in a birth preparation class, but afterward we both agreed that what we’d learned was valuable and that the time was well spent.
Once you’re aware of the extent to which he wants to be included, defend his right to be present. At the shower, I could have brought Francisco into the conversation by inviting him to talk about the experience of the sonogram.
Whether it’s a dinner for just the two of you, or projects you work on together in anticipation of your child’s birth (keeping a baby book or decorating a nursery, for instance), don’t let the excitement of a new baby keep you from nurturing the relationship you share.