Putting Yourself in Her Shoes
Though it’s early in the pregnancy, you’ve already figured out the importance of back massages. That’s good, but no matter what practical measures you employ, the most important thing you can offer your partner from the first month to the last is good old-fashioned emotional support.
Of course, achieving true empathy is easier said than done since, as a man, you don’t know how it feels to nurture a life inside you. So here are some exercises to raise your level of compassion by getting in touch with some of the things she’s experiencing throughout these uh, blissful months of change.
You’ve read that it takes six months, on average, to be successful, and a year isn’t uncommon. Your wife says she understands it might take a while, too. But after two unproductive cycles, she’s worrying she might be sterile and weeping every time she gets off the phone with a friend who’s expecting.
Imagine your dream is to play professional basketball. The scouts say you’re nearly there, except your shooting needs to improve. You practice every day for two weeks but don’t progress. You try the following month again. Still no improvement. You’re puzzled. You continue to do everything you’re supposed to do, but the shots won’t fall. The next month you vary the routine, going to the gym every other day, then the next month, two out of every three days. Nothing works. You see a specialist who tells you only to keep doing what you’re doing and stay relaxed. After a few more months, you question whether you waited too long to do this. You start to consider taking steroids or some other drugs. Then, one day, after you’ve just about given up, it happens. The shots fall.
Now substitute you with your wife in this scenario and try to hit a jump shot to conceive life.
You’ve heard from friends about the different degrees of morning sickness, from intermittent waves of nausea to a regular morning vomiting routine. But, of course, you don’t see it as a big deal – after all, you’ve been sick plenty of times.
Close your eyes. Imagine your testicles being squeezed just slightly. Take a few strides. Imagine them being squeezed again. Take another few strides. Imagine them being squeezed yet again. Repeat – for three months.
She wants to buy every book on pregnancy and childrearing that exists. You feel two are more than adequate since they all seem to say the same thing anyway.
First, you need to make a genuine effort to understand the responsibility she’s feeling. A person is growing inside her, and your contribution notwithstanding, she feels it’s on her shoulders whether or not that person turns out healthy. If you think she’s behaving irrationally, consider how many magazines you usually buy in preparation for your fantasy baseball draft.
In month 3, she told everyone within earshot she was showing, even though it was clear she wasn’t. In month 4, she was showing, and with this came a soaring, mystical feeling. Now it’s month 5, and she’s complaining that she can’t possibly eat as much as the books are telling her she has to. You want to commiserate, but you can’t see what’s so hard about taking in a few extra calories, especially for your growing child.
Stick your stomach out as far as possible – until it’s out – then hold it for 10 seconds. Then hold it for another 30. Then hold it for three minutes. Have lunch, but don’t let your stomach in. Are you getting tired? Keep holding it. Now have lunch again. She has to do this every day.
The romance of impending motherhood has worn off – she’s starting to say things like she’d be thrilled if pregnancy lasted seven months. You’re confused, even put off, by her negative attitude. You find her more beautiful than ever, even sexy in a different way, but when you tell her this, she responds by telling you you’re an idiot, or worse.
Go to the gym and grab a medicine ball. Try to find one that weighs at least 20 pounds. Put it under your shirt and walk around for an hour. Now imagine not using your arms to support it.
Wear three pairs of socks and two pairs of gloves – for several weeks. Then, turn down the heat in your house until the circulation to your fingers and toes almost vanishes. Keep it that way – for two months.
You couldn’t wait for the pregnancy to be done so she’d feel good about herself again. Now she’s lost 20 pounds, the rest is coming off slowly, and all is perfect. Or at least it should be. Instead, she’s aggravated or depressed – or both.
Imagine you’ve contracted a mysterious thyroid condition that causes you to gain weight regardless of what you do. The good news, says your doctor, is that it’s temporary – in nine months, it will subside, and you can start losing weight again. You can exercise all you want during this time, but you’re still going to gain 40 pounds or more, which may show only in your middle but possibly in your face and elsewhere.
You endure the nine months, exercising when you feel good enough, and, just as the doctor said, end up gaining the 40 pounds. Then, at the end of the nine months, you’re delighted because you can get back to exercising in earnest. Nearly half the weight comes off almost immediately! The problem is, there are 20 more to lose, and you want to hit the gym or rent a Pilates video, but for three months, all you crave is sleep.
Finally, you get some energy back. Also, another 10 pounds or so have come off on their own during your three months of sleep-deprived functioning. You embark on a regular exercise routine and look forward to regaining the midsection you had before. But it proves challenging. In fact, challenging is an understatement. These last pounds are incredibly stubborn. You work at it for several months. From the time you first contracted the condition, it’s now been 15 months. Your doctor says he neglected to tell you two things: First, that it usually takes eight months to a year after the nine months to get back to your original weight, and second, even though you may achieve that weight again, your midsection will probably remain somewhat soft. You don’t understand. If you get back to your original weight, shouldn’t that mean your body will also be the way it originally was? That’s just the way the condition works, says the doctor. By the way, he adds, there’s a decent likelihood you’ll contract the condition again within a year or so.
Pregnancy is unequaled in the wonder and delight it produces, but remember that it can also be uniquely demanding on both body and mind. So next time you’re frustrated with your partner, do these exercises to help gain some perspective. Then kiss her, tell her how much you love her, and give her the back massage she deserves..