“Don’t Smile!” – A man’s guide to supporting a mom-to-be

It was total adrenaline – the night my first son was born. With 007 speed, I grabbed our overnight bags, got my wife into the car and hoped to make it to the hospital in time. I remember thinking, over and over, “this is it – I’m going to be a dad.”

Jim and his eldest child.

As I pulled into labor and delivery, nothing could rip the smile from my face. After we got to a room, my wife’s contractions became pretty intense. She started vomiting – which I hadn’t expected. Still pumped, with a silly grin from ear to ear, I handed my wife a tiny pail that was 10 times too small. Cheeks red and eyes watering, she looked at me and shouted “Don’t smile!”

Well, that did it. I stopped smiling – not because of what she said, but because in that moment I realized I had done nothing to help prepare for this day, and had only focused on how it was affecting me.

Guys, just because we don’t have a uterus doesn’t mean we have no responsibilities when it comes to our pregnant partners.

No, you don’t have to spend all day reading about how a fertilized egg implants itself into the lining of the uterine wall. There are real ways to be a rock for your partner – and it’s not just what you do, but how you do it.

Get it together

One of the most important things I learned was, no matter how you prepare, do it together. Whether you found a new book, website, anecdote or whatever – talk about it with your partner. There’s some anxiety that comes with pregnancy – a lot of “what if” scenarios. Doing things together lets your partner know you’re a team and you’ve got her back.

There’s no shortage of pregnancy info out there, and working together, you’re likely to find the planning methods and information sources that work for you both. Plus, you’ll know what you’re doing and won’t be surprised – like I was.

Tip: Go with her to every OB/GYN appointment. Also, remember this is a very personal thing for her, so don’t announce she’s pregnant without talking to her first.

This is her thing

When it comes to expecting, expect to get advice from everyone. Seriously. Everyone. Your parents, her parents, your friends, even that guy you met once at the company holiday mixer and can’t remember his name – yeah, him too.

There are a lot of standards, but every body and every pregnancy is unique. This is happening to your partner and her body – the choices about her diet, exercise and everything else, should be hers.

Not so fast, bro. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be involved. It just means if you have information to share, don’t mansplain the info like you’re dictating what she has to do. Have a real conversation, provide new info and options – and then respect her decision. “Wait, it’s my baby too.” Yes, and the best way to support your baby is to support the mom.

At one point during my wife’s first pregnancy, she was experiencing varying symptoms of high blood pressure. Some of these symptoms can be non-descript, but I wanted her to see the doctor anyway and very strongly insisted. Fail. Her blood pressure was fine, and I ended up with a stressed out and upset mom-to-be. This was not good for her or the baby.

Tip: The information and experience could get overwhelming. If it does, be cool and be constructive. Don’t make dismissive dude comments like “just relax” or “it’s fine.” To her, that sounds like “I don’t care” or “you’re just overreacting.” Think about what you’re saying and how you can help.

Help out – before she asks

Throughout the three trimesters of pregnancy, she will be experiencing different effects. Some of the fun ones include exhaustion, morning (or evening) sickness, memory loss, swollen feet, insomnia, and undulating hormones. There are many more.

Sometimes the effects get a little weird. My wife used to hum in her sleep while she was pregnant. There are a lot of physical and emotional effects she is enduring, not to mention feeling downright uncomfortable.

You know your partner – think of ways you can help out around the house. It doesn’t have to be big, and can be as simple as a menial chore here and there that gives her an extra half-hour to put her feet up and relax. BTW, these helpful acts are even more meaningful if she doesn’t have to ask.

Tip: Pregnancy can get physically demanding. If you really want extra points – offer a shoulder or foot massage every once in a while. Hey guys – I said shoulders and feet.

Pack it up

Yes, her OB/GYN has set a due date – but think of this as a general guideline, because babies are almost never born on their due date. My first son was nearly four weeks early, and my second son was two weeks early.

Take 10 minutes to sit down with your partner and make a list of what you both will need for a hospital stay of a few days. You’ll probably be in the hospital for only one night, but just in case, make the plan for a few days. About six weeks out, pack bags for you and her and keep ‘em close to the door. If you wait till the last minute to do this it will be an epic mess – for real.

Get the baby’s car seat ready around this time too. Read the instructions – at least twice – and get that sucker in the back seat. If you aren’t sure the seat is in correctly, make an appointment with one of the car seat safety stations in Pima County.

Trust me and do this ahead of time, you don’t want to try to figure this out in the hospital parking lot, while your partner and new baby are waiting for you.

Another necessity is a contact list. Discuss with her about who you both want contacted when the baby debuts. This way, you can take care of all that and she can focus on having the baby – that’s enough to handle.

Tip: Get a suitcase, backpack or travel duffel for each of you. If you pack one enormous suitcase for both of you – yeah, that big, heavy, bulky thing just isn’t going to work.

You’re up, slugger

Whatever the stereotypes of guys may be, we do want to be good husbands, partners and fathers. Even with this intent, I just wasn’t aware of some of things I could have done to be that great partner and husband during my wife’s pregnancy.

Finding your own path is going to be part of this ride, but I know it will be easier if you do this together, support her, help out and prepare. Starting a family has been my most rewarding experience, and it will be for you too.

And I know all the partners out there have other great tips, too. Please leave your own suggestions in the comment section.

Jim and family

You got this! A big thumbs up from Jim and his family on your adventure

Although family is his first priority, supporting a mom-to-be was a new responsibility for Jim Marten who works in communications at Tucson Medical Center. When he isn’t engaging press relations and community affairs for TMC, he’s spending time with his wife, Jami and their two sons, Aaron and Aiden. He hopes sharing this experience will help dads and partners get it right the first time, and won’t leave mom shouting “don’t smile!”

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