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8 Ways to Improve Relationship: Support Pregnant Wife or Partner

Pregnancy is seen as mostly a mom thing. Few women believe that Dad really gets it. And the fact is, we mostly don't. We talk about it. We show interest. We empathize (without going overboard). We even try to read about it, at least a little. But let's face it, our experience of having a baby is fairly removed until we're face to face with diapering and sleep deprivation. No dad can possibly relate to the minute-by-minute, close-to-the-heart, kick-in-the-gut reality of carrying a baby to term.

But we can participate. We can be there to listen to the first heartbeat, we can swear off our dinner wine, we can pore over the naming books together, and more. Here are some ways you can be there, too.

Pay attention

You can't be pregnant, but you can participate by being an active observer. Let your wife know you're enjoying seeing her belly grow. Feel the baby kick. Play music and read to your baby. Keep a father's journal both as a way to record your inner thoughts and to help you think about what you'd like to discuss with your spouse or partner. Keep track of your baby's development during pregnancy — no doubt you'll be amazed.

Be there

Try to make it to at least some of your partner's many prenatal care appointments, and ask questions. (It shows you're involved, not just a bystander.) Also, don't miss the chance to get a glimpse of your baby during an ultrasound. If your partner has an amniocentesis or other procedure to test for genetic defects, make sure you're there. (One dad we know missed the appointment, and he still hears about it five years later.) And, of course, attend childbirth classes, so you can participate with your partner in your child's birth.

Get healthier, too

As your wife tries to modify her diet, give up alcohol, and drink more fluids, you can support her by sharing these lifestyle changes. Eliminate bad-for-baby foods that might tempt her. Cut down on or cut out alcohol yourself. Don't smoke. Spend time walking or exercising together. And try to find ways to cut back on the hours you spend at your workplace, so you have more time at home together.

Take a photo of your sweetie in profile at each month of pregnancy to record how her body changes. Understand, too, that as her pregnancy progresses, she may feel unattractive at times. Even if you think that she is, don't let on. Tell her she's beautiful. Meanwhile, you may also find that your sex life gets a PG rating for a while. What with hormone changes, back pain, morning sickness, and an understandable preoccupation with the stirrings of life, sex can take a hit.

Go the extra mile

Your wife may be intensely demanding. Go with it. She's doing all the heavy lifting. The least you can do is shop for groceries, send her flowers, and indulge her 11 p.m. demands for cottage cheese and strawberry jam.

Memorize the route to the hospital

This may seem obvious, but unless you're away when your partner's water breaks, you'll probably be making that drive to the hospital for delivery. This is when your memory cells go dim. So do a dry run; make sure you know the route cold. Your partner will appreciate it, since it will be one less thing she needs to worry about.

Be a partner in labor

Be prepared to support her. Record music she wants to hear during labor; prepare some distractions that you can bring to the hospital; and be ready to embrace her and coach her, soothe her and massage her, feed her ice chips and offer her liquids. If you're up for it, ask your doctor or midwife if you can "catch" the baby, that is, support him as he emerges from the birth canal, and cut the umbilical cord.

Shop, talk, and make lots of decisions together

By the time your baby arrives, you and your partner should have bought a newborn wardrobe; prepared the nursery; bought and safely installed a car seat (hospitals won't let you drive baby home without one), settled on boy and girl options for your child's name; and determined whether to circumcise, breast- or bottle- feed, and use cloth or disposable diapers. And you thought you had nothing to do. Even if you change your minds later, at least you'll have started the discussion.

Prepare for your new life as a family

Get life insurance, and make out a will if you haven't already. Start a college savings fund. Arrange for paternity leave if you can, so you'll be able to participate in your baby's care during the first days and weeks after birth. Childproof the house. Install a smoke detector in your baby's nursery and in other key rooms in your home. And don't forget the little things, either: Collect take-out menus from all your favorite restaurants and put them in a handy folder. (You'll be surprised how often you'll use them.) And buy your partner a gift she'll always remember. After all, she's about to give you a pretty incredible gift herself.

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