Listen up chaps, it’s not difficult to be supportive if you want to be. First of all, you need context for how your wife is feeling when she's pregnant. Imagine you’re doing an Ironman. With jetlag. And maybe food poisoning. While carrying a medicine ball. For nearly ten months. In a pandemic.
Now we’ve established that pregnancy is rarely the glowing celebration of femininity we’ve all been told, you need to know how to best treat your wife. Remember those science projects when you had to drop an egg from a great height, protected only by drinking straws and sticky tape? Your wife is that egg. You are the sticky tape.
It’s as simple as this; from discovering she’s pregnant to the baby arriving, your job is to be as nice to her as possible. No, nicer than that. Try harder. Even when the hormones are raging, and she’s behaving like a total lunatic, crying for no reason that you can determine (there is a reason – you just don’t get it, nor can you be expected to), staring off into space, and crying again. Be nice. Be kind.
You don't have to 'fix' things
Don’t try to fix it (unless fixing it involves making a pasta bake, giving her a foot rub and letting her watch all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, plus the new Netflix special), don’t ask her to rationalise her behaviour, or explain to you how she’s feeling, because the worry, and the fear, and excitement, and nerves are often too much for her to even talk to herself about.
There might be some things she does that annoy you, like the nesting or endless shopping, but if she needs to buy every brand of bottle or kilometres of bunting to make her feel in control of a largely uncontrollable situation, don’t say a word as another Black Friday package arrives at the door and gets dropped at her (swollen) feet.
Read a book. For the love of all things sacred, read a pregnancy or parenting book - please. It shows interest in what’s going on. It demonstrates to her that you’re in this together, and that you’re excited about your baby too. You’ll understand more about what her body is going through – and it’s going through a lot. Pregnancy is one of the biggest physical changes she will experience, as well as being very confusing and complicated emotionally.
And take photos of her as she grows – she might not want you to, but you’ll never regret having a record of this time. It's always worth documenting it.
Put on a united front
Going to antenatal or hypnobirthing classes together will help you feel united in the pregnancy. Even if they're on Zoom now, it's not enough to listen to it while you stare at your phone from the sofa - sit next to her, pay attention, appear as keen as you can. Just try not to giggle/cringe/go green at the terminology or any videos (my husband drew faces on the uterus in our workbook during our classes).
Be present for appointments whenever possible. Your wife might get anxious before seeing the doctor (or ‘scanxiety’ as I called it) and you being by her side will help a lot. There are also many couples across the world who can't be together for their appointments right now due to COVID restrictions - to be able to see your unborn child together is a privilege; try to make use of it if you can.
Understand that at the end of the working week she probably won’t want to go out. Especially not if it means being around people wearing heels and bodycon dresses, who can eat and drink what they want. And know that your own behaviour might need to change too – she’s not your designated driver at all hours for the duration of the pregnancy. Let her rest. Let her sleep. If you already have children, take them out for a few hours at the weekend so she can nap (and come back with food, preferably cake).
Be her safe space
Above all, praise her. Tell her how brilliantly she’s coping, that she’s beautiful, and what a wonderful mother she’s going to be, or already is. You need to be her biggest cheerleader to help eradicate all the self-doubt she’s feeling. There couldn't be a more anxiety-provoking year to be pregnant than 2020, and you need to be her safe space, where she can admit to her deepest fears. I’m going to say this again – don’t try to fix her, just reassure her.
Repeat after me ‘You’re amazing. You’re doing a brilliant job’, even if her head is currently down the toilet, the cankles are on another level, and she’s cursing you for getting her into this mess.
We know you’re scared too. We know you’re worried about the extra responsibility on your shoulders. We know that last time you held a baby he looked you in the eye and cried while filling a nappy, and that’s got you thinking that all babies hate you. But you need to know that it’s your baby too – and you’re in this together.
Good luck Papa. You're going to be a great dad, too.