Women love pillows. I know how dangerous it is to make broad generalizations about women on a blog for women run by women. Nonetheless, I feel confident in the accuracy of this statement. Our bed, when perfectly made, holds no less than 6 pillows. Our couches also hold an additional collection of pillows which change depending on the season. Spring cleaning and Christmas decorating comes with the ceremonial changing of the pillows.
When my wife entered the third trimester of pregnancy with our first baby, I noticed a change in the pillow patterns in our house. I would often come home from work to a little mountain of pillows intricately assembled on my wife’s side of the bed, leaving my side of the bed pillowless. Occasionally, I would witness the creation of one of these Jenga pillow towers. Each pillow had a distinct purpose. First, a foundation was established using the firmest pillows. She would test this framework for stability, carefully assessing the areas lacking sufficient support. The remainder of the pillows would be placed in order of which part of her body was hurting the most that day. It was always some combination of lower back, upper back, butt, neck, or everything.
When it was time for us to go to bed, I would sheepishly ask if she could possibly spare a pillow for the night. She usually laughed and begrudgingly offered up the least comfortable pillow of the bunch. Eventually, even the pillows we owned pre-pregnancy weren’t enough and new pillows started showing up in amazon boxes on our doorstep. Something called a “body pillow” was a particularly prized possession. It looked like the uppercase cursive G you never really learned to write in elementary school, but it seemed to do the job. She slept with it every night for 3 solid months.
As a husband and father-to-be, it can be hard to figure out where you fit in this whole saga of agony and joy and pillows. It’s hard to see the woman you love, the mother of your child, frustrated, exhausted and in pain. The biggest challenge as a spouse is figuring out when you can help and when you can’t. Here are 10 things you can do to help ease the mental and physical anguish of a woman in the third trimester.
1. Daily back rubs
Every night. Don’t wait to be asked. Just do it. Pregnancy causes the vertebrae to physically change positions to accommodate the 8 lb bowling ball hanging out in space. You’d want a back rub too. If you’re new to the back rub game just mash on the muscles next to the spine until your fingers start cramping, then you can stop.
Do the laundry. Go to the store. Make dinner. Contribute more than you ever have before. If it results in less time on her feet, do it.
3. Don’t question the credit card bill
She will buy things you don’t understand. If she tells you that this particular bassinet is worth the extra $80 because it contains robot hands that will physically hand you a crying baby at 2am, accept it. I’m 99% sure she has put more thought into this than you ever will. It may be an expensive few months, but you know what else is expensive? Divorce.
4. Smell control
Keep all smells as neutral as possible. Heed any and all food aversions. Keep these in mind when you are at the store satisfying tip #2. Don’t decide on a whim to try your hand at cooking flounder. The risks outweigh the benefits. If you have a toddler still in diapers, change as many diapers as you can. Dispose of feces in an outside trash can. It doesn’t matter how fancy your indoor diaper disposal system is, pregnant women are bloodhounds when it comes to pungent odors. Don’t neglect personal hygiene. Shower more frequently than you think you need to. Trust me, you stink.
5. Every day is spouse appreciation day
The reason is simple. As men, we have avoided the genetic lottery of giving birth. Our debt is eternal. Show it. Tell her how much you love her for going through this trying time. Buy her things. Acquaint yourself with Pinterest. Pinterest is your pregnant wife’s brain in internet form. It’s God’s gift to gift-giving.
6. Show interest in the baby
Offer name suggestions. Bring up parenting strategies. Talk about the future. If she mentions that the baby is moving, or hiccupping, or stretching, or farting, drop what you are doing and put your hand on that belly. She feels these things every day, so when she says something about it, that means she wants you at that moment, to feel it with her. Don’t ignore it.
7. “Put your belly down.”
When my wife was mega pregnant with our second, taking care of a toddler for a whole weekend was always a monumental task, even for two capable adults. I would often tell her to “put her belly down.” Basically, just go rest. I’ll take care of everything. It gave her an excuse to stop being a toddler caregiver and focus on taking care of herself.
8. Make her feel beautiful
Something interesting happens when women enter the 3rd trimester. They suddenly develop a self-deprecating sense of humor you never knew existed. They will do things like compare themselves to large aquatic mammals during casual conversation. This is a defense mechanism against the insecurity of weighing 60 pounds more than they ever have before. It’s not enough to simply say, “It’s ok, you’re pregnant!” Show the affection and intimacy that lets her know she is freaking beautiful. Did you know that women often have an increased sex drive during pregnancy? Hormones can be a terrible and wonderful thing.
9. Be Prepared
Pretend you are a boy scout trying to earn a badge in labor and delivery. Go to a labor class together. Know what her preferences are during the labor process. Does she want an epidural? Hospital or home birth? Obstetrician or midwife? Does she want the baby cleaned off before given to her? In the throes of delivery, she may not be able to voice these opinions, so you should be prepared to do so in her place. The whole experience will be terrifying for both of you the first time, so do what you can to prepare yourself.
10. Be Educated
Understand the stages of labor. You don’t have to be a doctor, but knowing that labor may take more than 24 hours or she may be pushing for over an hour or she may require a C section are helpful to know. You don’t want to be the husband who thinks he’s having twins because you didn’t know the placenta exists.
By accomplishing these tasks, the mother of your child will surely feel supported, loved, and appreciated. Just remember, if you ever find yourself lost and confused trying to comfort a distraught 39 week pregnant woman who is at her breaking point, at the very least offer her a pillow.
**Special thanks to our Guest Blogger, Will Flanary, for sharing a dad’s perspective with us!