Whatever your life was like as a couple, pregnancy changes it irrevocably. Your focus, once centered on just you two, zooms in on the coming baby. So begins the transition to parenthood, an experience that can strengthen your bond as a couple if you communicate and nurture your relationship.
Before Baby Arrives
"All parents should realize that they must consciously decide to make their relationship a priority after the baby is born," says Mark E. Crawford, Ph.D., author of When Two Become Three: Nurturing Your Marriage After Baby Arrives (Revell). "Talk to each other about both the excitement and the anxiety associated with becoming a new parent. Expectant parents, especially fathers-to-be, often keep their feelings of anxiety inside."
Men experience the prospect of a baby in different ways. Reactions range from exhibiting sympathetic pregnancy symptoms to becoming violent toward the expectant woman. In fact, homicide was the leading cause of injury-related death for pregnant women and women who had given birth from 1991 to 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Listen and Learn
Despite such sobering information, becoming a parent ranks among life's most radical and exciting experiences—and one that may bring up new emotions for both you and your partner. He may feel left out of your pregnancy experience, but don't expect your partner to spontaneously communicate how he's feeling. Think of yourself as a human talking stick and initiate a discussion about parenthood and what it means to you as a couple. Both of you are likely experiencing not just joy and hope, but also worry.
"Talking helps normalize feelings and [promotes] an understanding that everyone has anxieties such as, 'Will I be a good parent? Will the baby be healthy?'" says Crawford. Being mindful of your partner's emotional life helps build a reservoir of good will that will fortify you both as you embrace the challenges of new parenthood.