We know what to expect with baby in the making, but how can Dad help Mom feel better?
March 21, 2011 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Our first child is in the making, and my wife is having a decent time of it. She has some bad mornings with morning sickness and the like, some days of being really tired after "not doing anything," and all the weird aches and pains that come with a little thing growing bigger inside you. What can I, the father-to-be, do to make her life easier/more comfortable?

Because this is our first kid, she doesn't know all of what to expect. She has the What To Expect Droid app, so she knows that most of her new aches and pains are baby-related, but it doesn't seem to give a lot of advice on how to stretch, heat or cool those pains away, feel more energetic after a slow day of being a baby incubator, or things of that sort.

We've had the usual check-ups with a midwife and a baby doctor (I'm sure he has a better title, but it eludes me at the moment), she's taking her prenatal vitamins and folic acid, and everything looks to be going well inside.

The unpleasantness seems to be well within the typical range of pregnancy experiences, but Mrs. flt is 4.5 months pregnant at this point, so we're guessing all those weird aches will only get more significant, and I'd like to help any way I can. She has a couple of microwavable hot pads for her neck and forehead that I heat on request, and I massage her back, but are there stretches I can help her do? Thanks!

And if there are any related threads, please do point them out. I didn't see much from my cursory search.
posted by filthy light thief to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The pool was a godsend to my wife when she was pregnant, especially towards the end. Nothing like being nearly weightless for some back relief. Foot massages at home are also a big help. For more extensive work, the local massage places seem OK with working on pregnant women (though her favorite place wanted to wait until after the 3rd or 4th month).

..and congratulations to both of you! It's the biggest adventure out there.
posted by jquinby at 7:04 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

What can I, the father-to-be, do to make her life easier/more comfortable?


Obviously you should be doing all of both of your shares of the housework. And you should be doing her parts her way (as well as you can). You know how when you know exactly how to do something and you have to watch someone else do it? Aggravating. Don't do that to her. I don't know how many times I've heard recently non-pregnant women say "finally I got to clean the bathroom the right way" or whatever.

On top of the everything, there should also be meals. Don't make her ask for a sandwich, just make one. My wife's favorite part of her hospital stays are always the fact that they bring food to you and then take the dishes away. Do both of those things and do them more often (and with more food) than you might think she wants. She's eating for two but in a first pregnancy and at only 4.5 months, might be reluctant to appear to be "overeating". (Don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger.)

Get a lot of the tasks that will have to be done eventually done now. Need a larger car? Do it right away. Got the crib/stroller/car seat yet? Get on it. In the last trimester, a lot of women start "nesting" and will panic at the amount of work that needs to be done and struggling with their inability to do it. Ease her mind by having that done already.

Invite other mommies over or keep them away. My wife is as anti-social as I am or maybe even more. Preventing people from visiting can be a big help. Or, if she's social, having other recent mommies or soon-to-be-recent mommies over could help her feel better by practicing with a real baby or complaining about pregnancy woes.
posted by DU at 7:08 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

A pregnancy yoga class might help with the aches and pains as might a weekly visit to a massage therapist. You could take a yoga class too. Take walks together. Go to beautiful places. Remind her that she's not "not doing anything", she's gestating and it's hard work.
posted by mareli at 7:32 AM on March 21, 2011

What can I, the father-to-be, do to make her life easier/more comfortable?

Rub her feet.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:36 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Buy her a body pillow. Do not pass go, do not collect $200; just buy her one. They come in all different configurations - the long straight ones are fine - but basically you want something that will support her bump, but most importantly sit between her thighs to support her hips. It makes a WORLD of difference in terms of comfort.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:37 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The hard part about answering this question is that every woman is different, and when pregnancy hormones are raging, she can swing either way. You see, when I was pregnant it would drive me nuts when people would just assume I couldn't or shouldn't do certain things while pregnant, as if I all of the sudden were incapable of deciding for myself what my limit was. Some people seem to act as if a pregnant woman has lost her mind or become an invalid. So my suggestion is to not second guess her every time she makes a decision, nor make decisions for her that she is perfectly capable of making. For instance, my in laws (with the best of intentions) were constantly telling me to sit down, or asking things like.."are you sure you want to be doing that?" Or my husband taking over and telling me to sit down when I was in the middle of changing a light bulb. I guess my point is that you have to try to anticipate those places you can help your wife, and those places where if you do you will make her feel like a helpless child.

Also....mother's day is coming up, so I suggest to do something small for her on this day as a way to celebrate the impending arrival. I was at about the same stage as your wife during a mother's day holiday a couple of years ago, and I told myself that it wasn't a big deal or anything.....but when I slept in and then asked my husband if he would make me breakfast, he told me to "make my own damn oatmeal" which resulted in a crazy hormonal crying jag that lasted about 4 hours. It took him about an hour to realize that it was mother's day and that maybe he should have made some sort of gesture. So......don't do that. (No my husband isn't a jerk, he is just clueless sometimes)

posted by nasayre at 7:45 AM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Breakfast in bed. Morning sickness is less-bad if you put something in your stomach before getting vertical, plus it's a lovely feeling to have someone bring you breakfast in bed every day, and she can get just a TEEEEEENY bit more rest that way.

Also, clean the house. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:47 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Morning sickness reduced significantly when I started taking only folic acid.

Fatigue is just...sucky. Nothing helps because it's a genuine need to rest, but taking advantage when I do feel energetic is important. So I appreciate my partner doing almost everything unfun and being really cooperative/enthusiastic when I want to do fun things. And entertaining himself otherwise.

Plus he got an extra roku box and connectors to rig up a huge old monitor so now I can watch netflix in bed. Yay!
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:54 AM on March 21, 2011

Best answer: For comfort... the yoga move known as "cat/cow" is a great one for relieving common lower-back discomforts, and the all-fours position relieves some of the abdominal crowding that women complain of later in pregnancy. As she gets bigger, time in the water (prenatal water aerobics or just hanging out at the pool) can help too. Prenatal yoga is great, too, and taking walks together is a good therapy.

For nausea and fatigue... it's worth a look hard at her diet. It may not help, but it can't hurt. Iron supplements (and high-iron prenatals) often cause nausea; if you see a link there, talk to your doc/midwife about whether you can try different types of iron supplements, or dietary alternatives. (Even taking the supplements with meals rather than between can help.) Quality food with plenty of protein can help with both nausea and fatigue. Smaller, more frequent meals can help, too - I've known women whose nausea would go away if they ate more often (even including midnight snacks). Shakes and juices can be helpful because it's difficult to get enough of both food and fluids in a crowded stomach.

Generally, your willingness to read books, ask MeFi for help, and talk to her about it will be noticed and will help her to feel supported and loved, which can be as important as any of the rest of this.
posted by richyoung at 8:13 AM on March 21, 2011

Practice your telepathy skills because she will expect you to read her mind (note: this will continue after the baby is born).

Or, more practically, humor her - whatever it is. If she's crying at a Hallmark commercial, comfort her. If she's angry because the grocery store is out of something trivial, commiserate with her. Pregnancy does weird things to the mind (not to mention the body) and feeling as if you truly have a partner involved with you is such a great boost.
posted by Leezie at 8:19 AM on March 21, 2011

Morning sickness reduced significantly when I started taking only folic acid.

My wife's reduced when she *stopped* taking iron. She didn't actually stop, she just didn't take it until after she'd eaten.
posted by DU at 8:29 AM on March 21, 2011

Let her vent and complain, let her be moody, reassure her that her hormone-induced feelings are not scaring you or turning you off. I was pretty insanely emotional during my pregnancy (and still am 6 weeks post partum, but it's getting better) and although I knew that I was out of control, my partner always reassured me that he knew that I wasn't crazy and that he loved me and was there for me whatever happened. That was and is incredibly valuable.
posted by chelseagirl at 8:43 AM on March 21, 2011

Be patient and accommodating. Your wife's is experiencing hormones outside of her normal zone, and it's sometimes hard to cope.

Someone mentioned nesting. I am at six months now, and I have been freaking out about everything we need to get done in the house before the baby arrives. I'm also becoming in less and less of a state to finish everything I'd like to get done. I know I'm likely going overboard, but my partner has been kind and (at least pretends to be) enthusiastic about all the things I want to get done.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 8:43 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make sure there are lots of healthy snacks around and that your wife is eating them (like, make her a snack in the mid-afternoon unasked). I loved when my husband for a short time would bring me a big glass of water first thing in the morning. It was a short time because he seemed to forget about it after a couple weeks and, well, whatever! But, bring her water whenever she has an empty glass -- it's the best thing for you when pregnant next to a good diet and a nap.

Go for walks. Plan some nights out -- movie and dinner. Take on extra chores and just work on keeping things tidy. My husband so stepped up his game and it was really really awesome. He's continued to pitch in after the birth and I really do notice and appreciate it.

I kept doing most of the things I usually did until the last trimester. Then I had to ask him to be in charge of cleaning the bathroom entirely because I had lost all interest in squatting or getting down on the floor or any of that crap! And, in some cases, I just couldn't. My husband thought it was hilarious that I would stand on a step-stool to do dishes because otherwise my belly was in the way. I could have asked him to do them and he would have done them but I wanted to. When I was too tired, he'd do them without a fuss.

Read up on infant care so that you're ready to go from Day 1. We sort of divided up the education this way -- I read up on birth and directed him to read certain passages or chapters and he read up on infant care and directed me. We both agree that we should have taken an infant care class so sign you two up for one of those. I think it would have helped in those early tired days and it's nice to be spoon-fed information for an afternoon.

Be involved in the baby registry and informing friends and family where you've registered and how to find it online. Be involved in setting up the baby space and try to sound interested in whatever your wife is thinking about/worried about, etc. Your pregnant brain goes into some funny worries and it's nice to be taken seriously -- it shows in some primitive way that you will be there for her and the new baby after it arrives.

Have fun and luxuriate in lazy mornings!
posted by amanda at 9:07 AM on March 21, 2011

My husband hasn't missed a doctor's appointment. He gets me little fun or useful things now and then. He's incredibly supportive when I'm feeling off. When I've needed EPIC naps and felt guilty for sleeping all day, his first words are always, "Baby! You're supposed to be sleeping and not doing anything else!!" He hasn't complained about one missed task - he just picks up the slack.

We do lots and lots of stuff together, so in the end, it's been a very romantic time in our lives.

Conclusion: Be generous with your time, effort, patience and love. You can't lose!
posted by jbenben at 9:22 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

What I'm trying to say is that feeling super supportive and not being made to feel guilty over all the weird little things that come up with your first pregnancy has been A++.

I couldn't imagine doing this now any other way. I secretly feel sad for women I know/have known with partners doing less for them.
posted by jbenben at 9:26 AM on March 21, 2011

Take her on holiday. Enjoy some proper grown-up time together. Resolve any bullshit that's causing trouble between you. Being a father is wonderful, but the two of you have only a few months of being a couple left.
posted by col at 9:32 AM on March 21, 2011

Get a helmet: do the regular daily/weekly chores as if she were on a long trip.

The laudry is now yours, and all shopping, and all meals, and all cleaning. She feels like ass, and you shouldn't expect her to do her usual share of the work. Also, when she's not feeling awful, she shouldn't have to suddenly get back on the work schedule: let her make some phone calls or see her mom or whatever.

She might also have a terrible mood from now until, um, delivery. Or later. This is not personal about you. I would also suggest not asking her every day whether she is "feeling better": if she does feel better, you'll know.

Yes it's unfair; wait until the delivery, and then talk to me about unfair. :7) Man up, it's not like you can gestate for her or anything, so do what is in your power.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:57 AM on March 21, 2011

Yoga, for sure. If your insurance is good or if you have the scratch, try to get her in with a physical therapist. As a bonus, the stronger her muscles and the less irritated her joints are, the better labor will be.

The fatigue. . . the fatigue is like nothing I've ever experienced. I've said before that building a spinal column is the hardest, most exhausting work I've ever undertaken, and I stand by that. For me the worst of the fatigue faded by the time I was about 17 or 18 weeks, but everyone is different.

Another really, really hard thing for me was that I got a lot dumber. Conclusions that it would have been easy for me to reach pre-pregnancy flitted around just out of reach, and I simply couldn't connect the dots. If she has this happen, DON'T GET FRUSTRATED, get sympathetic. That was the hardest thing for me.

Above all, never, EVER try to tell her she's being irrational. Apart even from the hormonal soup she's marinating in, impending parenthood brings up all kinds of weird whatnot from your past and your childhood, and it can come together in really peculiar ways. I had a dream while 8 months pregnant with my first that some other woman stole my pregnancy and gave birth to my baby instead, and just kept her, and I woke up furious and terrified that this might happen. Rather than trying to explain to me how this was literally physically impossible, my husband just said "I promise you that if some other woman gives birth to our daughter, I will go get her back no matter what." That was really what I needed to hear, was that my husband would protect our baby even against the impossible.
posted by KathrynT at 10:01 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Personally, I had fewer of those aches and pains in the 20-30 week range than I did at the beginning. I too was expecting things to get worse and was pleasantly surprised. No guarantees, but it won't be the first time that the baby doesn't read the manual. :) I *think* it was the book Birthing From Within that included a lot of stretching exercises that were useful to me for day-to-day aches and pains.

Recommendations for you: deal with anything that requires bending over--wiping spills on the floor, getting laundry out of the dryer, putting away dishes that are stored in low cabinets. Especially when she gets bigger.

Walk slower. No, slower than that. I felt a constant lack of oxygen as my lungs got squished and resources got diverted to the little guy, and I felt like a nag saying "walk slower" every 10 minutes.

Go on a nice trip somewhere you haven't been before, if you can afford it, and before about the 6 month mark.

Ask what the baby's been doing that day.

Keep a granola bar in your bag, in case she's already eaten hers. I could not BELIEVE how hungry I could feel less than an hour after I'd eaten.

If there's a favor she's asked for a few times, offer it to her slightly more often than she asks. If she asks you to bring her a glass of water every few nights, bring one to her every night. If she wants a ride in to work once a month, offer once a week. My husband did this with some things, and it really made me feel like less of a load to be able to say "no thanks, I'm feeling good today" once in a while.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:08 AM on March 21, 2011

Buy her this.

I just got mine back from my sister who borrowed it for her pregnancy. I'm a little behind your wife on my second pregnancy, and all I've wanted for the past 14 weeks is my pillow back. I finally got it back, and this morning was the first morning I woke up in a few months where all those aches and pains were missing.

So, yes. Buy her the pillow. Or one like it. It's sooooooooooooooooo worth it.

I've been doing this prenatal yoga dvd, and I love it. In addition to the full 75 minute workout, there are short form workouts of 5, 10, and 15 minutes. I haven't checked those out yet, but I intend to try to do the 10 minute ones every evening starting this week and do the full workout once a week.
posted by zizzle at 10:11 AM on March 21, 2011

Also, a lot of those aches may go away for awhile. Relaxin can be a hell of a hormone to deal with in earlier pregnancy, but once past the initial rush, she may start to feel better for awhile. I actually felt great the first time around from about four months all the way until labor, so the aches may or may not get worse. But I definitely recommend moving around some each day over sitting still for long periods of times. Whether it's yoga (which I love), swimming, or going for a long walk. Moving is a really good thing --- it doesn't have to be an all out sweat producing workout, either. Just something to keep those joints from tightening up too much.
posted by zizzle at 10:15 AM on March 21, 2011

A word on helping with laundry, cooking, housecleaning, etc. Don't ask her questions about how to do things. My boyfriend, meaning well, sometimes tries to help with things but the questions he asks are sometimes more irritating than if I just did the work myself (i try to hide the irritation and succeed sometimes...).

For example if there is a stack of laundry and you don't know what should be washed on the delicate cycle, don't ask her, ask a friend or family member, go on the internet and google it, read the tags on the clothing, anything so that she doesn't have to come up with a lesson plan for you on how to do it.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:30 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies so far!

We're lucky - we currently have family members staying with us who take care of the cooking and cleaning, but that won't last. Before they came, I took care of the stinky things, as she was more sensitive to smells, but now I'll take on the rest of the chores once they leave. And the cooking, and shopping, of which I did much before. Check and check =)

Thanks for the tip on the back/body pillow, yoga/stretching, and time in pools.

As for the nausea - at first there was morning sickness, and now it seems to be more about head congestion and slime that gets her gaggy in the mornings ("pregnancy congestion" was a new phrase for us). But if it gets bad, I'll see if her doctor has suggestions on diet.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:12 PM on March 21, 2011

Clean. Silently, repeatedly.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:18 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am just as pregnant as your wife is, and it sounds like we have a lot of the same symptoms. My pregnancy congestion causes more "can't sleep at night" than "gagging in the morning" though.

You have a lot of good suggestions already, so I will just mention that I also have the What to Expect app (for iPhone) and I often can't stand it. I use two other apps that have much more information and features and have never once used the phrase "You go girl!". They are the Baby Center and Baby Bump apps, and both are also available for Android.
posted by that's how you get ants at 6:16 PM on March 21, 2011

I love this funny pregnancy calendar, here's her take on pregnancy congestion. She suggests a humidifier, which I think is a good plan.

Make sure she has tissues on hand, too! Hang in there--
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:10 PM on March 21, 2011

Response by poster: Humidifer, check. Body pillow, check. Massages, check. Extra patience and understanding, check and check.

Mrs. flt loves her "c" serpent body pillow. The humidifier is cute, but doesn't have an auto-shutdown feature when it runs out of water, so we haven't run it all night yet. I'll post more updates on things that do and don't work, if anyone finds this thread in the future.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:21 AM on March 26, 2011

One more thing since you mentioned apps. Dunno if this works for the droid but I loved the Total Baby app. It's great for tracking breastfeeding, diaper changes, sleep schedule in those early weeks. It helps you identify patterns and make sure that baby is getting enough food and rest. If you have any lactation issues, your consultant will want you to keep a log and this can export it as an excel spreadsheet. You can also create a diary with milestones and keep other info in it. You can even set up your own trackers. So I set one up to track how much I was getting while pumping and later started tracking some activity time. It's so hard to keep track of that stuff and you'd be surprised what you forget ten minutes after you've done it.
posted by amanda at 10:32 AM on March 29, 2011

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