Help me be as supportive as possible while pregnant and full of anxiety
February 5, 2016 3:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm 32 weeks pregnant with my first child. Meanwhile, my sweetie's father is succumbing to cancer (so, by the way, is my stepmom, whom I love dearly). I'm interested in tips on how to cope with tough stuff like this while pregnant, how to both be supportive and get the support I need right now.

That's the gist. Now, some longwinded navel gazing context. I am trying my best to be as as supportive as possible. To my mind, this means:

a) Lending an ear and trying to lend uncritical, sensitive input when asked for. This is difficult as my perspective on what is going on, how the family is responding and the demands they make up on my SO is completely at odds with theirs.

b) Understanding that SO needs to spend as much time with his father as possible, and trying to keep in perspective what is at stake for them in terms of time together. Namely, that SO needs to do as much for his family as possible to avoid future regrets. SO travels a lot- 1 or 2 weeks out of every month for work as it is, and has accompanied his father to every cancer treatment (that he has been home for) for the past 2 years. By comparison, he has made it to 2 prenatal care appointments total since I became pregnant. I've also been cutting him a lot of slack in terms of contributing to day to day stuff, which is fine for now but not workable longer term when the baby arrives and my own mammalian responsibilities ramp up.

c) Not burdening SO with my own fears and issues with how this newly urgent family situation is cutting into our last months together pre-baby, or how totally alone and freaked out I feel right now. This is particularly sensitive because of past dynamics between myself and his family and my general fear that his family's needs (many valid needs now, but the broader pattern, in my opinion, is of insane demands which must be answered without delay or discussion) will take priority over what the new baby and I will need in the coming early days.

d) Not putting up a fight about things that I probably would have otherwise, such as SO spending valentines day with his parents instead of with me (not a huge holiday person, but again, just wanting quality time together before the baby arrives) and agreeing that the baby will have SO's last name, which has become quite important to him as his father has become more ill.

I think C is where I'm really struggling. At 32 weeks pregnant, intense hormones, physical discomfort, my own grief about my stepmom and natural anxieties about being ready to have this baby arrive are sapping me of whatever emotional resilience I might otherwise have. I don't feel like I'm really all there for him, for the baby or for myself. I feel really alone and fearful that what's ahead of me is about 100x the demands on my ability to nurture, and put the baby first, and perhaps not the kind of help and support from my partner that I was counting on when I got pregnant...which makes me feel selfish and unprepared to be a parent.

So, formerly pregnant mefites, is this a biological imperative of being pregnant? It feels like I'm hard wired right now to be self-centered and focused on this baby, ergo myself, but I'm not fully able to do it because I know that my partner needs me to be the stable/caregiving one right now. How can I better support my partner? Is it fair to share my anxieties and fears about this stuff with him at this time? And parents all, how did you parent a newborn while grieving and or caring for someone else?
posted by Lisitasan to Human Relations (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think a lot of women are socialised to de-prioritise their needs in relationships, but when they see that the partner is also not prioritising the needs of their child the penny drops.

You need a "come to Jesus" talk with your spouse, with or without a counsellor/therapist, to see if he can agree to prioritising his family over his parents. To be honest, a lot of adult children caught in this dynamic cannot escape it. If this is true in your case, it would be better to focus on building a co-parenting relationship outside of a romantic relationship and looking for a partner/step-parent that is more in alignment with your values.
posted by saucysault at 4:27 PM on February 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

You are allowed to ask for what you want, especially when you're pregnant.

For practicality's sake, start hiring people to clean, send laundry out for fluff and fold and interview doulas. Organize food delivery of all sorts. Let your friends and coworkers know you need help!

You shouldn't have to do this alone, and your husband needs to hear from you that you need him to be present for YOU now.

I'd like to think that his family and his father will understand.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:43 PM on February 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry, this sounds really miserable. You are allowed to have needs. You are allowed to express them. You're asking "Help me be as supportive as possible" but that's the wrong question to ask.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:33 PM on February 5, 2016 [15 favorites]

Best answer: For men it doesn't become real until they see the baby - for you it's real right now because you have a giant belly.

His dad dying is HUGE, especially as he's about to become a dad himself, and is likely having his own anxiety about that (my guy had a couple of nightmares about being unable to protect our tiny baby when I was preggers - heartbreaking). I really wouldn't discount that. Yes you will have a new life, but his dad's life is ending. I can see why a pregnancy wouldnt be his focus right now. Again because for guys it's just not real until it comes out. It's possible he's manifesting his pre-parental anxiety by pulling away and you're sensing that and feeling the need for more reassurance.

Ask him out on a date. Tell him you want the date to focus on "us" - talk just about your relationship, your needs as a pregnant woman, your baby fears, whatever. Discuss how to balance him attending his dad's chemo and newborn care. Tell him you miss him. Try for a babymoon even if it's just a weekend away.

Line up post partum help in addition to the help you expect from your partner. Many hands make work light.

This is the reality of being in the sandwich phase of life - sandwiched between parent care and childcare. It's stressful. And being a new parent is stressful. All you can do is talk about it, make a plan of attack and know that you two are still bonded even if you have other priorities than your immediate relationship right now. But what people are saying is right - you're allowed to have needs even though your partner is stressed right now.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:20 PM on February 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: "Namely, that SO needs to do as much for his family as possible to avoid future regrets."

I hear that, but what about the future regrets he may have about half-assing your pregnancy? This all sounds INCREDIBLY stressful on both of you and I'm so sorry you're going through this. I think it's great that you sound so supportive and loving, but what is he doing to support and love you, the woman carrying his child who is dealing with her own sick family member? I think you two should sit down together and really talk about what you're both feeling and make a plan for how you're going to tackle what you both have to face.

And as for feeling needy and emotional in late pregnancy, um, yes. I am a fairly independent, capable person, but when I was pregnant, I needed an incredible amount of emotional and practical support from my husband. I think he was a little taken aback by just how much I needed his help and attention. I gave myself permission toward the end to just wallow in it and it actually reduced my anxiety and made me need less from him, knowing that I could ask and he would give. He made this baby with you, it's okay to ask him for a little more.
posted by Aquifer at 6:43 PM on February 5, 2016 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I'm 36 weeks pregnant and have some sense of how major the death of a parent is, so I can see your quandary and am sorry for what you both are going through.

You ask about others' experiences in pregnancy. I can relate to your feeling of being scared and alone. I think you're at a particularly tough point in pregnancy when the impending birth of a baby is Real and Huge, but you're not yet at all ready. For many months, the due date has felt like a big deadline, and now it feels very close, to you, while it's still a ways off to your partner. You feel your own capabilities changing and realize that at some unknown point, if not already, you will be somewhat incapacitated and vulnerable. At that point, I felt like nothing was ready. I was stressed and had long to do lists. And I had to talk to my partner to pull him in more, because he didn't realize how many things I was trying to figure out and do.

Recently, although many things are still not ready, my feelings toward pregnancy shifted. I'm not sure if it will help you to hear this (as the feeling just came over me, much as previous waves of hormones and emotions came over me, so don't feel like you "should" be able to feel this way). But -- recognizing that I could actually go into labor at any time -- I've become adjusted to the idea that I will not be 100% "ready," logistically or emotionally, when the baby comes. We will not do everything we want to do. In reality, it was never possible to have done everything. We will have to go to the beach with a baby instead, or while the baby is staying with his sister, and that will be fine. I might not assemble the breast pump until it's time to actually use it, and yeah, it'll be trickier than doing it now, but we'll survive. Having accepted that, I'm also less scared. I'm sure it will all be overwhelming. Labor will be overwhelming. The first one / two / six / sixteen weeks will be overwhelming. And I'll deal with it all, imperfectly, as it happens. If I'm there, baby is there, a pack of diapers are there, and my PB&J supplies are within reach, we can figure it out. I'll just sit there and breastfeed and read MetaFilter.

For you guys, what you're doing before the baby comes, sadly, is being there for your families during these crises and grief. Some other things might not get done. Or, for them to happen, you'll need to carve out time for them.

And it does sound like you need to have some conversations with him, both about what kind of support you'd like from him, and to hear from him what his thoughts are about the weeks surrounding the birth. Not knowing that would be scary. When I imagine myself in your shoes, what would be toughest would be this sense of not being on the same team with my partner, feeling like his family was taking him away from me against my will, and that he was not aware of what was going on with me. I wonder if your conversations can try to create a Team Us where you can pool your challenges and resources, and figure them out together. "Your dad's appointment is on Thursday, the ultrasound is on Friday, I have that big work deadline on Wednesday, the house is a disaster, and this was the week that we were going to assemble the crib and changing table. So, let's see. Are you planning to go to his appointment? Did you want me to come? Should we talk by phone afterwards; I know those can be tough. Okay. For the ultrasound, I'd love it if you could come."

It does sound like your household needs more support from outside - friends, a doula, housecleaning, etc. The fatigue and discomfort of pregnancy are very real.
posted by slidell at 7:57 PM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Do you have a sibling or close friend you could lean on right now? Although it's not how you imagined it, it would still be a person you love helping you share your baby's arrival. It's a big job for your partner to be #1 support person to two immediate relatives at the same time. You're both doing your best, it's just unlucky timing. I think a "come to Jesus" talk would be the worst thing to do right now.
posted by superfish at 7:58 PM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

So, formerly pregnant mefites, is this a biological imperative of being pregnant? It feels like I'm hard wired right now to be self-centered and focused on this baby, ergo myself, but I'm not fully able to do it because I know that my partner needs me to be the stable/caregiving one right now. How can I better support my partner? Is it fair to share my anxieties and fears about this stuff with him at this time? And parents all, how did you parent a newborn while grieving and or caring for someone else?

Google "stress during pregnancy." It's a very real thing that can impact you and the baby. Women should not be doing the pregnancy thing alone and they definitely shouldn't be doing the newborn thing alone. I had a fairly uncomplicated pregnancy, but my husband still cooked every meal for me while I was pregnant, and you can bet he was at my prenatal appointments with me. Once the baby got here (again, uncomplicated delivery), I needed him around to make sure I was fed and the baby's diapers clean as I had a minor tear and a few other healing problems and breastfeeding can be really grueling at first. Do you have help for after the baby arrives? Does he realize what a shitshow having a newborn can be?

I'm sorry for his loss (and also very sorry for yours), but the way you're minimizing your needs does not sound healthy or wise. And it's balls that he's not spending Valentine's Day with you, and the last name thing deserves a respectful conversation.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:06 PM on February 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

Forgive me if this is obvious, but have you checked in with your partner to be sure he actually wants this much focus on his family of origin? When I was on deathwatch with my dad, I yearned for some contact with some babies, because I really wanted the reassurance that life goes on outside that horrible focused bubble of grief. I can pretty easily imagine feeling obliged to spend a ton of time with family of origin and feeling like it's selfish to want to see one's own lover and, uh, fetus, while failing to grok that said lover also had needs not being met (and being kind of relieved to discover that one has reason, other than selfishness, to carve out some time for family of choice.)
posted by gingerest at 3:17 AM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all for these thoughtful answers. I can see how my tone reads as emotional martyr and I regret presenting our situation In that light because we are both just struggling to be functional at opposite times. You've given me productive ways to cope, perspective on this third trimester and encouraged me to speak up- thanks!

Gingerest: I totally agree- SO isn't psyched to be stretched in this way or deliberately putting me by the wayside. He's overwhelmed and freaked out and is just responding to each fire as it needs going out.
And for the record, the last name choice thing did involve a long discussion, but I ultimately ceded because it is so loaded for SO right now...
posted by Lisitasan at 3:48 AM on February 6, 2016

He's overwhelmed and freaked out and is just responding to each fire as it needs going out.

He has had two years to develop healthy coping skills. Right now, he doesn't have the skills to be a good father or partner. Parenting is one big fire-fight that lasts years.

Although it feels to you that what you have been doing is supportive, what is actually happening is you are enabling him to keep making maladaptive choices and allowing his unhealthy family to drive a wedge between you. If his family was decent they would be ashamed of how they have forced him to de-prioritise his pregnant partner. He would have looked for a job that didn't require him the be absent 25% of the time. This is NOT going to improve with the birth of the child, and will have deveststing consequences on your child's security and sense of attachhment. The person you are with right now is the person that will skip your child's birthdays, soccer games, and graduation "because my family (Or job) needs me more". You and your child aren't his priority, as you can see by his actions.

Also, your child's name is for life; my one (and only!) regret in life was being similarity steamrolled into surpressing my own needs for my childrens's names because of an immature father who used long conversations to wear me down. (Bullshit this is any more loaded for him than you).

I'm sorry, this really sucks, but it is during pregnancy that many people discover through their partner's actions if their partner is reliable and truly with them or not. He CAN change, but if he wanted to, he would be the one writing this question, wouldn't he?
posted by saucysault at 2:32 PM on February 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

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