My wife, Mel, is seven months pregnant with our third child. We’ve been married for almost ten years. Her last two pregnancies were eye-opening for me. Being pregnant is hard on a woman both physically and mentally. It’s something I can’t experience. I can only observe. As a husband, I often feel helpless. Like I’m just some cheerleader on the sidelines, hoping everything turns out OK. I often wish there were some way I could help her more than I do. Some way I can be more supportive. I mean, I can’t carry the baby for her, but there are things I can do to make her experience a little easier.
Below is a list of a few things that I have been doing — or plan to start doing — to help Mel’s pregnancy go easier. However, I’d love to see ideas from readers on how husbands have made pregnancy easier for their wives.
1. Tell her she’s beautiful.
While pregnant, Mel often describes herself as: Fat, bloated, and spotted (near the end of her pregnancy she always develops little red splotches on her face and neck). Obviously she doesn’t feel beautiful while pregnant, even though I still think that she is. She needs constant reassurance. So when she is pregnant, I often make it a point to tell her how beautiful she is (in person and text message).
I know that some men, myself included, see a pregnant woman like a ticking time bomb. I mean, I’m excited to have a baby, but the first year of a child’s life can be hell, with all the sleepless nights, spit-up and dirty diapers. This is not to mention the cost of a new baby. But at the same time, it’s very exciting for a woman, and being negative can really depress your wife. I think it’s important to share in that excitement. I am good and bad at this one. I often exhale, loudly, when talking about things we need to buy for the baby. But I also crouch down, talk to the baby, and then kiss Mel’s tummy. I also enjoy feeling the baby kick. I think this really helps her realize that I am excited too.
3. Judgment (lack thereof).
Let’s face it, women act differently while pregnant. Sometimes I joke that the woman I married is not the woman who has been pregnant with my children. The woman I married would never eat an entire loaf of French bread. She also wouldn’t wear bright red compression tights that make her look like Doctor Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog. Although we joke around, being pregnant has made Mel do and wear some strange things. It’s best just to let it happen without comment or judgment.
Mel loves flowers. They seem to make everything better (I don’t understand it, but I know it’s true). Last week I bought Mel some flowers. The cashier was a woman in her mid 30′s. She asked me what the occasion was. I said, “She’s pregnant. I just thought she could use them.” The casher smiled and agreed. If I could afford it, I’d buy Mel flowers every day that she’s pregnant.
This is one that I’m not very good at. Being pregnant is exhausting. I can see it in Mel’s eyes. She also tells me about it, too. I often suggest that Mel take a nap, but with the craziness of having two small children, me working two jobs, and Mel in school, it’s difficult to get her to sit down. I think she feels selfish when taking a nap. And honestly, my knee-jerk reaction is to get a little jealous when she gets to take a nap. But I really need to think about the fact that she is growing another person and she needs her rest. I need to be more assertive about picking up her slack so she can feel comfortable dozing for an hour or two during the day.
6. Tell her to sit down.
Standing all day while having a baby wiggling around inside your body, throwing off your equilibrium, must be really difficult. I often see her rubbing her lower back, or her upper legs. I tell Mel to sit down, but just like with naps, I think she feels selfish sitting when there are things to be done. She holds a real sense of duty, which I love about her, but at the same time she needs a rest now and again.
7. A restful night.
Getting a good night’s rest can really change Mel’s disposition. We have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. Both are OK sleepers. But they still tend to get up in the night now and again. I will admit that I sometimes sleep through their cries, but for the most part I make it a point to get up in the night so Mel can sleep.
8. Time alone.
This is another one I need to work on. Being pregnant is emotionally draining. There is no doubt about it. The first time Mel was pregnant, she started crying because I asked her to water the Christmas tree. Sometimes I think she just needs a moment or two to simply be alone. I’ve been trying to make it a point to take both our kids out of the house for one reason or another so she can have some time to herself.
9. Company at the OB-GYN.
Often, Mel meets with her doctor while I am at work. We live in a small Oregon town, which means Mel has to drive almost an hour to meet with the doctor. Long story short, I have not been able to accompany Mel to the doctor as much as I’d like. But when I do go, I can tell she enjoys it. I think it makes her feel less alone in all this. Like I am really there to support her.
10. Ask about her needs.
I like to think that I know what’s best for my wife, but that really is a ridiculous assumption. I need to ask her this simple question more: What do you need right now?
Today’s Self-Care Month Guest Blogger is Jennifer McCullough. She is a 20-year PR and Marketing professional turned stay-at-home mom slash blogging fanatic. You can learn more about her and read her crazy mom antics at http://www.mommyhooddom.com. Please stop by and say hello. She’d love to meet you!
After my son was born in the fall of 2011, with the exception of two trips to the pediatrician’s office, I didn’t leave my house for a month. I mostly just cried all day and ate Peanut M&Ms. The idea of self-care, or taking even a minute for myself, was nowhere on my radar.
At the same time I was getting my sea-legs as a mom, I was mourning the loss of my mother, who had died a month before my son was born. In the course of a year, I moved to a new city far away from friends and family, had a baby and lost my mom – that’s a pretty good recipe for emotional upheaval!
One of the main reasons I didn’t go out more right after my son was born was because I wasn’t comfortable breastfeeding in public. My breasts were humongous and hard to conceal. Pumping hurt, so I didn’t like to do that either.
I didn’t much like breastfeeding in those early days, but my son LOVED it. It seems like he wanted to nurse every 20 minutes, around the clock. I found out what real sleep deprivation is like. It’s not the kind you experience when you’re having fun in college. It’s the kind that goes on for weeks on end and that is actual torture.
During that first month, I didn’t talk to many people. I rarely showered. I guess maybe that’s why they didn’t talk to me. I don’t know.
To say I neglected my needs for basic things like sleep, nutritious food, exercise, shampoo and emotional support would be the understatement of the century. I was a case study in self-care: how not to do it. Those first 30 days were tough to say the least, but things slowly got better.
I will never forget the first trip I made to the grocery store, which was also my first time out of the house alone, about a month after my son was born.
I guess my brain had forgotten how to process so much sensory stimulation because I remember being overwhelmed with all the colors and shapes lining the shelves! I couldn’t focus on any one thing. The barely audible overhead music combined with the sounds of shopping carts and occasional chatter from the other shoppers bombarded me like a Mardi Gras parade. I realized I needed to get out more often or else risk becoming someone who could not go out – at all. And that thought frightened me – a lot.
I wish I could say I started going out all the time after that grocery shopping experience, but I really didn’t. Living in a new place where I didn’t know anyone made it tough. The weekly trips to the grocery store and the occasional weekend trip to the mall were big adventures. Mostly, we stayed at home, my infant son and me, while my husband was at work. The long winter days melted together.
The next spring, my son and I did start having a few play dates here and there. It was great to connect with other moms. My son loved the social time with other little ones. We worked our way up to visiting the library.
When it warmed up, we walked around our neighborhood. I remember being so happy just to get fresh air. It was such a small thing, but after being inside for months on end, fresh air felt like such a luxury!
Eventually, I started getting my hair done again. For the longest time after my son was born, I either cut it myself or went to one of those drive-thru hair cutters for the easiest, most low-maintenance style possible. It’s called a pixie and it takes forever to grow out!
My son turned two-years-old a few months ago and to celebrate, I went out with one of my girlfriends and got a manicure and a pedicure. It was awesome! It was only the second manicure I’ve ever had in my life and it was my very first pedicure! I thought surely they’d give me a discount! They didn’t, but that’s ok. I’m still going to go back.
I still breastfeed my son several times a night and before his nap, and whenever he gets an “ouchy.” But, I do sleep a little more these days. I’m still looking forward to getting a good 8 hours of uninterrupted slumber. I know it will come, eventually.
I joined a health club last week. Crazy, I know! I haven’t actually worked out yet, but I don’t want to do too much too fast. They say you should start slow. I figure I’ll get ON the treadmill around the first of March.
I started a blog called Mommyhooddom. Writing is great self-care therapy for me. I like to write sad stories about missing my mom and funny stories about being a mom. Connecting with other parents online is a huge blessing! They make me feel human on the days I feel like a wind-up mom.
I have a long, long, long way to go before I can say I’m good at taking care of myself. But, I have high hopes that by the time my son starts pre-school in the fall, I’ll be well on my way to remembering what it was like to have both of my legs shaved at the same time. One can dream, even while awake at night!
©2014 Jennifer McCullough
It’s no secret that most people make their own stress. We worry over things, which accomplishes nothing, and ruminate about the past, which is equally useless. I’m pretty good at catching myself when I am out in the worry-zone. This is a result of years of practicing present-moment awareness, which is something that I find extremely useful to manage my stress. My daughter, however, is another story.
She is a freshman in high school and a bit of an over-achiever (I have NO idea where she gets THAT from!). My husband and I both have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders, so we made a special effort to raise her in a laid-back atmosphere, which also helped us chill out. She seemed to be pretty mellow until about 6th grade, when the homework increased. And when I say increased, I’m talking going from an hour or so nightly to 4+ hours of homework every night. Part of the reason that happened is because she took many more pre-AP (pre-advanced placement) classes than she had before. This sent her into overdrive in junior high. Her anxiety levels got so high and she was so distressed that we got her some help from a therapist and a psychiatrist. That seemed to help a lot…until high school.
Now, she gets very upset if she makes a low A or (heaven forbid) a B in a class on her report card, progress report or even an individual assignment. I was obviously concerned with this unnecessary standard she has for herself, so I asked her why. She claimed that “everybody” already knew what University they were going to and what they were going to major in. She was worried that she wouldn’t be “good enough” to get into whatever college or University she decided to go to (and yes, she has some choices picked out). All I could think of was my 9th grade self, totally oblivious to colleges and majors. After all, I was a freshman. My college kind of got picked out for me when I was a Senior because I got a free ride to Blinn Junior College for graduating in the top 10% of my class (I still don’t know where that overachiever gene comes from). And even after I transferred to the University of Houston, I changed my major a couple of times. I always thought that college was where you figured out “what you wanted to be when you grew up.”
My daughter tells me that times have changed and that things are just more competitive than they used to be. That may be true; I have seen evidence of it in my readings and from parents of other (and older) high schoolers. But that pressure is nothing compared to what she puts on herself. I have a friend who teaches at my daughter’s high school and she told me that the friends that my daughter hangs out with are the “high stress” crowd. You know, the nerds. While I am proud that my kid has such great taste in friends (Who rules the world? Mean girls? No…NERDS!), their influence seems to be counterproductive to my daughter’s overall stress management.
It’s been my challenge to try and explain this to my sweet girl. Nothing I say seems to get through, to the point of frustration. She knows about present-moment awareness and uses it in extreme anxiety situations. She knows it works. But she won’t or can’t use it when it comes to her future. As a parent, it kills me slowly inside to see my daughter suffering while I hold the key to the “cure.” But I can’t make her take it. She has to get there on her own. The only thing I can do is be supportive of her, answer her questions honestly and tell her that I’m proud of her. Oh yeah, and stay in my own present moment, even if she won’t. I am the adult with more life experience and I know that this, too, shall pass.
I had the honor of being a “pioneer” at Happify, which is a site (an app) that uses scientific methods to help the user increase his/her happiness levels. They have just released this infographic, and I am “happy” to share it with you!
Click on the image below to view the entire thing.
I’ve been teaching my new mindfulness class “Don’t Worry. Be Mindful.” for the past two days so I thought I’d share some of the info here since mindfulness can be one way of practicing self-care. If you’re new to mindfulness, it’s defined as “paying attention to the present moment on purpose without judgement.” Now, if this sounds like something more to add to your to-do list, it’s not. One benefit of mindfulness is that you can practice it while you go through your day without adding anything.
We call this “informal” practice. For example, when you’re showering, direct your attention to the sensory experience of taking a shower-sounds, touch/feeling, smells, sights and taste (well, maybe not taste although when shampoo gets in my mouth…). If thoughts occur, note them by saying “Thought-Planning-Overthinking, etc,” and then re-direct your attention back to the sensory experience of the shower. At first, you may spend most of going from thought to sensation, thought to sensation and back again. Don’t worry, that’s completely normal. The idea is to let whatever happens happen without judgement which is another benefit of mindfulness. It teaches you to treat yourself with self-compassion instead self-judgement or self-loathing which we in the western world are ever so good at.
As in mindfulness, self-compassion or self-love is a key aspect of self-care. Likewise, letting go of your worries and thoughts and just allowing yourself experience the richness of the moment you’re in, helps nourish you-mind-body and spirit. Research has shown that practicing present moment awareness, i.e. mindfulness, diminishes stress, tension, pain, depression, and anxiety and strengthens your ability to cope with life changes, improves your health and immunity, and increases feelings of joy and well-being.
Last week, Time magazine ran a feature article about “The Mindful Revolution” which you can read by clicking on this link-http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2163560,00.html.
This week your assignment (should you choose to accept it), is to pick one activity you do on a daily or regular basis, like showering, doing the dishes, driving to work, and focus on your sensory experience of the activity rather than the thoughts or “tickertape” running through your head, as one class participant described it Saturday. Do this without judgement, understanding that your mind is likely to drift from thought to sensation and sensation to thought frequently. Remember, mindfulness is realizing your mind has wandered, so when this occurs, stop, take a breath, and re-direct your attention to the moment you’re in. That’s mindfulness!
I was looking for something fun and inspiring to kick off “February is Self-Care Month” when this Kid President video arrived in my e-mail. It’s about what he would tell someone if it were her “first day here.” I think that if you follow his advice and say these things to yourself, you’ll feel better and more accepting of yourself, which Buddha reminds us “you as much as anyone else in the universe deserve your love and affection.”
Please watch this video until you’re convinced of your awesomeness. Play it as often as you need to quiet your inner critic. It’s a great way to practice self-care. Enjoy!