One of the impacts of new parenthood that is often neglected to be spoken of, is the “Pre/Postpartum Partnership challenges”
Pre/Postpartum Partnership challenges refers to the various ways that the parents' relationship can be impacted from pregnancy through to the first year postpartum.
Let’s begin with the pregnancy...you know the period where your body is shifting at super speed as it grows your soon to be son or daughter. How is one's partner able to truly relate to all that can physically and emotionally occur during ten months of pregnancy? This may include morning sickness, debilitating fatigue, growing belly, hormonal spikes, swelling, cravings, dizziness, constipation, sleeplessness, and breathlessness. It often becomes difficult for one not to develop resentment toward their partner for not having to go through such changes and for only taking part in the fun initiation of the pregnancy. However, having any sort of wedge in the relationship during this period will only create more challenges down the road. In addition, life can be easier to manage when one has a partner to go through it with. Some women feel the opposite of resentment, rather experiencing guilt. They feel guilty that they are not up to par as a partner as they have been in the past. This can lead to self-shaming if not addressed.
So, how can one strengthen their relationship thru pregnancy?
Honest Communication: Although it can feel like another chore, it is imperative to regularly communicate to one's partner what they are experiencing throughout the pregnancy. This may include physical challenges, sleep deprivation, irritability, anxiety, excitement, hope, etc. This also pertains to the partner of the mom-to-be. He or she needs to communicate in regard to any helplessness, frustration, jealousy, curiosity, or confusion they might experience.
Partner Time: Pregnancy can be a time suck. Time can be limited as a result of physical symptoms, preparing nurseries, baby registry, and daily life. However, it is important that a couple carves out the time to connect via an activity that does not involve baby prep.
Physical Touch: Sexual interest can vary dramatically among pregnant moms. If sexual desire is not hindered for either the mom-to-be or their partner, then go ahead and enjoy sex regularly. If one's sex drive sways by any means, then prioritize expressing physical affection in other ways such as cuddling, holding hands, and kissing.
No Assumptions: One of the major communication barriers between parents-to-be is the expectation that one knows what the other wants or feels and vice versa. One should not assume their partner knows you need to eat or sleep or even a break from being on their feet.
Once you get through pregnancy, then comes baby and other possible shifts in a relationship to navigate. Therefore, stay tuned for part two of Pre/Post Partum Relationship Building.
Mollie Busino LCSW is a Hoboken based therapist specializing in Anxiety, Depression, Anger Management, Career Changes, OCD, Relationship/Dating Challenges, Insomnia, & Postpartum Depression/Anxiety. To learn more about Mollie and her practice, visit Mindful Power