A Partner’s Guide to Supporting Pregnancy

Usha Anandi. 20 | APRIL | 2021

In my experience as a full-spectrum doula who has worked with hundreds of pregnant mamas, and someone who has experienced pregnancy personally myself…

Pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and Motherhood is indeed a portal to deep awakening, transformation, and healing.

In order for Mothers to meet the power of the journey ahead, they need support.

That’s where you – partner, family member, friend, or doula come in. (If you’re interested in becoming a Birth Worker, this is for you.)

Support doesn’t begin when the child is outside of the womb.

During pregnancy, the child is very much alive, and although the Mother is the one who is most tuned in to this fact – many hands are needed to support the thrival of both mama and baby.

Years in the field of birthwork and a very unique journey through pregnancy in a global pandemic provided me with great insight into the importance of a partner’s role in pregnancy.

If you’re reading this, know you have a profound ability to impact a pregnant mama’s journey. That YOU can play a vital role in supporting them to feel empowered in their experience of pregnancy, connected to their body, and available for healthy bonding with baby.

I believe in you, birth partner. You are so important, and so very needed.

Here are five of my top tips to support you as you navigate the ever-changing, transformational world of pregnancy.

1. Listen to what the Mother wants

I want to make a line of tshirts that just says in big letters “LISTEN TO WHAT THE MOTHER WANTS”…

Because truly, after years of working in this field, I’ve found nothing to be more important.

The Mother knows best, period.

Pregnancy is a journey of discovering who you are as a Mother, learning how to trust yourself, connect with the baby, and listen to what your body is guiding you to do.

Many enter into pregnancy with preconceived notions about how it “should” go. Mix these expectations with past experiences or personal anecdotes and you get a perfect storm for projection.

Mothers don’t need to hear how you would do it, (unless they outright ask you).

Rather, they need to hear that you support them in doing it their way.

And that means learning how to listen to what they want, envision, and desire for their pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and beyond.

Believe it or not, you can play an active part in building up a Mother’s confidence and empowering them in their role – just by listening, validating, and advocating for their desires.

In action, this looks like using validating, reflective language to respond to their shares. Rather than projecting your opinion, ask them for more.

Phrases to support this could be…. “I hear you”, “I’m listening”, or “Tell me more”.

Remember that although you’re not pregnant yourself, you play an essential role in supporting the Mother in giving birth to this new version of herself.

And if you want to dive deeper, a wonderful resource for understanding your role as a partner in the journey of pregnancy is “The Birth Partner” by Penny Simkin.

2. Support with Food Preparation

For me, the amount of food I had to eat in pregnancy was completely overwhelming.

And because I (like many modern Mothers) continued working throughout my pregnancy, I found myself using the majority of my time either working or preparing food for myself.

Prior to pregnancy, making food felt like a fun activity, an expression of art of sorts… but by the third trimester of my pregnancy, I didn’t even want to step foot in my kitchen.

Remember, every pregnant Mother is different, and every pregnancy is unique. Just when you thought it might get easier with baby number two, BAM you’ve got a whole new situation to figure out… how fun!

In my pregnancy, hunger came on super quickly, often without warning.

Especially towards the end of pregnancy, if I waited too long (more than 30 or 40 minutes without a snack) I would find myself barely able to speak, feeling a bit faint, and irritable enough to want to eat anyone who got in my way.

That’s where my beautiful partner Oren came in.

I expressed to him that I was struggling, and we worked a plan out together to make meals and snacks readily available so that I always had easy access when hunger came on, or preferably, before.

A general rule for working with pregnant mamas is…

Don’t ask if they’re hungry, just assume they are.

The best time to talk about food options and spend a lot of time deciding what to make is AFTER the Mother has been fed.

Have the pregnant mama write down the following:

  • Three main meal options (preferably with protein + good fat to keep them sustained)
  • Three snack options
  • Three nourishing drink options

Every mama is different, but a pattern I’ve noticed with my clients is that during the first trimester, due to nausea and fatigue – snacking and grazing throughout the day is supportive, both for keeping mama nourished and as well as mitigating nausea.

In the second trimester, morning sickness may lessen (although for me, it didn’t – so it’s not a 100% sure thing!), which means full servings during meals may be an option.

Pregnancy takes a lot of life force to maintain, so be sure that you’re making enough food so the mama feels nourished. During the second trimester, this might look like three full meals + three snacks throughout the day.

In the third trimester, the physical space for digestion decreases. As the baby grows, the digestive organs shift to accommodate, which means less physical space in the stomach for food.

In this stage of pregnancy, switching back to constant snacking and grazing is important. The third trimester is the most energetically taxing on the Mother’s body, so it’s SO important that they get adequate nutrition during this time… and that often means eating every hour.

Getting this rhythm of eating down during pregnancy will set Mamas up for a rejuvenating postpartum and if Mama chooses, greater ease during breastfeeding.

By now you may have figured out, feeding yourself during pregnancy is a FULL TIME JOB… and that’s why Mothers can’t do it alone. They need help in the form of home cooked meals, take out, support in food prep, all the things.

If this feels like too much for you, consider where you can outsource and ask for help.

A few hacks to consider to spread the responsibility around:

  • Do you have family that live nearby? If the answer is yes, see if they would be willing to support by cooking a meal a week and bringing it over. This is especially helpful in the third trimester, when the Mother may be tired and needs to eat more regularly.
  • Do you have friends that live nearby? Same thing. Instead of a baby shower gift, consider asking for support in the form of home cooked meals.
  • None of the above? No worries. Plan out one day of the week where you’re able to prep the food for the upcoming week. This could look like fully cooking the meals (this works best for soups and stews), or simply chopping vegetables and placing them in containers to cut down on prep time during cooking. Both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine highlight the importance of always eating freshly prepared food as it has a higher life force, and therefore more medicinal. With respect to these traditions, that would mean batching soups and stews would be off the table. However, the most important thing is that the pregnant mother is EATING – so whether that’s left over soups and stews or meals made from pre-cut, fresh veggies – the most important thing is again, that they eat!

And a word for the wise…

Pregnant mamas can be notoriously picky with food.

So even if they said they wanted something ten minutes earlier, don’t take it personally if they take one bite and push it away…

Really, I’m just writing this as an apology to my partner Oren, who had this happen to him a hundred times during my pregnancy.

3. Pick up chores around the house

Helping a pregnant Mother with chores around the house can support in alleviating stress, as well as protect their body from physical fatigue or pain.

In delegating and sharing cleaning responsibilities during pregnancy, you’re setting the pregnant Mother up for success during postpartum, when a minimum period of forty days of rest after birth is required for healing and a healthy bond between mom and baby.

Have the pregnant mama write down a numbered list of all the chores they do around the house, starting with the ones that they like the LEAST to the ones they can tolerate.

Make it a priority to delegate at minimum the first five tasks, so they can focus on the important job of growing the baby and have time to rest.

If you’re visiting a pregnant mama, BEFORE you ask to put your hands on their belly or feel the baby, ask them if there’s something you can do. Is there a dish that needs washing, a load of laundry that needs starting, a point that needs massaging?

4. Focus on your own self care

We can’t give from an empty cup. As I mentioned in the beginning, pregnancy is an initiation for all involved.

Although the pregnant mama is indeed growing a life inside of them, they’re also being supported physiologically by their body to do so. The non-pregnant partner is not, which means getting tired, fatigued, or worn out when trying to keep up with all the changes is definitely normal.

If we’re to be supportive for someone else, we first have to take care of ourselves. And that means learning how to read your body’s signs for when it’s time to take a nap, take some space, or do something that brings you joy.

To support you in figuring out what these activities might be, answer the following questions…

  • How does your body respond in times of stress? How do you know when you’re stressed?
  • What activities, tools, or practices work for you to regulate your stress?
  • What are three activities that you can do in your life that bring you a sense of peace, calm, happiness, or joy?

5. Create space for check-ins

In weathering the changes that pregnancy and parenthood bring, it can be easy to lose touch with our partners.

Just as the pregnant mama is experiencing a whole new way of being, the partner is too.

We all grow, shift, and change at our own pace. To avoid feeling distant, disconnected, or like two ship’s passing in the night with your partner, schedule times for check ins.

This is not a time to talk about cooking, cleaning, or prepping for the baby’s arrival… this is a time for both of you to share, connect, and remember the person that you’ve chosen to walk with you on this journey.

Every week, set aside ten minutes for sharing.

Each partner gets three minutes of uninterrupted time to share how they’re feeling.

After the three minutes is up, the partner who was listening reflects what they heard their partner say. This practice is called deep or reflective listening, and is a way to facilitate a sense of being heard, seen, and supported in what’s arising.

In responding, consider starting with the phrase “I hear that you’re feeling _______.” or, “I’m hearing that you feel ________.”

After the first partner has shared for three minutes and the listening partner has reflected for two minutes (that’s a whole five minutes just focused on one partner!), you switch.

The second partner shares for their three minutes, and the other partner reflects for two minutes.

Let me be clear – this is NOT A REGULAR CONVERSATION.

This is a practice of deep listening, a fine tuning of our ability to witness our partner in what they’re going through without the need to offer advice, to fix, or to project our own experience onto them.

Sounds easy, right?! Ha ha ha… try it and see what arises for you.

Our mission at Womben Wellness is to support our students in sharing accessible women’s health information and birth practices like this that will support the healing and transformation of the world.

That’s why we facilitate an 85-hour Birth Worker Yoga Training, for those interested in holding healing space for the health and emotional well-being of pregnant women and new mothers and their babies!

This training normally takes place in-person but we are playing with the idea of bringing this Yoga Alliance certification ONLINE – because this work is needed now more than ever. Click here to sign up for the waitlist and be the first to get updated.

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