This article was written by “When Pregnancy Isn’t Perfect:
A Layperson’s Guide To Complications In Pregnancy”
There are ways to deal with what is happening to you and your partner. This discussion of strategies certainly can’t change your situation, but it may help you get to the end of the pregnancy and beyond without feeling like a total wreck.
“Don’t Just “Tough It Out”
“I didn’t look for any support systems. I usually just handled my problems alone. I just lived with them.”
“I didn’t seek out anyone.”
“Emotionally.…boy. I just kept going. I don’t really have a true friend that I turned to to share my feelings with.”
When faced with a pregnancy crisis, this is how most men respond. In our society it’s customary to view men as “strong” when they are unemotional, and this is what many men believe is expected of them. Ron’s example is typical: He felt that somehow, he “wasn’t supposed to cry. I was supposed to be the strong one.”
Even when a sympathetic ear is offered, many men say that they would turn away the opportunity to let off steam or share their feelings. For instance, one man I spoke to said that in retrospect, “If somebody had approached me while I was going through it and tried to get me to open up, I would have pretended to be strong enough no to do it.”
Handling emotions by holding them in and just getting on with it works to a certain extent: At least you get things done. But, you’re still left with the emotional baggage that will leave you feeling rotten somewhere down the line with a permanent distaste for the entire experience. From a mental-health standpoint, it’s better to look for outlets for the natural and normal emotions that you are going to be experiencing in the days, weeks, and months ahead. There are a number of ways to do this.
This means emotional support. You tell how you feel, and the listener just listens and offers some sense of understanding. You may be surprised at how little you need to make you feel better. A few thoughtful words, an acknowledgment that it must be very hard for you, can give you the support you need to go on with a tough day. It won’t take your feelings away, but it will help you to deal with them in a healthier manner.
When looking for people to talk it out with, be aware that not every person you know or to whom you are referred will be a good and sympathetic listener. If you run up against platitudes or attempts to make you “behave like a man,” look to someone else for support. Here are some suggestions of where to turn:
You’re probably going to be busier in the next few weeks or months than at any other time in your life. And the temptation may be to give up all of your normal outside activities because you don’t think you could focus on them.
But it’s important for your sanity and health that each week you squeeze in some time during which you do focus on something that’s pleasurable. When you give yourself some breathing space in this way, you’ll find you have more of yourself to give to your partner and other children. And you won’t end up resenting the situation quite as much. Some suggestions:
You may argue that doing these things is impossible because you can’t leave your wife or kids alone. Then don’t leave them alone! Arrange for someone you trust to stay with her/them during the couple of hours of well deserved R&R.
Now is no time for you to be a martyr. You’re going to be doing enough as it is. Getting help with logistical things does more than just take some of the burden off you. It clears some time for you to spend with your wife (and kids, if you have them). There will be few, if any, times in your life when your support and presence will be more important to your wife. And your need to be with her may be so powerful that it will feel instinctual. Here are three ways to free up some of your time:
“It’s almost like being in a war,” said Gregg. “It’s so long and stressful.” When you’re caught up in the daily stress and crises that complicated pregnancies can bring, it can be terribly hard to remember that this is a temporary situation.
Eventually (much sooner than it feels) you’re going to be new parents. And as time passes after that, these few months will become a dimly recalled bad patch of time. That’s all. Just a fuzzy memory.
“When the boys were born, whatever was balled up inside me totally vanished. It was like a whole new beginning. I feel so lucky. My sons are doing really good.” –Michael“It was worth it. But I wasn’t so sure while it was going on. I’m glad now, though.”
“Our relationship got better, and I got stronger because of it. It’s a crisis, and if you survive it, make it through together, you feel better prepared to handle the next one when it comes along.”
Remember, the time, caring, and nurturing you are investing now, combined with great medial care and a little luck, will soon bring your healthy baby into the world. Handling a crisis the best way we know how makes us grow. And no matter how tough it is now, when it’s over, you’ll be glad you did it, and did it right.