The baby’s almost here! You’ve spent the last couple trimesters taking excellent care of yourself and doing all you can do to prepare for the arrival of this very special new person. While you’re on a roll, put in a little extra leg-work now to keep your relationship running smooth as you enter the wild, unknown that lies ahead. Set yourselves up for optimal relating in the early days of parenting by following these steps:
Knowing yourselves as well as you do, how are you likely feel when you’re both sleep-deprived and not getting the level of attention from your mate as you’re used to? Prepare for that to be the new normal, at least for a little while. Not sure? Here’s a hint: Many partners feel left-out when Mom is breastfeeding. In the beginning anyway, this adds up to a lot of time. How can you plan for this? Other new parents feel anxious and alone when their partner is not emotionally available. Practice some self-soothing and distraction techniques now so you don’t need to learn them on the fly. What else would be helpful?
2. MAKE LOVE
As committed as you may be to a different outcome, for the vast majority of couples, sex loses its spot on the priority list once the baby arrives. Focusing on it now is healthy for mom, baby AND you, as it gets bonding hormones flowing. It also tones and primes the body for birth; and being connected with her body makes laboring a much more empowered endeavor for a woman than not. Bonus points: Where will your baby sleep? How and where will you guys get down, given your tiny companion? Make a plan!
Learn this excellent communication formula: I feel ___(name your feeling)___when you ___(name your partner’s behavior)___ because I need ___(what do you need?)___. So would you be willing to ___(what could s/he do that would help)___? Get good at this formula now, so that when you’re raw, sleepy and hormonal you will at least be able to confidently negotiate your needs in a way that is non-blaming, and solution-focused. For more info, look at Marshall Rosenberg’s Non Violent Communication
“Better out than in, I always say!” — Shrek
What are your hopes and fears for parenting? Think about what is driving your concern – is it performance anxiety? Are you worried you will lose yourself to the family? These kinds of feelings are normal, and will actually bring you closer if you discuss them. Begin by stating your intention, so your partner knows your goal is to give you guys a great launch pad, not to criticize. Share your concern, using “I Statements,” and invite your partner to share theirs. This way you can make a plan – which even if you never use it, will make you feel more grounded. Make your own individual lists of values and priorities for you family. Share them when you are both feeling calm and open. Brainstorm around ways to achieve them.
Practice asking your partner what s/he thinks, needs and feels instead of guessing. You’d be surprised by how much assuming we actually do; and you know what they say about assuming. What happens is that when we react to what we believe (instead of finding out from our partner what’s true), we often end up causing emotional distance. When in fact, a heart-to-heart where you ask about it instead, can actually bring you closer. Also, practice identifying needs and feels for yourself, to make your sharing more clear and your connecting better. You may think you are already good at this one, but I promise you can improve. The more self-aware you can be, and open to your partner’s different experience from yours, the smoother your sailing will be!