Forty weeks of pregnancy is a long time and can put a toll on a woman’s body. She’ll experience every emotionfrom stress to excitement to feeling out of control. Pregnancy can put a strain on a relationship as well, and without the emotional and physical support of a partner, a woman may feel completely overwhelmed with everything going on. The partner’s role is quite simple: to be there.
Meanwhile, partners are trying to navigate through their own emotions. There’s an old saying that goes, “a mom becomes a mom when she finds out she is pregnant. A dad becomes a dad when he sees the baby.” Partners play their own special role in the journey of pregnancy. Julie Ruffing is a labor and delivery nurse at UVA and a new mom. Here’s her perspective on the role her husband played in her pregnancy.
Question: What role did your husband take in your pregnancy?
Julie Ruffing: During pregnancy my husband was incredibly supportive. I think for a man, expecting a child can be a difficult time that is often underrepresented. For me, physical and emotional changes were obviously apparent, but for him, his life was changing slowly without his full comprehension. Early in my pregnancy I went through normal morning sickness and I just wasn’t myself. My husband struggled to understand why I was not excited to eat the meals he cooked and he often tried to get me motivated to be active when all I wanted to do was take a nap. As the pregnancy progressed, he was great! He massaged my aching feet after a 12 hour shift, made food that I was craving, and didn’t care that I needed 10 pillows to get a good night sleep. He did everything he could to support me in the changes that were taking place.
Q:Did you take labor classes? Did your husband attend?
JR: Since I am a labor and delivery nurse, I attempted to teach him about the labor process myself. We spent many long car rides discussing his role at the bedside during labor and all of the crazy events that may take place. We also talked about what would happen once the baby was born. Although I tried to cover everything I don’t think I prepared him fully for what to expect. I’m sure he believed what I had taught him, but there is very little you can do to help someone understand what they’re in for when being a part of labor for the first time.
Q: Did your partner attend doctor’s appointments?
JR: My husband was present for the first appointment as well as the most important appointments throughout, including both of our ultrasounds. I find the ultrasounds important for the partner because it helps them to conceptualize that there is a living person growing inside the pregnant mother. During the process my husband was very excited and wanted to be a part of each step. He is also the kind of person who seeks understanding and was quick to ask questions along way. At first I found this slightly frustrating because many of his questions I felt like I could answer. However, as the process went along this trait proved to be very helpful and encouraging.
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Q: Do you think there was a difference in how you felt toward the pregnancy and how your partner felt toward the pregnancy? Why or why not?
JR: Absolutely. I don’t think any man can fully understand pregnancy because they can’t go through it. It’s a crazy feeling to have a baby moving around inside your belly. During the pregnancy, I was constantly reminded that there was a living being inside me. She was always so active, rolling around and kicking me — 24/7. For the man, or a supportive partner, this simply is not the case. You may see the belly moving and continuing to grow but in many ways the reality of that does not sink in until that baby is born. Pregnancy can be a difficult time for any woman. A support system can be quite helpful. For me that support came from my husband and has continued into raising our child together.