What women have told me they mean when they say they want to count on their men is the comfort of having someone in their corner, a partner that they can rely on, through the easy days as well as the tough ones.
When a man can do this for his partner, she feels protected and is having her needs met, which is a serotonin enhancer. And, when your pregnant partner's serotonin levels rise, she's less anxious and more positive. An added benefit for men is that when we act as the pillars of strength in our relationships (the Superman to her Lois Lane) we feel as though we're serving and protecting our partners. This increases our testosterone levels, which allows us to become more caring and compassionate. Endorphins are released; we feel terrific, and romance stays alive.
Sometimes your partner will need your encouragement or a kind word. She'll want you to participate in the pregnancy and offer her the support she'll need. There will be times that she may doubt herself and will rely on you to pick her back up afterward. Sometimes you'll need to be her Man of Steel, while other times she'll require an ear for listening, more of a Clark Kent-type.
You must be her stability, the pillar of strength and support these nine months. Show her through your actions that you are here for her and the baby, and it will build her confidence that she has chosen the right man as the father of her child.
"I would have loved dinner out and candles (even though he's not too keen on them), or just a card or words of encouragement on paper." -C. W., Age 40
When you encourage someone you're almost speaking to their heart in the language of "Courage." You give them confidence and strength. And, the heart understands because when you encourage you're speaking "In Courage".
Encouragement is the uncle of communication, but this is the uncle you always look forward to seeing at the annual family picnic. He's the one who makes you feel great about yourself, never a hurtful or mean thing to say. And, when you leave, you feel inspired and powerful. He's the uncle who makes you feel that you can do anything you set your mind to.
We all need uncles like this. But, a pregnant woman often needs encouragement even more so than the average Joan Public. Encourage her in any aspect that she may doubt her abilities or feel she can't perform or complete. If the two of you smoked or drank before pregnancy, assure her that you know she can abstain. And, show her that you can, too.
If she's fearful about the delivery process, encourage your partner by telling her that she is strong, that she can do this, that women less motivated and less determined than she have done it. Let her know that her body was made for this process.
If she's having excess stress, she'll appreciate your encouragement like 36-year-old student, Sabina, did when she just couldn't seem to chill out. "(My husband) encouraged me to go to the gym and to relax." Just a little push, some encouragement, can make any of us, but most of all our pregnant partners, get over that hump of doubt and down the positive slope.
Your pregnant partner may need you to remind her of who she is. You probably know her better than anyone else. Draw on all you know of her. Remind her how she's been able to handle stress in the past. Tell her how great she's doing. When she's practicing her breathing, encourage her. When she is eating right, encourage her. When she feels she wants to take that much needed nap, encourage her.
As dads-to-be, we may not all speak the same language, but we can all speak to the future moms of our babies in ways that will encourage them. Speak to your partner gently. Speak to her in love. Speak to her "in Courage".
"I had been an only child and was not used to small children. (My husband) made me feel confident and unafraid during my pregnancy that I would handle childbirth, and we would stumble together learning how to raise a child." -Val, Mom For Fourteen Years
"Positive affirmations - I felt so sick throughout my pregnancy, that any kind words and gestures of understanding would have made a difference." -Martha L. S., Pilates Instructor
If encouragement is the positive uncle in the family of communication, compliments are the grandmas of the clan. You loved being with Grandma because she always made you feel warm and cared for. She raved about your haircut and the clothes you wore. She was proud of you for getting that first base hit in little league and for getting a job that paid over minimum wage.
Grandmas compliment. They see whatever it is you're interested in and make you feel good about it. We all need grandmas that make us feel this way. But, if your partner's grandma isn't around (or even if she is, for that matter), it's your job to shower her with compliments. Then, dry her with the towels of self-confidence.
Women tell me that when their men notice even the smallest accomplishments or comment on even the slightest effort, it makes them feel cared for and loved. It keeps them going through the difficult weeks, and it inspires them to reach the end.
As previously mentioned, compliment her on her beauty inside and out. Tell her you're proud of how she's stayed clear of cigarettes. Let her know you've noticed how she's eating healthy for her and the baby. Leave her a note telling her that she's doing great making it to her weekly pregnancy aerobics class. But, above all, compliment her on her strength. Tell her that you're amazed at how well she's dealing with the stress, her changing body and the lack of sleep.
Even if she's having difficulty with these areas, compliment her anyway. Often, when we know someone else thinks we're doing well (even when we don't think we are, ourselves) we step into that role that the other person sees. Words of encouragement can become self-fulfilling prophecies: "Oh, he thinks I'm handling the stress well? I guess maybe I am." Suddenly, she sees herself as a stress-handler, and the next time stress knocks at her door, she tells it, "No one's home." She becomes a stress-handler.
Compliment her when she's doing well. Compliment her when she's struggling. Compliments make us feel good. Grandma knows best.
"He told me how strong I was. I felt like we were falling in love for the second time." -S. E., Teacher
Nine ways to let mom know she can count on you
1. Tell her your inner feelings about the pregnancy and becoming a dad.
2. Call a local radio station and dedicate a song to her expressing how you feel about her (e.g. "The Wind Beneath My Wings").
3. Attend childbirth classes with her.
4. Listen with your heart, and don't feel compelled to "fix" things.
5. Make her a tape or CD with songs that will make her feel good about herself, her pregnancy and your relationship.
6. Write a poem about her strengths and get it put into a candle (CandleLightMessages.com).
7. Read books on pregnancy and the developing fetus/embryo.
8. Take out a newspaper ad about how awesome your wife has been through pregnancy. Then, be sure she sees it.
9. Buy a bunch of inspirational cards and stash them away. When your partner is feeling discouraged or moody, write something to perk her up, and leave the card where you know she'll find it.
"Understand that (pregnancy) is an emotional roller coaster, and we need support, and lots of cuddles and kisses." -Rebecca H., Mom For Six Months