Pregnancy can be really exciting and filled with wonderful moments: the first time that positive appears on your home pregnancy test, sharing a happy secret with your spouse, the first ultrasound, and finally welcoming the newest member of your family. We often describe pregnant women as glowing or radiant as they embark on their journey of motherhood to bring a new life into this world. Platitudes aside, pregnancy has many challenges that don’t always get talked about.
People can get swept up in the romanticism behind starting a family. They think about all of the most cherished memories from their own childhoods or photos posted by friends of their picture perfect pregnancies and children. These visions are essentially fairy tale parenting, painted by the rose coloured lens of childhood or carefully crafted social parenting personas people put forward. Very few people are going to post photos on Facebook of themselves at nine months pregnant, along with status updates about their hemorrhoids or an argument with their spouse over putting together a baby swing, even though all of the above can be quite common during pregnancy.
While the expectant mother is undergoing daily transformations in her body, the changes don’t stop there. Many pregnancy books and articles focus on mom and what she should expect during pregnancy, however, she isn’t the only factor in this exponential equation.
Pregnancy adds stress to an existing and rapidly changing relationship, causing many couples to butt heads about things they never imagined arguing about. Here are seven reasons why couples fight during pregnancy:
Having kids is hella expensive and will wreak absolute havoc on even the best-planned budgets. Many things can impact the salary of an expectant mother including mandatory bed rest, early labour, or the many appointments throughout pregnancy that will lead to time away from work. Missed time from work can be particularly costly for part-time or hourly based employees. These items along with additional prescriptions to be filled or paid parking at medical appointments can add up quickly, and that’s just for the pregnancy.
Once the child is born immediate costs to consider include clothes, food, medicine, and diapers. These are substantial and pretty consistent expenses throughout a child’s life. Additionally, if both parents decide to return to work there is the extremely high cost of daycare, which in major cities, such as Toronto, costs as much as an average of $1676 a month for the care of an infant.
Making important decisions about the future of both parents’ careers, financial priorities, and new roles as parents, in a way that impacts dollars and cents is not an easy task. It’s no wonder expecting couples fight about money, as these fights are often a common source of marital stress long before people even have children.
Talk About It
Communicating about finances and setting regular meetings and realistic budgets on an ongoing basis can allow both people to feel heard in setting spending priorities. Is a new mini-van really in the cards or can that wait because a top of the line stroller is more important to both of you? Having these meetings when you are both calm will make financial planning easier, and more peaceful for everyone involved.
6Sex (Or Lack Thereof)
Sex is a highly “fight worthy” topic among all couples, not just those with a bun in the oven. A woman’s sex drive during gestation can be a roller coaster ride changing dramatically by the moment, day, or trimester. Maybe she’s exhausted, or feeling fat and gassy during pregnancy while her partner can’t stop staring at her bigger breasts, or perhaps she’s had a surging libido thanks to what some women experience in the second trimester. No matter what, if you’re feeling out of synch during pregnancy, needs may not be met and both parties will begin to feel frustration and possible resentment.
Intimacy can mean different things to people. If the stars are not aligning in terms of specific needs, talk about it before it becomes a point of contention.
Make Romance A Priority
Sometimes one of you might need to “take care of things” solo, but be sure to snuggle on the couch after and make romance a priority, even if nookie is one of the last things on your mind. By starting these conversations now, it will be easier to work through other intimacy or sex challenges you may face in the coming months as you consider your sex-lives post-parenthood.
5Changing Priorities - Too Much Or Too Little Thought About Baby
Pregnancy can be a surreal experience for both members of the couple, particularly the parent who isn’t carrying the child. This can make it seem like one person is more connected to the baby, and possibly more excited about the imminent arrival.
One person talks about baby non-stop, while the other wants to enjoy their last few moments foot loose and baby-free. Maybe mom’s new role as teetotaler has her taking the driver’s seat as a semi-permanent designated driver at social occasions while her other half enjoys an extra drink or two at the party. The problem is, the driver can barely keep her eyes open after 9:00 PM because she’s so tired and can’t believe that her partner is delaying going home, again. These dynamics can cause one person to believe that the other doesn’t care about the baby or alternately, their spouse’s feelings. Someone who was the life of the party pre-pregnancy might be exhausted and want to stay at home while they’re expecting. Sometimes there is a fear that mom or dad is slowly becoming parentzilla, dominating all conversations with talks of pregnancy and babies, even though the arrival of the baby is months away. Lack of participation at specific prenatal medical appointments can also be a big point of contention.
A Bit Of Planning Is What You Two Need
This isn’t a contest to see who cares about baby more and, when couples keep score, no one wins. By allocating specific times of days for baby-related conversations, and pre-determining date nights, where talking about baby is off limits, both parties will feel as if their needs are being met. Couples who discuss conflicting energy levels, and set end times for evenings out before they actually go to a party will likely get along better when it comes time to head home.
4Redistribution Of Responsibilities
Mom’s schedule is filled with what seems to be endless appointments. She’s given up her evening glass of Pinot Grigio and hasn’t been to her favorite sushi bar for months. When one partner feels as if they are making all of the sacrifices in the relationship, it’s going to cause some tense moments. This could include the addition of new responsibilities for the non-pregnant person including changing the kitty litter or doing all of the heavy lifting and snow shoveling during the winter.
Now is the best time to focus on teamwork and setting a fair, but not necessarily equal honey do list before everyone involved is sleep deprived and cranky. When I was pregnant and incredibly sick, I had a lot of guilt about the extra chores my husband had taken on. Talking about it helped relieve some of the stress and took away much of my guilt too.
You Can't Always Be Right
This is also a good time to take note that both people may have different ways of handling a specific task, and both can be “right”. The same rules should apply for childcare related tasks once your baby arrives, a different approach isn’t wrong just because it’s not how the primary parent does it.
3But What About The Baby?
Here’s the thing about being pregnant and having children - there a lot of decisions that need to be made from the time you get your first positive pregnancy test until your baby finally arrives. Are you going to get genetic testing? Will you select a midwife or an OB/GYN for your birth plan? What about naming the baby? Participation in religious ceremonies? Are you going to circumcise your son?
These are just a few questions that you will need to answer together in the coming months. Many couples don’t begin to explore their thoughts and feelings about any of these choices before pregnancy. Unfortunately, these arguments don’t necessarily end when their baby finally makes an arrival. A number of couples have conflicting ideas surrounding parenting and parenting styles that can be ongoing sources of conflict.
There's Good News
The good news is that many prenatal and parental classes offered provide education and a neutral space to talk about these types of decisions together before they become heated issues. For this reason, it is best for you to sign up for these classes as a couple so that you can get the answers to whatever questions you may have.
2The Hormones Made Me Do It
Whenever I watch the movie Knocked Up, particularly scenes where presumably hormone driven Katherine Heigl is behaving like a petulant child, I cringe and hope that I and other pregnant women are being grossly misrepresented.
Hormones play a huge role in pregnancy and mom-to-be can feel like she’s a slave to them. Mood swings are generally more frequent during the first trimester. However, they tend to carry on throughout the entire nine months and beyond as mom deals with a new range of post-partum emotional and hormonal changes.
Support Each Other
Patience, understanding and avoiding taking emotional reactions or outbursts personally are the best ways to support each other. Those who assume the best, respond with kindness, and aren’t too hard on themselves, or others, will find their lives easier. A good sense of humour can also go a long way!
1Pregnancy And Parenthood Are Scary
Recognize that major life changes, can cause personal upheaval and be really intimidating. For some new parents, stress stems from not knowing what life will be like after little junior arrives and heads fill up with “what if” scenarios. Others worry about not knowing how to care for a baby, the new and added responsibilities, or their general readiness for parenthood. For some, this can be just as, or even more, nerve-wracking than the fights about naming the baby or what colour to paint the nursery. These unanswerable questions about your “new life” just around the corner are bound to cause some sparks.
Other veteran parents could be facing added concerns about how their kid(s) are going to react to their new roles of big brother or sister. Take a deep breath, everyone will learn to adjust to the “new” normal soon enough.
Some people see how parenthood has changed their friends and family members and end up expecting the same, or worse for themselves. People fear that they will lose their lives or selves once they have children. Each person and couple will cope with parenting differently, but by discussing these types of fears ahead of time, you can plan to make your favourite social outings or other non-baby goals possible. For example, looking for a babysitter before your baby arrives allows you to ensure you still get to attend your weekly Ax Throwing League together, even if you have to press pause for the first little while after birth.
Communicate With Each Other
No matter what you’re fighting about, communication and time away from the argument are going to be key to thriving as a couple during pregnancy and beyond. Before your baby arrives is a great time to practice your productive debate and compromise skills, because pretty soon someone’s going to be learning how to argue with their parents.
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