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A Good Enough Partner

By December 31, 2017Blogs

Pregnancy is an exciting time for parents, however it can also be a stressful one. With the birth mother carrying the load (literally) in the form of the actual baby, the partner can sometimes feel like a third wheel. Some male partners have not been socialized to tend to the needs of others, yet are often expected to do so during the pregnancy. Partners may be unsure of how to support the mother during pregnancy. This can lead to avoidance for fear of feeling useless and inadequate. As a result, the mother may end up feeling isolated and alone. The best way to overcome this issue is for partners to get involved and engaged in the mother’s journey despite the uncertainty.
It might be useful to think of each trimester as its own stage in which the mother has different practical and emotional needs. The first trimester is the most anxiety-producing for many parents. The uncertainty as to whether or not it will be a viable pregnancy may lead mothers to look to their partners for reassurance. Partners will need to be particularly attentive during this time, as the mother’s hormones can cause doubt and uncertainty to rise. Partners should take time each day to put their cell phones away and to be present to whatever fears or concerns the mother has.

The first trimester will also be filled with a lot of doctor’s appointments. Partners should aim to attend all of the important doctor’s appointments and at least some of the others. The partner’s presence alone can be a calming influence, and being engaged can help the mother feel more secure about the process. For partners, the key word in the first trimester is: empathic.
The second trimester provides a respite of sorts between the first and last trimester, as anxiety tends to decrease somewhat during this time. Partners should be as engaged as possible in the planning and decision-making around preparing the child’s room, choosing the name, and planning for the birth. The key word for partners here is: engaged.
The last trimester is all about preparation for the big day. There will be an increased need for someone to carry things, as the mother will no longer be able to do so. Partners can take over many of the mother’s responsibilities such as doing the shopping or other chores. There will be cribs to be built, strollers to be assembled, and car seats to be installed.  The key word in the third trimester is: useful.
The big day itself is about showing up and doing whatever the mother asks. A generation ago, it was custom for many men to drop their wives off at the hospital while they went to the bar. This is no longer considered a socially acceptable practice. Many partners now choose to actively participate in the birthing process, and their mere presence can be comforting. The key word on the big day is: present.
The psychoanalyst and pediatrician, Donald Winnicot, was famous for his concept of the good enough mother, in which a mother is encouraged to be good enough rather than perfect. This concept can be applied to partners of pregnant women as well. The goal is not to be a perfect partner or to attempt to eliminate all the stress of pregnancy, as this is not possible. Instead, the goal is to help alleviate stress and to be present as much as is reasonably possible. The overall concept of  good enough can be applied to both the mother and her partner.