I have often said that marriage is the second greatest gift God has given me on this earth, next to salvation in Jesus and a life knowing and serving Him. And it is completely true.
I have a husband who I am madly in love with, who is my best friend, the person who can make me laugh the hardest and who I want to do everything with. It’s incredible: truly a forever sleepover with my best friend. I feel indescribably blessed!
Being pregnant has definitely been one of the most surreal, humbling, beautiful seasons we’ve endured together. I am so grateful for Johnny and the man and husband that he is. I am so grateful that he’s my best friend: the person I just want to spend all my time with.
Here are a few ways my pregnancy has affected our marriage that I didn’t necessarily think about or anticipate before getting pregnant along with some tips for how to handle the changes!
- Navigating body image/intimacy
This is a big one for me, and an especially challenging one given my eating disorder history. But God has been so faithful to help me and make this season a beautiful one rather than one lived in bondage.
And Johnny has been the biggest, most amazing support in the midst of it. To be honest, I didn’t really “pop” until I was around 28 weeks. Before that, my bump was small: and all I wanted was for it to be big, partially because I just wanted to make sure baby boy was growing properly and that things were on track…but also because I wanted it to be obvious to others that I was pregnant, not simply “round-tummied”.
I’ve struggled with that more than I’ve anticipated, catching myself holding my bump in public to make it obvious that I’m pregnant. Johnny has lovingly called me out on this, drawing attention to the fact that there’s no need for me to focus on the opinions or thoughts of others. I’ve been really working on this.
Really, it’s just God’s perspective that matters, and He has shown me He calls me beautiful. And, of course, Johnny’s perspective matters to me, too, and he has also reassured and shown me how beautiful he finds me, even when I can’t find a way to like what I see in the mirror and when I simply feel like a whale.
And, I hear the voice of my mom and therapists past and Johnny telling me that MY perspective matters, too. My confidence is a huge aspect of our intimacy in marriage as well as simply an important piece of my own wellbeing. I can’t say that I’ve 100% figured out how to live with the kind of confidence God wants me to…but I can say that I am learning and growing. It’s been amazing to treat my body well through nourishing foods and exercise that I love and focus on that, and how I feel, rather than on how I look.
And I know this is great for our marriage. If I were consumed by food, measuring, controlling throughout this pregnancy, I can’t imagine the toll that would take on us as we both worried about the baby. Knowing that I can trust myself, and Johnny can trust me, to feed myself and our child in this season is amazing in itself.
- Supporting one another
Being a pregnant first-time mother vs. being a first-time expecting father are two different things, yet we’re a team in it, expecting the same beautiful child. While my physical body, hormones, and brain are literally undergoing the biggest changes I’ve ever lived through, Johnny’s body, hormones, and brain aren’t experiencing any of those shifts. It’s important for both of us to recognize these differences and learn how to support one another where we’re at, not assuming that, just because I need support in a certain way means Johnny knows exactly what that is or that he needs the same thing.
It’s been important for us to communicate these differences. For example, I’ve been in a “nesting” mode pretty much since I entered the second trimester, while Johnny’s mind has been fixated on getting our basement renovations done so we can have the house (including the nursery) all set up. My energy has been focused more on reading books, listening to podcasts, and taking classes about birth and parenting, while Johnny’s has been more on preparing the house. Both of these focuses are important, and I’m grateful that we’ve both instinctively had different leanings; it makes us a great team! But, if we’re not careful, I might be tempted to think, “he doesn’t care about learning about birth and parenting”, and he might be tempted to think, “she doesn’t care about making sure the renovations get done.” By simply communicating where our priorities are, we can support each other to make sure ample time is spent on both. And ample time is needed for both!
In the same way, support for me looks a lot like Johnny giving my sore back a massage, tying my shoes for me, cuddling, listening to my emotions/fears and leading me to prayer, helping me remember important things (I’ve never been so forgetful!), etc. (and he’s been incredible in all of the above). Support for Johnny (I hope I’ve got this right!) looks like staying on top of my chores so he can focus well on basement renovations (he appreciates a clean house, so this is something I try to stay really on top of), celebrating all that he’s doing to prepare to be a father, helping him with basement renos when two hands aren’t enough, etc.
I think the biggest takeaway here is learning to communicate the support you need, and asking your partner how you can support them: not assuming.
- Expressing feelings
At least for me, expressing my feelings and emotions has been a big deal, always in our marriage, but it’s only amplified in pregnancy by raging new hormones and the biggest life changes you’ve ever experienced.
I’ve been blessed to not be too overly emotional during this pregnancy, but I have certainly had my moments (it’s been weird; I’ve had an “I-can’t-stop-crying-and-I-have-no-idea-why-I’m-crying” day about once every month). In those moments, Johnny has been so good at being the shoulder to cry on, unconditionally, without judgement. Just being there. Typically, I find that’s what I need. Another thing he’s amazing at is gently walking me through the tears to see if there is, in fact, some underlying reason for them that would be really good to get out and talk through with him. The most recent tear day was one in which the series The Land Before Time suddenly came to my mind, and I wanted to watch it. After YouTubing some of the songs and videos, I was an utter mess; I couldn’t contain my tears. Johnny asked what was going on, and I told him I had no idea. After some gentle questions and nurturing, it became clear to both of us that the tears were really coming from a place of melancholy: it felt like just yesterday that my mom was singing me those songs to help me sleep, that I was the little girl and she was the momma: and now, so soon, I’m about to have my own precious baby in my arms. It really helped to process those emotions with Johnny and for both of us to talk about our childhoods from there and move into getting excited about the baby together!
- Understanding we each have different ways of responding
From the beginning of this pregnancy, Johnny and I have certainly had different ways of expressing ourselves.
When I first saw those two lines on the pregnancy test, I just about had a complete freakout: screaming, crying, shaking, jumping up and down, dancing, thanking Jesus, just utterly shocked. When I ran down the stairs and chucked the test at Johnny, he was smiling ear to ear yet calm, cool, and collected. There was no jumping, no screaming, no shaking. And I know my husband well enough to know that a lot of that was likely happening on the inside; we just expressed what we were feeling in different ways. No one was more excited than the other.
I think this has been important for both of us to remember throughout this pregnancy. While I often physically cry just thinking about holding our baby, Johnny’s not much of a crier, but still often comments on how he can’t wait to see and hold our son. While I can often be so far in the future in terms of planning, Johnny is much better at living in the present and not sweating the small stuff. It’s important to recognize the ways we express emotions differently so we don’t respond out of assumption that one person’s emotion isn’t enough.
- Learning to be a team of parents
It’s easy for me to retreat into my own corner of pregnancy/parenting books, podcasts, and classes without letting Johnny in on what I’m thinking through and praying through. Perhaps it’s because, for the majority of my life, I didn’t have a spouse. But, oh, it is glorious to have someone I’m not only CALLED to do life with, but that I’m ONE with: and that I LOVE to do life with. We’re not meant to go it alone; anything that God is putting on my heart to read, anything He’s speaking to me through or that I’m learning in a book, etc. is worth sharing with Johnny. It’s also worth inviting him in to take part in the reading/classes, lots of which we’ve been doing together.
I have said many times just being pregnant how much more it’s grown my respect for single parents, because I simply can’t imagine doing this without my partner. I know how much God honours and sees and admonishes the often lowly, humble, highly respectable work of parents, and my prayer for single parents is that they would find in Jesus the most perfect partner of all.
And for couple parents: my prayer is that you would know you have a teammate, and that you would truly be a cohesive parent team. Of course I’m saying this without any parenting experience, but, I do now have experience navigating the many decisions that come with pregnancy, and oh how much more wonderful that has been to do with Johnny as my head, my partner, my best friend.