By: Dr. Gregory Popcak
I would guess that when couples say those words, “For better or worse…sickness and health…” few couples think of pregnancy complications. We, understandably, tend to have fairly romantic views of pregnancy and when things don’t go as planned it can be one of the most difficult hardships for couples to endure. Regardless of the cause of your difficult pregnancy, there are some strategies that couples can use to make sure they get through the challenges together.
No doubt you’re praying for the health and well-being of both mom and baby, but make sure to ask God to help you and your spouse be present to each other, take excellent care of each other, and support each other through the challenges of the next few months. Praying together about the well-being of your marriage in addition to the health of mom and baby will open up the channels of grace that remind you that you are each other’s best hope for getting through this trial well. God has given you as a gift to one another. Don’t forget to ask him to teach you how to be present to one another in ways that matter most and prevent either of you from feeling alone throughout the pregnancy.
Encouraging each other doesn’t mean being phony cheerleaders or making promises you can’t keep about how “everything is going to be just fine.” It means saying things like, “I am here for you.” “I love you.” “We can get through anything together.” “I’m so in love with you.” “Don’t you dare ever think you could be a burden to me” and “I’m so grateful you’re my husband/wife.”
3. Be Honest
When a couple goes through stressful times, they tend to want to isolate and not burden each other with their feelings. She doesn’t want to burden him with her fears about the baby because he’s already doing so much to pick up the slack from the things she can’t do. He doesn’t want to burden her with his loneliness, or fear, or frustration, from not being able to do anything to make things better. All I can do is encourage you to talk, talk, and then, when you’re done, talk some more. The more open you can be with your feelings the more you know where each other stands and how you can be present to one another. If you keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself, you will start to feel alone, isolated, depressed and, irritable. You don’t want to be any of these things when you are going through a challenging time. These feelings tend to shut down your thinking brain and kick your feeling brain into high gear. Pretty soon, you’re reacting to everything and you don’t even know why. Talking things out keeps the feelings in front of you and enables you to respond to concerns promptly and effectively.
This is the time when little acts of kindness are going to matter a lot. Look for small ways to demonstrate your loving care for one another. In my book, For Better…FOREVER! I recommend the LoveList Exercise. Write down 25 small things (love notes, taking out the garbage, getting the door for me, holding my hand, taking walks with me, calling me from work to say, “I love you.”) that make you feel cherished. Exchange the lists. Every day, try to do at least 1-2 things on the list for each other. Don’t keep score. Just take care to be as present and loving to one another as you can manage. Knowing that, despite all the stress, you took 2 minutes to call in the middle of the workday and say, “I just wanted to take a minute to tell you that I love you and to pray that you have a great rest of your day” can mean the difference between a terrible day and a day that might be challenging but bearable because of your care for one another.
5. Seek Help
Friends and family often don’t know what to say to a couple going through a difficult pregnancy and what they do say often makes things worse. Don’t let that stop you from reaching out to family and friends who do know how to support you. Also, organizations like ElizabethMinistry.com can be a tremendous help to moms, especially, who are going through difficult pregnancies. Visit their website to learn more about all the resources and supports they offer. Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for temporal support like meals or help keeping up the house. Good nutrition and an orderly environment can be a huge blessing to mom in particular, especially if she doesn’t have to do it! Likewise, even if there isn’t a crisis (in fact, especially if there isn’t a crisis) getting good counseling can help decrease your stress, manage differences and conflict more effectively, empower you to overcome your anxiety and, in general, enable you to do whatever is necessary to create the best environment for your baby in the womb and the best environment for the two of you on the outside. Don’t forget to ask your pastor for Anointing of the Sick for both you and your baby. Make use of this sacrament of healing to receive all the graces God wants to grant you.
There is no way to dress it up. Problem pregnancies are scary, frustrating, and difficult times for both the husband and the wife. But the more you can respond to the challenges together the more you will come to experience this as a time when you grew closer together because you managed to stand at each other’s side, bear each other’s burdens, and learn deeper and more powerful ways to be present to each other. No one wants the hard times, but if you can face them together, you will see the wonders that God can do in your hearts even through the most challenging experiences of your life together. Be not afraid. Know that God is the Lord of all. Know that you love each other. And when you’re tired, lean on him and each other.
If you and your spouse are struggling with a challenging pregnancy and need additional support, call your PaxCare Tele-Coach today and get the help you are seeking. Call us to get the skills you and your family need to succeed.