Every pregnancy and partner is different, but the silver bullet for this question is to take on some of her mental load and take action. Below are a few guiding principles I found successful during our first pregnancy that I have passed along to friends going through the process. I can tell you that if you are reading this now, you are already doing an important thing to support your partner.
The most important thing you can do is help or support them immediately, so don't wait for her to ask. Pregnancy is a big deal, and whether it is the first or one of several, it is a lot of work for your partner in addition to everything else going on in life. I guarantee she's tired, and simple things go a long way. Start doing more around the house, help with errands, and take something off her plate. My goal was to do everything I could to make my partner's life easier and her day more restful. This will put more on you, but don't forget that they are growing a little person and you doing more dishes or laundry is the least you can do. You are also probably the person who knows your partner best so think about what she likes and enjoys. If your partner likes trash TV, give up watching SportsCenter, watch with her, and offer a foot rub. If she likes surprises, take the lead on planning random dates, whether it is taking in a show or just making her favorite meal. When all else fails, encourage her to take a nap or go to bed early. Pregnancy is exhausting! Also, I've never known of a partner getting in trouble for bringing flowers, even if they are from the grocery store. Starting to support your partner early is good because it will also prepare you for all the support you will need to give them during labor and after the baby is born. Once you start, don't stop, but don't be afraid to ask for any support you might need.
Talk with your partner and listen to her. A lot is going on, and there will be many things you will need to discuss about the pregnancy and what comes after. When communicating, always remember that your partner is still working on your little one, so they may be distracted or emotional. Sometimes they will need to vent or talk about fears or expectations with respect to pregnancy or being a parent. You won't be able to solve this, so be a sounding board. Now is not the time to try and calm them down or solve a perceived problem. It probably took me longer than my wife would have liked to recognize this, but now I know that the phrase "you've got this" and "I am here for you" go a long way. It would help if you also communicated about anything you're doing to support her. Jumping in and doing stuff is great, but if your partner gets joy from going to the grocery store or cooking a meal, taking that job may not be as helpful. I tried to ask my wife every couple of weeks if there was something else I could help take off her plate or do to help her more, and she liked me checking in with her. Communication is still a two-way street, so you should still make time to talk about your concerns and feelings. Almost everything right now is focused on your partner, but you are an integral part and should talk with her and others you trust about what is going on with you and any concerns or issues.
For our baby, my partner was worried about falling down the rabbit hole of the internet and baby books with all the information about what can go wrong. There is a lot of good information out there, but also a lot of scary stuff. If your partner has a similar propensity, take over the mental load and start reading books and articles about pregnancy. There is a lot out there for you too, but taking on the mental load is an excellent way to help. For me, the Expectant Father by Armin Brott was the perfect thing as it provided a healthy mix of partner-specific suggestions and ideas while explaining what was going on with my wife and the baby. I read a week ahead of where we were in our pregnancy every Sunday and was able to answer lots of questions and address my wife's concerns about things that were going on with her and the baby. This took some of the mental load off of her and was good for me to understand better what was going on while preventing panicked phone calls to her care provider. It may be time-consuming, and you may not usually take time to read, but this can make a world of difference to your stress levels and will help you be way more involved in the process.
4. Start Preparing for D-Day (Delivery Day)
The last 6-8 weeks of pregnancy can be overwhelming, and if you are like us, your baby may come early. Thankfully we were already packed, but this is a lesson that I pass along to each pregnant friend, along with the list of stuff we took to the hospital. There are many great places to find these lists, including Poppylist, but look at lots of different ones and then build one that works for you and your partner.
You can do many other things, but hopefully, this gets you started and thinking about what you and your partner need. Just remember that you are capable, and you are already setting yourself up to be a better partner and parent by asking how you can be supportive.
Article and Words by: Jase B., an attorney and very happy new father in Austin, Texas.