A few years ago, a woman was interviewing me to be her doula. I asked her how she felt I could best serve her in the birth room. She explained that she wanted me to support, nurture and coach her, which is part of what a doula does.
“How can your husband help you best”? I then asked her. She explained, “Just him being there is enough to make me feel safe.” She then added, “I love my husband beyond words and as amazing he is at a lot of things, being present in the moment and calming is not his strength. In fact, that’s why I want to hire you.”
Smart girl, I thought. This woman knew who this man of hers was, and instead of asking him to be or do something he isn’t, she adjusted her energy by finding me to help her in areas that are out of his comfort zone. How many times do we try to get our partners to show up in ways that they just aren’t capable of?
We all have our strengths as well as our limits to what we are capable of giving, being and doing. I’m not saying don’t ask for what you need — definitely do — it’s important to give them a chance to come through. But after a while, like my teacher Michele Meiche always says , ” if you keep trying to get apples from an orange tree you will be frustrated and never satisfied “. No one person can be everything — we all have different strengths , weaknesses , limits , roles and parts to play. Asking your partner to be“everything” is totally unrealistic and a lot of pressure and responsibility to put onto one another.
Here are some things you can do to have more realistic expectations of your partner and have your needs met during and after childbirth:
Before the birth, make a list of your partners’ strengths. So often, we point out to our partners what they are doing wrong instead of what’s right with them. It’s best to focus on the positive.
With this list, create ways for your partner to be able help you during birth and after. By focusing on their strengths and where they shine, they will be able to easily do what you ask and feel good about helping.
Know their limits. Like I said above, no one person can give you everything you need. Make a list of your partner’s limits and from this list, write ways that you can you adjust your energy accordingly. Example: One of my clients has a nurturing, loving husband that’s a great father but he can’t clean or cook at all. Instead of asking him to help out in those areas, she hands the baby over to him and cooks, has food delivered or has her mother or sister come help. On the same note, give them a chance — ask for what you need. If they aren’t able to meet your needs, grab your list and put another plan in motion.
Be a team player. Create a list of values, morals and parenting styles. Even though you’re on the same team, not all players on the team have the same jobs. In most relationships there is a yin /yang energy — one is stronger in certain areas where the other might be weaker. When playing together on a team, this opposite or difference completes and strengthens the team as a whole. Both you and your partner should write out the way you hope to parent, your values and morals you wish to bring into your family and come up with a game plan.
Patch it up. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “I’m hoping after the baby is born my partner will change and our relationship will get better”. I’m here to tell you to clean up your relationship and work on healing your relationship before you have your baby. If there are already existing problems, having a new baby will be like adding salt to a wound. Go to therapy, talk with each other about your needs, do the above exercises together and practice excepting who they are now instead of who they aren’t or wish they would be. People only change when they are ready and want to change .