Husband & Wife Articles


Pregnancy Primer

The author, seven months pregnant, offers 5 tips from the front lines

By Maryan Vander Woude

“The tests show that you have an antibody that may fight your baby’s blood, so you need to go to the hospital right away for more testing.”

That was my doctor telling me that after nine pregnancies and five live births, my husband and I had developed a rare blood incompatibility. The prognosis for this antibody ranged from the “no problem at all” to “life-threatening anemia.” I hung up, called my husband and cried. We spent the next few weeks plumbing the full meaning of the word “peri-na-to-lo-gist,” and began the journey of a high-risk pregnancy.

Dan and Maryan gather their gang together, with one on the way.

Dan and Maryan gather their gang together, with one on the way.

God blessed our high-risk adventure with a happy, pink conclusion as our first daughter, Marion, entered into our blue world of five sons in November 2010. She has been completely spoiled by her brothers, and will soon be surrounded by another blue sibling as Dan and I are expecting boy number 6 in May. I am at the end of another high-risk pregnancy, but the second time around is easier than the first.

Navigating nine months of “high risk” taught us to add a few more principles to our “how to survive pregnancy” list. We’ve discovered that although every pregnancy is different, some principles apply to all.

Here are some tips for husbands and wives from a couple who has been through joy and loss:

A sense of humor is essential. Be prepared. The blessed, the bizarre, and the difficult will happen during the nine months. Laughter helps it all and helps keep you flexible. A note to husbands: pregnancy hormones do crazy things to a wife, including intensify her sense of smell. Keep your sense of humor about the keen nose (and other pregnancy quirks) and joke about how all the people in the house (including you) will need to brush their teeth on the hour and bathe twice daily to humor the expectant Queen Bee.

Read up but not too much. Books on pregnancy number in the hundreds! (My favorite is actually a journal of the baby’s development.) However, a word of caution about reading is necessary: knowledge is your friend, but don’t read or believe everything on the internet. Or on television. I really, really, really don’t recommend watching birth stories; they are edited to be dramatic! Fear does nothing to help pregnancy! We have found a standard pregnancy manual and natural child birth classes (like Bradley) to be very helpful, but only and always coupled with a sense of flexibility. For example, most of what we learned in Bradley had to be thrown out the window for High Risk Birth #6! How it all is going to happen is in God’s hands. While high risk has changed our options for delivery, our goal for each delivery is the same: happy baby in mama’s arms.

Food and sleep are essential. Mom, you need all the physical strength you can get! This pregnant woman has found that the only thing that stops morning, noon, and night sickness is to eat all the time – including the middle of the night. Some foods, like salads, contain many B vitamins to help the nausea. Binge on those. Do not believe the books and think that crackers will help you get through the morning; it’s a lie, at least for me. Dads, be ready and willing to make and buy whatever food it takes to make your wife feel good. Moreover, moms, try to apply the same principle to sleep as well: pregnancy is the time for you and sleep to become best friends. The only problem is that at nine months along, sleep becomes difficult. Don’t worry. Cute baby is coming soon, and you’ll sleep less! You’re just getting practice in sleeplessness. (Go back and read principle #1 again.)

Don’t forget your marriage. “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.” Give your marriage priority even in pregnancy! Husbands, you can’t tell your pregnant wife that she look beautiful too many times. A wife can easily be consumed with worry in a pregnancy; a husband’s assurance goes a long way to calm those fears. And wives, be so appreciative of your husbands. Let them know they are still first. The journey through pregnancy takes teamwork, make sure you keep that focus and make time for each other, even if it’s just a date on the couch with a cup of coffee.

Finally and most importantly. Pregnancy is a good time to become devout. Pregnancy makes you feel very close to the Holy Family and incredibly aware of what a huge blessing and responsibility our good Lord has given you! Remember that pregnancy and parenthood require an extreme amount of divine assistance; be sure to ask for it often. Even high-risk pregnancies are gifts hand-selected for you by God. An increased prayer life assists moms and dads to see sufferings through spiritual eyes. Mom, keep a novena book handy throughout pregnancy. Dad, you will learn the humility of St. Joseph as you watch your wife go through a nine month event that you can only cheerlead. If you are feeling left out, don’t worry. You’ll have plenty to do when the baby’s born!

Maryan Vander Woude, wife to Dan and mom of seven children (one unborn), blogs about their adventures at A Lee in the Woudes.