Last week, thanks to my father-in-law, I learned a very valuable lesson: Never use the word "matronly" to describe a pregnant woman. When my father-in-law tried to correct himself and used the word "motherly" to describe his daughter, it seemed to make things worse. It's been a week, and my wife is still talking about it. It made me realize a man needs all his wits to survive a first pregnancy with his relationship intact. These are my Top 7 Pregnancy Survival Tips:
Rule 1 - Learn Proper Vocabulary: 'The Bump'
I encourage use of the word "bump." Never use the word "lump" by accident (I did once, but managed to persuade her that she'd misheard). A bump can be described as: tidy, neat, compact or trim. Never as: swollen, uneven, wide or 'in the way.' Telling your pregnant wife that she doesn't look pregnant from behind is always a good idea. And if you're tired from all the disrupted nights, reading a book out loud to the bump is a great way of getting everyone to sleep.
Rule 2 - Beware the Anxiety
To a pregnant woman, the world becomes more dangerous than a tiger on a unicycle. Seemingly innocent foods like pineapple are suddenly cervix-softening poison. And accidentally eating some Brie will end in hours of self-recrimination. To a pregnant woman, even the blandest-looking Cheddar is possibly unpasteurized and anyone with a cough looks like they're incubating Pertussis. Remember, whilst your wife may appear to be developing Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it all makes perfect evolutionary sense. If men had to bear children, the human species would never have survived. So be prepared to do whatever research is necessary to ease her worries. And above all -- never let her do her own research (see "Rule 6 - Parenting Forums" below). Our thinking when we created Nanny App™ was to eliminate anxiety completely. It doesn't quite manage that (nothing could!) but it does give authoritative, reassuring answers to all the questions and worries new moms and pregnant women have.
Rule 3 - Mind These No's No's
Never ask her if she is retaining water, losing her posture or eating too much. Never assume she'll drive just because she's not drinking. Never tell her she looks unwell. Never tell her she looks tired, or needs to 'take it easy for the sake of the baby.' Never look worried when she tells you she ate some chicken liver patￃﾩ (in fact, never allow yourself to look worried no matter what happens -- it will only make the situation worse). Never laugh at the size of her new maternity bra. Never tell her you find parenting books boring. Never suggest that her friend/sister/mother would make a better birth partner than you (even if you think it's true).
Rule 4 - Nest
First, there will be a wave of baby magazines. Next, you will notice your wife has started ripping pages out of them. Then you'll notice she is spending hours at a time browsing the Internet. The final stage is when she presents you with a list of all the things you never realized you needed (including a roof box for the car to carry it all). With infallible logic, she will be able to explain why the $799 Stokke baby cot is better value than the $99 Ikea version (it turns into a bed, apparently -- but I'm sceptical). The phrase, "let's think about it" will become your bank account's best friend. And be warned: You might think it's a good idea to stem the buying by mentioning the environmental impact of all the stuff you are about to buy. This will NOT encourage her to buy less stuff. She will simply buy stuff that it is eco-sourced and twice the price.
Rule 5 - Make a Date Night
You may notice that your erudite, fascinating wife starts devoting her entire conversation to one subject. Never tell your wife that you are not interested in the washing instructions for bamboo breast pads. Never try to the change the subject if she suggests you read her book on hypno-birthing. Instead, if there is a pause in the conversation, suggest that it might be good to de-stress by having a break from thinking about the baby. Suggest a weekly "Date Night" where the baby isn't mentioned. It will do you both the world of good.
Rule 6 - Steer Clear of Parenting Forums
Whoever invented the Parenting Forum should face prosecution. Not only are they dangerous (I once read a mom who recommended that "smoking is fine as long as you don't do it in the first trimester"), they also spread fear and anxiety like a plague. You will, at some point, find your wife reading a parenting forum. Usually in tears as she reads about the symptoms of 'slapped cheek disease' or toxoplasmosis. As a rule of thumb, expect to spend two hours re-assuring your wife for every 1 hour she spends on a parenting forum.
Rule 7 - Empathize
Remember, your wife is doing all the hard work. And being pregnant is HARD. A man can only guess what the combination of nausea, sleep-deprivation, anxiety, exhilaration and constipation really feels like. The closest a man can get is sailing single-handed across the south pacific whilst eating Imodium. But if you don't fancy that, a friend suggested this simple experiment: find a cat or small dog, tuck it up your jumper and see how you feel after a couple hours. I tried it with our spaniel. And after 20 seconds, I decided I could be a lot more sympathetic.