READER’S QUESTION: "I am looking for advice on how to get my husband to understand that I am struggling because of pregnancy symptoms and to get him to be a bit more sympathetic.
I am 7.5 months pregnant and have an active 15 month old. Last pregnancy, I was able to do the stretches, exercises that I needed to, to keep my back straight all the time, and to never lay on my back. This time, after taking my toddler to the beaches, playgrounds, parks several times a day, cleaning the house, cloth diapering, sewing newborn clothes, etc. – I am just exhausted. I am already tired after waking up to be honest because I can't sleep through the night for various reasons, and it's getting difficult to breathe in the summer humidity.
My husband is a great man and husband, but he lacks the ability to sympathize. He keeps asking why I am not doing exercises to prepare for labor, why am I laying on my back, and overall is a bit judgmental whenever I can't even sit and just knit. He is the kind of person who never just sits and does nothing as he believes it to be a waste of life, and generally I agree with him. But I just can't do stuff right now as I am in constant pain and am constantly tired.
How do you get across something that another person cannot experience? I want to get the message across in one go as we are both tired of me constantly repeating/reminding him that my legs, back, and pelvis hurt, etc."
EVIE’S ADVICE: Being pregnant with your second child is a completely different experience than being pregnant with your first. During your first pregnancy, you’re able to relax, take a bath, and prepare what you need to (for birthing and beyond) on your own time. Now that you have a toddler, these simple luxuries often just aren’t possible without the help of another person (whether that’s your husband or parents/in-laws).
If he can't sympathize with your current situation, then maybe an exchange of labor would make more sense to him. You can tell him you want to do the stretches and exercises to prepare for birth and help ease any discomfort you’re feeling, but you can't do that at the same time as chasing your toddler. Ask him to take your toddler to the park after he gets home from work or give him/her a bath at a specific time each day while you do the stretches. Or you can tell him that you would love to clean the house, and if he put the toddler to bed tonight, then you would have some time to do that. Getting your husband more involved in childcare will help him to experience and thus understand how exhausting it is, plus it will help him to better bond with your toddler and he'll be more prepared to assist you when your newborn comes.
You might need to make some lifestyle compromises so you have more time to rest or prepare for birth.
Creating a human life can be exhausting in and of itself, and it’s such a unique experience for each woman. You can complain all day long about how your body is aching and how tired you are, but unfortunately, your husband is never going to be able to fully sympathize because he isn’t going through it himself. Use your experience to help you bond with other women who have or are going through the same experience! Whether that’s your mom, your MIL, sisters, friends, or even a Facebook group online for moms pregnant with their second child. There are super niche groups you can join for virtual support if you don’t have people in your life who can sympathize. However, a word of advice with reaching out to anyone to bond over this experience: Use it to bond with them and to feel less alone in your journey, not to complain about or bash your husband. The latter can become extremely toxic and harmful to your relationship, and that’s the last thing you need when welcoming a new child into your family.
Also, you might need to make some other compromises, like borrowing or buying secondhand baby clothes you need instead of making them or using disposable diapers, so you have more time to rest or prepare for birth. Make a list of your priorities right now – maybe doing labor stretches or taking a bath during your toddler’s nap should take precedence over making baby clothes from scratch. If you’re able to hire help like a maid once a week or even once a month to deep clean the house, or a babysitter a couple of times a week to help for a few hours while you get things done, these can be game changers as well. They might require some shifting in your budget, but if you and your husband are both feeling overwhelmed while preparing for your baby’s arrival, it could be worth it. These don't have to be permanent lifestyle changes either, just temporary until you've transitioned into the next season of life.
Lastly, be open with your communication and don’t expect it to be a one-time conversation that will magically remove the barrier between you and allow him to see things from your perspective. An inability to sympathize over pregnancy pains is one thing – it can be hard when it's completely outside his experience – but an inability to sympathize in general is a whole other animal. If you think the latter describes your husband, we would recommend seeking marriage counseling, as that lack of sympathy will continue to affect your marriage and his relationship with your children. Trying to "get the message across in one go" will not work.
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