Pregnancy, to say nothing of the little humans that ensue from such a condition, can be overwhelming. There's a lot going on, physically, emotionally, and in your lives. It's perfectly normal to want to maintain the peace within a relationship during this time by any means possible. But, when it comes down to it, there will be
fights you'll be glad you had during pregnancy with your partner. Because some things are better to get out of the way sooner rather than later. I'm from New England and therefore have a natural aversion to confrontation and flagrant displays of negative emotions. ('Round these parts we just swallow all those bad feelings until they form a seething ball of rage and sorrow deep in our bellies... and then we try to calm that rage and sorrow with a coffee from Dunkies.) But, ideally, these won't be fights so much as spirited discussions. Then again, hormones are raging, stakes are high, and opinions are strong, so it's totally normal that there should be a fight or two in the mix. That's cool because, hey, we're only human.
So what are some of the Big Important Issues that should turn into Big Emotional Fights (or, you know Calm But Passionate Discussions if you can manage it) before you give birth? Here are some to get you started:
Getting Real About A Serious Personal Or Interpersonal Issue That You've Been Too Afraid To Truly Discuss Before
I'm not talking about how one of you always forgets to turn off the light when you leave a room and the other one consistently puts a new roll of toilet paper
on the old roll instead of replacing it (though this is basically a war crime, IMHO). Those are little things. I'm talking about depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or big problems in your relationship that you both know exist but don't discuss because it's manageable. Because those issues, the ones that are just barely tolerable now? Those are going to get intolerable really quickly. A lot of people think a baby will fix their problems, but the truth of the matter is that they exacerbate them. After baby everyone is tired, overwhelmed, and incredibly busy, but those problems still exist only now you're less physically and emotionally equipped to begrudgingly ignore them.
It sucks, but you're going to be glad you hashed it out
before your baby was born. You may not have everything figured out beforehand, but broaching the subject and putting in some work ahead of time is a great start. General Parenting Philosophies
I mean, everyone
thinks they have parenting figured out before they actually have kids (I certainly did), and then you jointly look back on it and laugh and laugh. But that doesn't mean that "figuring it out" ahead of time —talking about your goals, philosophies, discipline methods, etc. — is useless. It's good to know what your partner (and you) believes and what's important to them, and there's value in hashing out some of your differences.
This isn't to say those thoughts and goals won't change once you have an actual baby in front of you, but it's useful to at least be aware of where everyone's coming from.
very least have it narrowed down to a Top 3 by the time you go into labor. Because no major decision should be made with that many hormones surging plus a crying baby thrown in the mix. Fight about whether you're going to name them after their great uncle Mortimer or your personal favorite, Spiritsong, when you're pregnant. Or even before then. (True story: both of our kids were named a solid five years before I even got pregnant with the first.) Whether Or Not You Want To Circumcise Your Son
Obviously if you know you're having a girl this is a non-issue (since
female "circumcision" is illegal in the US for anyone under the age of 18), but if you know ahead of time that you're having a boy, it's pretty important since circumcision is generally a pretty permanent decision. Even if you're "Team Green" you should be prepared on this one by discussing (and potentially arguing) about it beforehand. You won't necessarily have a ton of time to think about it before you will be presented with the decision after birth — hospital stays average two to five days and Jewish tradition dictates that a circumcision should be performed eight days after birth. It's better to have a little longer to consider it if you're on the fence (or have differing opinions on the subject). Maternity Leave Plans
Again, it's much better to get the big disagreements out of the way
before you're in the thick of it. Coordinating parental leave can be really hard, especially in the United States where there are no really good protections for it (unless you're fortunate enough to live in a particular location that has enacted city or state rules, or work for a terrific employer), but better to do the hard stuff before you have the added hard stuff of dealing with a newborn. Visitor Schedules
If your partner just had a baby and you, non-gestational partner, are not playing "bad cop" and
telling people they can't visit or have to leave, then whatever argument you avoided not having this discussion during their pregnancy will be visited upon you a hundred-fold for the duration of your relationship. She will always tell the story about how your mother swooped in and wouldn't leave and how you did nothing about it.
Discuss this, argue about it, and then everyone just accept the fact that the person who just delivered a child has the final word and deal with it.
How Household Chores Are Currently Divided
Because if things are uneven before baby, without intervention and rearrangement of responsibilities, they're only going to get
more uneven, often in an untenable manner that will eventually come to a head and turn into a huge argument (one that has likely gathered some other issues along the way). It's not worth it. Head that all off at the pass and dish it out now. Complain to one another about who does what, re-organize tasks, and put a tentative plan in place for when the baby comes. Because you'd be surprised how quickly one partner will take on the lion's share of responsibilities (and, let's face it, when you're talking about a heterosexual couple it's usually the mom). Financial Goals
Trust me, I get it. There is little in this world that stresses me out more than discussing money, even under good circumstances. I hate it. But babies are expensive, dudes. So it's important to go into this endeavor on the same page about savings, spending, and goals. This can be especially hard when both partners have different philosophies on how to manage funds... or have a cash flow problem.
Having a baby can sometimes throw a wrench in your current living situation. Maybe your neighborhood is great for you pre-pregnancy, but the late-night carousers from the local pub and lack of a nearby playgrounds will be a problem moving forward. Maybe you're very happy in a studio apartment now, but there isn't really much room for a crib. Or maybe your changes are even more deeply lifestyle-based: maybe you've always dreamed of
raising your child in the country. Or closer to your parents.
Maybe you and your partner have very different ideas about what the future should look like.
This is a good conversation to have before the baby arrives... ideally before you even get pregnant. It may be an argument (you should have seen me cry when I finally admitted we couldn't afford to raise a child in New York City) but it's one you sort of have to have.
A Fight In Which One Of You Is Drunk & One Of You Is Sober
Because when you deal with that you'll have a pretty good idea as to what it's like to argue with a child, and that's something no one should go into cold.