Pregnancy can be so transformative; changing everything from your body to the way your brain works to what kind of person you are and who you want to be. It can be amazing, horrible, exciting, scary, intense, delightful, sad, and hilarious all at the same time. It can teach you what you are and are not capable of, and it teaches you many of these things about your partner and your relationship, too. In my experience, there are definitely things you can only learn about your marriage during a pregnancy.
During my first two pregnancies, I learned so much about my now ex-husband. Mostly not good. Would he be OK with not having sex as frequently? Nope. Was he interested in learning how to perform basic parenting tasks? Nope. Was he a self-absorbed person who prioritized looks and outward appearances over a healthy, stable relationship and home? Sadly, yes. These things (and much more) became clear and, ultimately, were things we weren't able to overcome. I now know that learning these things about my partner and our relationship was actually pretty important. Rather than bringing us together, though, pregnancy pushed us apart.
Now, that I am re-married and pregnant again, I have again learned so much about my husband and our relationship; mostly good this time. We've had to overcome some pretty stressful and scary situations, some pretty gross moments, and some pretty silly arguments. Most importantly, I have seen him step up and keep our marriage and our family running smoothly, when I wasn't able to contribute at the same level as before. He's made me feel great about my changing body, and he's shown me moments of pure love involving vomit and other bodily fluids. Ultimately, I have learned that I can count on him, and it has brought us closer than I ever imagined.
How Well (Or Not Well) You Deal With Stress
From the moment you pee on a pregnancy test or worry about a missed period until, well, the end of freaking time, pregnancy means stress. Not just stress about the changes to come to your family, but stress on your body, finances, health, career, plans, sex life, relationship and probably every aspect of your lives together. Whether you want to or not, you'll find out if you are in this together and can cope with the stress of pregnancy and the prospect of parenting.
Your Level Of Commitment
Generally marriage involves a statement of mutual commitment, but does that commitment extend to helping someone literally grow a human? Including holding their hair back while they puke, watching them freak out about pregnancy symptoms (while trying not to freak out yourself), administering massages (or enemas), and letting them cling to you emotionally and physically like baby possums, while experiencing intense mood swings and physical changes?
And on the flip side, does that commitment extend to being completely honest about physical and emotional changes, needs, wants, fears, and being willing to gently teach someone how to help you?
How Superficial Is Your Love?
Will your partner still love you if you gain 50 lbs? 100? How about if you won't let them touch your boobs (or anything else) for months? Or if you can't or don't want to have sex? And if your love can't handle these changes, can it survive raising a human together?
Just How Important Is Sex, Anyway?
Speaking of sex, is sex something you can live without? Or something you can imagine changing? Will your pregnancy mean that you want sex more or not at all? Will your partner be into you when your body changes or be OK with letting you or even your obstetrics provider call the shots about when sex happens? Are you OK with the idea of sex becoming a less spontaneous event? Most importantly: can you talk about these things openly with your partner?
How Flexible You Are (Or Aren't)
In my case, pregnancy has changed my schedules (work, home, life), my ability to work the same amount and even at the same job (I'm not teaching many fitness classes in my third trimester) and some nights, my ability stay awake past dinnertime. My husband and I have had to make a lot of changes and our relationship definitely looks different now than it did 10 months ago.
Are Traditional Gender Roles Important To You?
If you are married to a man, is he willing to do traditional "women's work" in your household if you get to a point when you can't do the things you used to do? Is he interested in learning to change diapers or do late night bottle feedings? Will he vacuum the floor when you can't see your feet? Or rub your feet when they hurt? If not, that's OK, as long as he's willing to agree to a cleaning service, prenatal massage, and nanny (I jest). Pregnancy is definitely a time when you get to figure these things out. How fun.
How Creative You Are
And not just in the bedroom. Can you change the way you love and support each other when everything changes? And when it's about to dramatically change again once baby is here? Just how good are you at creative problem solving?
How To Get Through Intense Experiences Together
I really thought I knew my husband well before I got pregnant, but pregnancy really teaches you about extremes. The joy of learning you are going to be parents, the fear of pregnancy loss, the uncertainty of a complicated test result, the intensity of a late-night trip to the hospital; these moments teach you so much about yourself and your partner.
How To Have Challenging Conversations
Then, there's the things you've never had to talk about, until you are forced to. Scary things like vaginal bleeding or preterm labor. Painful things like morning sickness or ligament pain. Gross things like constipation or discharge. Intense things like what to do if you receive an incompatible with life diagnosis. Decisions about pregnancy, childbirth, parenting, and your marriage after baby. So many conversations.
How To Budget And Talk About Money
Kids are freaking expensive, and having a baby means you probably will need to adjust your budget. Since finances are a main reason why couples fight and pregnancy means these conversations will need to happen whether we like it or not, it can teach you a lot about how to have conversations about money without losing your sh*t.
You Are On The Same Team
Ultimately, pregnancy can drive couples apart, but it can also bring them closer. I have learned so much about my husband and our marriage this time around, but mostly that we are on each other's team, no matter what, and I am so glad to be embarking on this chaotic, amazing, painful, exciting, gross, and beautiful journey with him.