Having a baby is not for the faint of heart. Not only is pregnancy messy, yucky, and uncomfortable, but having a baby can bring up tough and uncomfortable questions for a couple. It goes a long way if you and your partner can be as open as possible when it comes to talking about the more difficult parts of pregnancy and having a baby. Some of the things you should be able to talk to your partner about before having a baby can range from the super personal, like your own pregnant body, to philosophies on parenting.
I had thought my husband and I had everything covered before our first son was born, and that our communication skills had been top notch. Boy, was I wrong. We quickly learned that while we had painstakingly gone over our unique opinions on which bassinet to buy and why I preferred a velcro swaddle to the do-it-yourself, there were a lot of things we had not discussed in enough detail at all, like diapers and childcare. And you know when the worst time to have an epic fight is? When you're running on basically no sleep and there's a newborn scream-crying into your neck while simultaneously spitting up on you.
Which is why, when we had our second son, I made sure we really covered all the bases. We talked about everything I could imagine, more than once, to make sure we truly were on the same page about everything. I don't think there were any surprises this time because we talked everything to death. What can I say? We like being prepared and constant communication works for us. Hopefully with some of these markers of what to talk about ahead of time, you'll feel prepared, too.
So, for anyone that might be unfamiliar with what's gonna happen when you have a baby, let me tell you a little nugget of wisdom: there are going to be lots of things having to do with your genitals. Your vagina is something that will be up for discussion, up for inspection, and on display on the regular, so if you're not cool with discussing your "delicate flower" you may want to start having some desensitization sessions with yourself on the topic.
You may consider also being able to talk about your partner's genitals, because it is very likely they had something to do with your baby being here, too. If your baby is born with genitals that are different from yours, and that makes you uncomfortable, you might consider getting the "ick" out of your system before the baby comes along and you give them a complex about their private parts being "weird."
Unpleasant Bodily Functions
Whoo boy. There are going to be some nasty bodily functions in your future when you're pregnant, so get ready for a wild ride on the pregnant lady gas machine. It is not fun or pretty.
What really threw me and my husband were my epic pregnancy burps. They were so awful I was pretty sure I caused whatever small woodland hanging out nearby our home to run and seek shelter miles away, thinking that an awful ogre was coming to eat them. Imagine if I had been too embarrassed to burp in front of my husband, and held it in day and night until he'd left for work the next day. I can't even think about how much effort that would have taken or what that would have done to my body. I probably would have exploded. It was much healthier for me to be able to talk about it, joke about what a disgusting human being I was, and have him reassure me that he loved me anyway, gross burps and all.
What You Expect From One Another In Terms Of Parenting Involvement
It is dangerous to assume that parenting duties are automatically going to be an even 50/50 split. If you're waiting for baby to arrive to see where you're partner is at in terms of his or her willingness to be a participating co-parent, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment. To me, it would be like going into a business venture without dividing each person's work duties and expected contributions. There's no reason why this cannot be an explicit conversation to be had ahead of time of the baby's birthday.
My husband and I had a very frank talk about how I would be home and he would be at work. He was the breadwinner of the two of us and I was doing freelance jobs at the time. It made financial sense and fit into the lifestyle we wanted for our family, as we both really liked the idea of me being with the baby most of the day. But we also talked about how he would do the last feeding of the day while I went to sleep before my first "night shift" of breastfeeding when the baby woke up. We also talked about how the mornings would look like on weekends so that I could catch up on sleep a little bit after having been nursing all night during the week. These conversations went a long way towards smoothing out whatever possible things we could have been disagreeing over at the time.
The Kind Of Support You Think You'll Need From People Who Aren't Your Partner
There's the support that you promise to give to one another, and then there's the support that you may need from some extra people to really help you keep your head above water when the baby comes. Before my first baby was born, I had briefly raised the issue of getting a nanny or babysitter to help, but it was shot down immediately. "You don't need a nanny," my husband had said. "You're not working, so you should be able to handle everything yourself." I knew myself to be an anxious person who did not feel confident caring for a newborn without the help of a family member or friend, which was my reality at the time (hence looking to hire someone to help). However, at that point in our relationship I did not feel confident in advocating for my needs, and felt like a failure if I didn't live up to my husband's expectation of me being able to "handle" everything on my own.
I wish I had been able to dive deeper into this conversation at the time, and worked harder to express why I needed the help. I think my husband would have listened to me. The consequences of not having had help, plus the effects of a c-section and pushing myself too hard when I should have been recovering, I believe, contributed greatly to my postpartum depression.
How You Really Feel About Each Other's Families
I am extremely lucky in that I've pretty much hit the jackpot when it comes to in-laws. I love my husband's family so much that I almost didn't want to leave after having lived in his grandmother's basement for the six months we holed up there during my pregnancy. Of course, all that intense time spent with his grandma, his mom, his aunt, his siblings, and his cousins (who were often there) meant we dealt with a ton of family dynamic stuff. And no matter how much you love someone's family, they're still someone else's family, so there will always be things to talk through. I'm glad we had the opportunity to work through that stuff in advance.
Those Horrible Things About Yourself That You're Terrified Of Passing Onto Your Future Baby
We all have those things about ourselves that we are terrified we might pass onto our progeny. A hoarding habit. A tendency to overshare in awkward conversations. Ears that are so big they invite tons of attention on the playground (that one is all me).
Some people might be hesitant to point out their flaws to the partner with whom they're hoping to spend forever raising another person with, but I think that is hogwash. I say lay it all out on the table. Every weird mole and every cowlick.
Any Passionate Feelings Concerning Cloth Or Disposable Diapers
I had had no idea how strongly my husband felt about protecting our environment until the birth of our first son. Suddenly, my regular, meat-eating, leather-wearing, plastic-bottle using partner was going on and on and on about why we absolutely must use reusable cloth diapers. For the first five weeks of our son's life, I felt like I was part of a deranged social experiment headed by some awful people who wanted to see how much you had to torture new moms before they threw themselves into a diaper pail of poop-covered cloth diapers.
I was too exhausted to argue this diaper experiment and had just agreed to the cloth diaper thing at first. It took me almost two months before I said, "Hold on a sec, what is this crap. Literally." I ordered some disposables and it was like angels were singing. I couldn't believe how easy that blue strip in the middle of the diaper made my life. It tells you when the diaper is wet, you guys. You don't have to wait until the bassinet is soggy, to tell!
Your Opinions About Circumcision
My husband and I both come from traditional Jewish families for whom the religious ritual of circumcision (done in the home, in the presence of relatives and friends, and performed by a Mohel) was something we talked about when the idea of children was just something we played around with. It wasn't like, "I can't wait to circumcise our future son!" but we would often say things like, "Wouldn't it be amazing if we end up having a boy and his bris is in your grandma's house, just like when you were just a baby?"
I have friends in which one partner really feel strongly about having a bris, but the other is very much against it, and neither partner had brought it up before they conceived. The choice of whether to have a general medical circumcision or the whole shebang of a bris, can become a hotly debated one.
Your Thoughts About Breastfeeding
There were a lot of topics my husband and I hadn't really thought to hash out before I got pregnant, and breastfeeding was one of them. I don't think I had even considered how I was going to feed my baby until the reality of my swelling and growing breasts became a thing. It was like, "Oh. Hello there, ladies. It looks like you're getting ready to do something important." So one day my husband and I were brushing our teeth and getting ready for bed and I just said, "Hey, so you're cool with breastfeeding right?" And he looked at me like I had two heads and said, "Of course! If you are, I mean." Luckily we happened to be on the same page despite never having discussed it, but if I could do it over again it probably would have been helpful to hash this one out beforehand.