#1154: “I’m pregnant, not incapable.”

Ahoy there Captain,

Hope you are doing okay!

Real low stakes question from me today. After too long a time of trying, husband and I are finally pregnant and husband, adorable creature that he is, is doing his all to be supportive. I have never had so many back rubs.

Part of this support is insisting that he do anything physical so I don’t have to. This includes but is not limited to carrying the shopping, pushing the trolley at Ikea, lifting heavy things, standing on the step to reach the high cupboards, fetching my water/vitamins/snacks etc.

I am mostly fine with all this, especially because one of the symptoms has been slight dizziness (I’d rather not risk falling from anywhere). I also know that husband needs to feel involved particularly after feeling helpless during our struggles with infertility.

But, I am an independent woman, and while I know that I am cool with this now and think its kind of cute, I also know that my temper is not all that kind when I am physically uncomfortable and actually I am pretty sure that something will irritate me to the point of emotional explosion when I am in the latter stages of growing a human and actually physically cannot do certain things anymore. Especially if he is heading into over-protective territory now.

I don’t know how to say “back off, I can still carry the groceries” in a way that wont hurt his feelings when he really needs to feel involved and helpful – after all its pretty much up to me and (mostly at this stage) the collection of cells in my uterus as to whether or not it continues growing and turns into a screaming, pooping bundle-of-joy.

Any advice is much appreciated.

Thanks a bunch,

My Eggo is Preggo (she/her)

Hi there!

Congratulations on expecting your first child! And thank you for the chance to answer a Nice People With Good Problems brand of question.

(And things are good here, Mr. Awkward is home from hospital, through his crisis, and we’re getting back into a routine, thanks for asking.)

I have a possibly over-simple suggestion for rethinking the “Let me help you with that!”/”No, I can do it myself!” debate.

There are some things you can still do but he would like to do them to demonstrate helpfulness/as prep for when you can’t.

There are some things you can still do and you would like to do them now.

Since there are definitely things you will need him to do when it will be hard for you to do them, and you do need to take stuff like dizziness seriously, you probably don’t want to set up a dynamic where if he offers help he’ll get yelled at so he stops offering altogether and then you have to ask him about every little thing. You also don’t need to spend the next half a year flinching.

So, make an agreement, now, between you, that it’s okay for him to offer to do something for you – it’s not an implication that you can’t do whatever it is, it’s an indication that he would like to do it for you. And one possible answer to his offer is “Thanks, but I’d like to do that myself (while I still can).”

Be explicit about using a question and answer format about helping stuff, too. He should replace “Let me do that!” or just jumping in to do it with a question“Can I get that for you?” and wait to give you a chance to answer.

Also agree between you that if you say you’d like to do something, he needs to back off and let you do it. It’s not the start of a negotiation.

I think that tiny shift in language can help you shift the dynamic quite a bit. “I want to help/do that for you” doesn’t mean “Because I think you can’t,” and if you’d say you’d like to carry the groceries, you’re still the boss of you.

Best wishes for a smooth pregnancy and delivery!

 

 

 

 

 

 

77 comments
  1. Aveline said:

    Sooo, I am not pregnant but have this issue with DH.

    He’s become more woke over the years wrt to gender and emotional labor.

    But sometimes he goes into doing it for me mode instead of helping as a partner mode.

    The only think I’ve found that helps is saying to him that I appreciate his enthusiasm, but what would help me is “x” instead of what he’s trying to do.

    So I divert that instinct to something actually helpful.

    Lord, I can’t imagine what he’d be like if I were pregnant.

    I think men are still figuring out how to be partners . Sometimes they can’t figure out how to help without taking over.

    I’m slowly retraining husband to learn when to ask if he can help and when to jump in and just get busy. But it is a constant battle.

    You may have to tell him he thinks he’s helping, but what he’s doing is actually doing it for you. There’s a difference.

    • Lumen said:

      “I think men are still figuring out how to be partners” is such a statement on the culture at large right now. For so long, even most of the healthiest ideals of masculinity centered on Perform/Provide/Protect, Don’t Be Weak, etc. Essentially, they were built on the idea that women are physically weaker, intellectually inferior, emotionally fragile, and so on. The concept of being PARTNERS with women, in life and love and work and government and all the rest of it, is finally gaining traction with more than just a few outliers.

      Men (the ones who realize that the way they were taught to Be Men is… Not Great) are still figuring out how to be partners. How to help without command, how to love without possession, how to truly respect and care for women, absent from objectification and paternalism.

      How very, very true.

      • Dim Sum said:

        Wise words. I’ve never heard anyone articulate this so beautifully.

    • Charlotte Noyen said:

      “I think men are still figuring out how to be partners”

      I’ve never seen this put so succinctly, thank you!

      • Kaos said:

        Exactly. Previously they have mostly been (for lack of a better term) “owners.”

        • Lumen said:

          Nah, I think in many cultures that has been the most legally applicable term.

        • TO_On said:

          ‘Guardians’, sometimes…

          • Jackalope said:

            I think guardians is a better word most of the time (not all!). I read a lovely book that talked about, among other things, ways in which women in general had a different position than slaves even though patriarchy really sucks. Most cultures don’t allow you to buy and sell your wives, for example, and they can hold some property and have a certain (albeit limited) amount of control over their lives. They also have legal rights that slaves don’t over things like their sexuality, even if in practice that often isn’t enforced.

  2. lasers said:

    Sometimes I’ve used “I’m going to put that [help] in the bank for later.” Especially when I think I really will need it later.

    • Tea Rocket said:

      I really like this reply. It’s a way of saying no that shows appreciation for the offered help and acknowledges the fact that it might be needed later.

    • Sunny said:

      Ooh, I like that framing. My husband keeps trying to figure out how to make things better when I’m sick, and there really isn’t anything to be done. That phrase might help.

      • Rachel said:

        My husband and I are so different when we’re sick. He wants me to stay in bed and cuddle with him and keep him company when he’s sick. I want to be completely alone when I’m sick. And of course, we try to inflict our own preferences on each other to feel useful (so I abandon him and he smothers me). We’re working on using our words 🙂

    • Mimi Me said:

      Came here to say this exactly. While I was pregnant with my kids I also struggled with how to tell my already super helpful husband to back off a little bit. I used the “ask me again in X months/weeks/days” And I specifically brought it up when we brought the kids home “Hey hon, remember three months ago when you asked if you could help me with anything? I would love to take a nap/shower/walk can you do the laundry/dishes/dusting?”
      And also @Aveline – my husband has also become more aware of gender and emotional labor as the years have gone by and it definitely impacts his treatment of me. It’s awesome but a bit frustrating at the same time.

    • JenniferP said:

      Wonderful suggestion!

  3. Annalee said:

    Woooah this reframing is SO GOOD and has so many applications for sick/disabled folks and their loved ones. When I’m not able to Do All The Things because health, I am usually resentful that I cannot Do All The Things, and it is easy to displace my frustration around needing help onto the person who is trying to help.

    And bonus: asking before helping is a really good way to practice and model consent culture and the notion that it’s good to ask instead of making decisions for others, and also modeling that it is okay and normal to say no.

    • I am disabled, and this is exactly what I was thinking. I have been working with my partners on this kind of thing already. I am the boss of my body. I have also told them I am not the President and they do not serve at my pleasure, because it got to feel a bit…creepy like that. My wife would insist she ‘had’ to assist me. But they are getting it now.

    • Debby Seid said:

      We use this also in healthcare. For example: “May I teach you about…” rather than just going ahead and teaching without knowing if this is something the person is willing/able/ready to hear and perhaps act upon.

  4. Sunny said:

    No advice here, just congratulations! I hope you have the most uneventful pregnancy and delivery ever.

    Also glad to hear Mr. Awkward is doing better. Best wishes to the Awkward household.

  5. tapati said:

    This is a dynamic that also appears when one partner becomes chronically ill and my husband and I had to do some processing around my needing to do some things for myself. We occasionally need to check in about it. I don’t want to feel helpless when there are many things I can still do but on bad days I do ask for help. He asks before jumping in to help and accepts when I say no and helps when I say yes. Working through this now may pay dividends later in life.

    • Kaos said:

      This is basically us. I have a few chronic autoimmune issues and as I’m sure you know some days/hours/minutes are better/worse than others. So while I could maybe do X yesterday I can’t even think about it today and I can think about Y but no way can I actually even begin to do it…ever.

      Husband is pretty good about not just jumping to fix things for me, but he still does on occasion. Considering the stakes involved (low) for me/us/our family/feminism in general, I’ve taken the stance a lot of times of “Ok, go on you do it. I didn’t want to anyway (likely very true) so I’m just going to go read my book while you take care of that for me.”

  6. Adele said:

    In consultation with my mum, who did the “pregnant” thing 4.2 times, I’d suggest considering asking his offers of support to be keyed towards which trimester you’re in.

    Most typically,
    Trimester 1 = morning sickness, tiredness, unready to tell world
    Trimester 2 = feeling good, people know/notice, tell you you’re glowing
    Trimester 3 = exhaustion, bloating, you’re the size of a house, GET OUT OF ME ALREADY

    My mum’s no wimp, but in the third trimester of her fourth pregnancy my dad literally had to heat up tinned tomato soup and bring it up to their bedroom – she lacked the energy to use the stove, or get up, or even chew food.

    It might be easier for both of you if you parse it in these terms, so he feels ok slowing down his helpfulness in trimester 2 on the understanding he’s storing it up for the last couple of months, and childbirth, and postpartum and…

    • Turqoise Dragon said:

      One day when I was pregnant, instead of using the microwave to heat up the pre-cooked food, I climbed in bed and cried about being hungry. Poor husband was very startled, and went and used the microwave on my behalf! Other days, I was cleaning the kitchen floor just fine. Pregnancy is WEIRD, and even when it’s desperately hoped and carefully planned, as mine and your is, LW, some days it sucks in ways I have never imagined.

      I’m so glad Mr. Awkward is home again and feeling better!

      • mondays_child said:

        One day when I was pregnant I got home from a 12 hour shift and sat on my bed beside my pjs, and started crying because I wasn’t already wearing my pjs. Pregnancy is a trip!

        Best wishes for your pregnancy and delivery LW!

        • Cascadian said:

          Thanks for the laugh! I know that feeling oh so well without ever being pregnant. Sometimes getting from walk-in-the-door-after-work to snugged-in-bed seems like climbing Everest.

        • em said:

          Currently 2nd trimester, and about a month ago I was crying for a literal hour because I couldn’t find the good screwdriver. (I was installing oven wiring in our new house). Yesterday I was crying because I heard one of my favourite songs on the radio. Today I’m dying of heartburn. My second trimester has NOT been the happy glow type – more than “when will this fucking end” type.

          • Roxy said:

            Hear hear for those of us for whom pregnancy was much more of a long, strange, disorienting ride we couldn’t get down from, than a happy glowing journey.

            Be gentle with yourself after the pregnancy too. In my experience, it takes at least 6 months for the ride to fully come to an end.

            So that means feeling pregnant in all the emotional, thought process, reactive ways for…a total of 15 months..yay?

            And if it doesn’t end after that, go see your GP or a good therapist, if you aren’t already. And no shame. The sorcery of growing and popping out an entire separate human being is powerful magic.

      • Quinalla said:

        I don’t remember what it was about, but I remember a conversation with my husband at one point in my second pregnancy where I was crying and telling him I was upset and even though I knew it didn’t make sense, he had to do X, Y & Z. I’m generally a pretty logical person, or at least think of myself that way, and pregnancy threw me for a loop sometimes and I would often recognize it, but it would not change what I “needed” one iota!

        I also remember FREAKING OUT about how the bills would get paid when I was starting to go into labor, like I was going to be gone for months, not a few days 🙂 Only one really strong MUST HAVE food craving, mostly they were stronger than normal food cravings, but still pretty mild, but I definitely had strong opinions on what must be done right now to prepare for the baby. I’m a big planner by nature and I went into OVERDRIVE during pregnancy, I know I was over the top.

        Best wishes LW, love the Captain’s advice here, I think it will serve you well!

  7. Queen of the Harpies said:

    As someone who has been pregnant, who is very independent, and who grew up with just my mom and therefore had no model of how two-parent households work and a resulting tendancy to just do it all, I think the Captain’s advice is solid.

    Pregnancy was very unsettling for me. Even though it was perfectly healthy and I was as active with no restrictions past the sleep-puke-cry-repeat first trimester (worked up until the day before I went into labor, realized I was in labor while making curtains and finished the damn curtains), it was like super-puberty. The body I had been comfortable with was suddenly not that body and it made me feel very unmoored. Living my life the way I always had – hauling groceries and hanging shelves and building all the nursery furniture – helped with those feelings of unease (though my husband would have preferred I be placed in a giant bubble). My body might not feel familiar, but what it could do did and having my husband respect that was important.

    At the same time, *if* you tend to be the “cruise director” of your relationship and *if* part of “very independent” means not asking for help and doing it all, now might be a good time to practice letting people help and how it works with your husband doing more of the logistical emotional labor in your relationship. Because they were NOT kidding when they said it takes a village. Babies are SO MUCH MORE WORK than I ever expected. (Did you know sleep is a skill you learn? Not like a reflex? You have to teach someone to sleep!) And you have to do all this work after beating up your body and on no sleep. I had a pretty entrenched mindset of “all this is on me,” then it made everything: taking care of the baby, my marriage, my mental health, and even my husband’s ability to bond and feel confident as a parent, so much harder. If there is one thing I could change about the early days of parenting, I would have accepted more help, even when I could have done it myself.

    If that’s not you, disregard. And even if it is you, you don’t need to give up independent, “I can do it all” you, but practicing asking for and receiving assistance now, making a little more space for it in your life, and interrogating where your irritation around it comes from, now will serve you in good stead when the new person who literally does not know it’s limbs belong to it or how to sleep arrives.

    Good luck! May your pregnancy and birth be so medically boring your doctor remembers nothing about it except how cute your baby is.

    • RanaRan said:

      This is really good.

    • Sarabeth said:

      I also found pregnancy really emotionally weird. There was another living thing inside my body! I was constantly bumping into things because I wasn’t used to how far my belly stuck out!

      Sounds like the OP has a solid relationship with a decent partner, so I think it should be relatively easy to confront this head-on in a calm conversation. Pick a moment that’s now just after partner has jumped in to help, and say something like, “I really appreciate how much you want to take care of me, but sometimes I would actually prefer to do it myself. Being pregnant has already changed my relationship to my body in lots of ways, so it’s important to me to keep doing the stuff that I’m able to do. It helps me feel like myself.”

      And then, absolutely yes on redirecting the helping to other tasks. It was important for me to be the point person for actual birth planning (since it was my body doing the birthing), but there’s a lot to deal with. In some places, you might already want to be researching daycares at this point, if that’s something you’ll need. Baby shower registry. Finding a pediatrician. Setting up the nursery – not just the physical work, but the decisions about what to get and where to put it. Let your partner do as much of that as possible!

  8. Ankh-Morpork (also MusicWithRocksInIt) said:

    I am currently pregnant and really struggling with what I can still do vs. shouldn’t do but forget and try to do anyway. My OBGYN put me on a 20lbs lifting restriction because of some risk factors. I actually got scolded at in the OBGYN office because she needed to move the leg-spreading table, and hey -something is trying to do something I should help! But it was way over 20lbs and I got a talking to. So I am in a place where I want to be independent and do things on my own, but am also not a great judge of what 20lbs is so I have a big moral debate with myself whenever I want to carry Landry or the vacuum cleaner. And sometimes my husband catches me moving things and takes them away because I forgot I shouldn’t lift things – or didn’t realize it was 20lbs. Which, honestly I need, because we have learned I can’t be trusted, but I hate feeling so helpless when I need to go get him every time something needs to go up or down stairs.

    Not to even start on how I can’t help with painting the nursery – even though I am the one of us who does all of the painting and has painted every other room in the house. I am backseat driving the entire process – which I’m sure is super annoying, but on the other hand no you cannot use primer to paint the trip – you need something glossy that is stain resistant because you will also use it on the door! The feeling of not being able to do something you are better at is madly frustrating.

    • Clorinda said:

      You are growing the baby, Ankh-Morpork, and right now you are the ONLY person who can do that. Hang in there! Pretty soon you’ll be an expert in what ‘something that weighs 20 pounds’ looks like. And in a few years, when the id wants his/her room repainted in another color, you can do it your own way.

      On a serious note, though, it is all to easy for us as mothers to become the expert in our baby. Learning to let go and let Dad/other co-parent do things their way, even if it isn’t our way, is a precious gift to your child. Think of this pregnancy frustration as practice for that.

      • Clorinda said:

        Obviously that’s KID not id.

        • EllenS said:

          But so apt.

        • Private Editor said:

          I was actually appreciating “the id” because isn’t that exactly what babies are made of?

      • Kereru said:

        Spot on advice!

    • Jerseys mom said:

      Hello alternative universe sister!

      I tore my ACL a week ago. I must use crutches. I cannot drive. I am working from home on a computer. My PT says that maybe I can graduate to using only one crutch in a few weeks.

      My DH is doing laundry as I type. I am trying to restrain myself from shouting instructions down to him in the basement. When I occasionally use only one crutch so I can carry a cup of soda, he runs over to carry it and remind me to use both crutches! I hope I don’t go completely nuts and drive him insane.

      PS a two litre bottle of soda weighs about 4 1/2 pounds, to give you some perspective.

      • Inahc said:

        Oh, crud. Laundry. I sprained my ankle this weekend, I… Don’t think I’m getting laundry this week. I let my husband order dinner the other day, and one of the two things I specifically asked for was skipped because he “didn’t see an option for it”. Whyyyy does he not ask followup questions!?

    • Ptrst said:

      When I was pregnant, I got put on a restriction from lifting anything more than ten pounds. I went home, discovered my cat weighed 10.5 pounds, and immediately started crying because I couldn’t even lift up my cat.

      Pregnancy is weird enough, and then when you add in not being able to do totally normal (for you) things, it gets even weirder and harder.

      • This reminds me of postpartum where they tell you you shouldn’t lift anything heavier than your baby. But some women (like me) have 6 pound babies and some women have 10 pound babies so what is the actual rule here? Was I less capable of lifting 10 lbs because my baby was 4 lbs lighter? Next time Dr. should tell you you can’t lift anything heavier than your cat. 🙂

        Also you can say “don’t lift over 10 lbs” but I don’t know the exact weight of everything unless I pick it up and put it on a scale so… how is that gonna work exactly?

    • blargh said:

      A gallon of milk is 8 pounds, so if you can imagine carrying 2 gallons at one time, that might get you close enough.

  9. alh said:

    We had a little bit of that when I was pregnant and the baby was first born — my husband is a fixer, and he felt quite helpless because there was so little he could actually do. The honest truth is that the bulk of the work of pregnancy, childbirth, and the early weeks of a newborn falls on the mother, no matter how engaged and involved the dad. He managed to find little jobs he could do (I passed out in the shower a few days post giving birth, and my doctor told me it was likely that I had nursed the baby and not eaten anything myself, and told me to be particularly careful of dehydration while nursing … every time I sat down to nurse the baby for months afterwards he went and got a glass of water and set it on the table next to me) but he struggled. I love the Captain’s advice to reframe it, even in your own mind, as “I would like to help you” and not “I don’t think you can manage.” And allowing you to say “Thanks, but I’ve got it” and that not being a rejection of him or an indication that you wouldn’t welcome help at some other time. Best wishes to you for a healthy and easy pregnancy and birth and a beautiful screaming, pooping, bundle-of-joy.

    • Here’s the suggestion I make to (coupled) moms planning to nurse: “Tell spouse/partner that you’ll take care of in-go and they can take care of out-go.”

      I also suggest to the non-gestating and/or non-nursing partner that getting things squared away around the house is INCREDIBLY useful to someone who’s about to give birth. Having a deep-cleaned living space, well stocked with paper products and staple foods and a freezer full of precooked meals is golden to someone whose sleep patterns are out of whack and who’s running over with hormones and new and conflicting emotions.

      The partner/spouse could also do things like getting the car looked at so that things like oil changes or scheduled maintenance aren’t necessary right when the two of you are learning how to be parents, or having the furnace or HVAC inspected. When new mom is sleeping, tidy up the living area (quietly!). Have her favorite fruits, veggies or other healthy snacks available. These and other small services can do a lot for someone who might feel perpetually weary.

      As Clorinda noted above, it can be easy to inadvertently shut out the other parent (especially if you’re nursing). If the other parent feels awkward about holding teeny-tiny newborn, perhaps they’d be more comfortable with a Snugli or a baby wrap or something similar. Taking the baby out for a short walk, even if it’s only in the yard, gives the new mom a little space (vs. feeling they’re responsible every single minute) and also reminds the co-parent that they, too, are important to the baby’s life.

      Wishing you all the joy.

  10. Thistledown said:

    Can you give him something’s to do to rederirect his helpfulness energy? I think it would be a great way for him to feel involved in ways that are actually useful to you both. I know these might not all be practical depending on your situation/stage of pregnancy, but here are some ideas: researching leave/health insurance/birth centers, reading books of pregnancy and parenting, putting together a shopping list/registery and researching things like car seats, buying/researching a car if you’ll need some different, painting/prepping the nursery, cooking and freezing food, planning a trip for the two of you during your second trimester, researching updating wills or financial things like life insurance or college savings funds, fixing-up the house, thinking of baby names, taking over daily chores so that you have time to rest/workout/have time to yourself. I also thing that having him take the lead on some of this might help undercut the idea later that mom=expert on all baby things later. If your still early in your pregnancy, it might be easier to focus on things like “let’s get done all the home-improvement projects that we can while we still have time” versus “let’s decorate and furnish a nursery.” But I’d imagine there’s still lots of stuff that can be done now.

    • Anonyish said:

      I think that’s a great idea for all the reasons you suggest, and not least the breaking down of the idea that mom = baby expert that can be an issue after the birth, when it is really important for everybody’s happiness that the mother’s partner, should she have one, take an equal share of responsibility for the baby and baby things. TL:DR Mom doesn’t have to book the vaccination appointments. It also keeps the focus on what you and your husband each want and need, and what you want and need as a family, rather than nebulous “pregnant women need/feel this, Dad should do this”. If you put him off with “oh I’ll need that generic help in the third trimester” without addressing the underlying issues, then you’ve just stored up a problem for later if you are one of the women who feels absolutely fine in the third trimester right up to your due date and you still don’t need or want the shopping carrying.

    • Rachel said:

      I came here to suggest the same thing. “I don’t need help with carrying the shopping, but it would be great if you could channel that energy into [thing you actually want help with]”. If possible, have this as a sit-down conversation in its own right, and not in the moment when you are already doing chores and managing the offer of help is yet another thing to deal with.

      I don’t have children, but this strategy works pretty well on my parents who like to offer help when I don’t really need it. Like the LW’s husband, they are 100% well intentioned so I try to redirect their efforts when I can. Like, I don’t need them to drive 200 miles to keep me company while my husband is away for one night, but they’re welcome to help me out with a ton of boring gardening chores. (In case that sounds harsh, my parents LOVE gardening).

  11. Squidhead said:

    I love the re-framings that have been suggested. They seem like great conversation starters for your journey ahead.

    A different option could be to invoke Authority. Cite your medical team when reasurring him that yes, you are allowed to carry a gallon of milk! I’d imagine that your team has given you guidelines about how much/what kind of exercise & activities you *should* be doing (not just ‘can’ but ‘should’). If he’s catastrophizing everything and thinking “what if there was a complication that could have been avoided had I just carried the milk?!?!” then the voice of Authority pointing out that you are not made of glass and the risks of [being completely immobile (I’m exaggerating!)] > [the risks of permitted activity] might help him put away the bubble-wrap.

    Best wishes for an uneventful, peaceful pregnancy! Also glad to hear that the Awkward household is reunited!

  12. Phira said:

    1) Congratulations!!!!!
    2) Captain Awkward, so glad to hear things are going well, was thrilled to hear that Mr. Awkward was able to come home ❤

    And now–

    I just had my first kid a few months ago, and this advice might have helped me a little. My circumstances were very different–I have been chronically ill for a long time and pregnancy on top of that was a challenge, and made everything else into a challenge. But when I was nesting, I would often get frustrated if my spouse protested me doing certain things. I also got irritated because there were things that he should not have done on his own (think lifting heavy furniture) because of his own physical disabilities, and he refused to let me help him because "omg pregnant!" Like, yeah, pregnant, but my LEGS AND ARMS WORK and if you break yourself doing this, you will be useless to me.

    And yeah–every person and pregnancy is different, but I'd expect your last 2-3 months to be on the more miserable side. When I hit the 3rd trimester, I was like, "Whatever, I feel fine, what were people talking about?" And then shortly after that, things went south. Like, there was no system in my body that seemed to want to function properly, and with my chronic illness, pregnancy discomfort, and a smol human trying to kick his way out of me, I could barely sleep either. (I legit get more sleep now than I did in my last month of pregnancy.)

    That was when I needed my spouse the most, although I was less irritated that I couldn't do things and more irritated if I asked for him to do something and he didn't do it. So if you do talk with your partner about this issue, you might want to point out to him that he might burn out on being super helpful now, and it might make him less helpful/patient when you hit the home stretch.

    • EllenS said:

      Oh, gosh. “If you break yourself doing this, you’re useless to me.”

      SO MUCH THIS.

      My DH is ordinarily abled, but he’s pushing 50, and he still wants to do all of the things on the same day because…I don’t know, machismo? So he will do the physically demanding household project, and then go all-out on Leg Day at the gym, and then pull an all-nighter for work, and get irritated with me when I’m like, STAHP!

      And then the next day when the kids and I are all throwing up with flu or whatever, he can’t stand up.

      It’s like he blew the rent money at a casino. I want to shake him and say, “Defy mortality on your own time, buddy!”

  13. GreenDoor said:

    I headed this kind of issue off at the pass at the beginning of my pregnancy. I told my husband, “Look. Every woman is different and every pregnancy is different. I have no idea what this one is going to do to me. I may yell a lot. I may cry a lot. I may get super wimpy or overly anxious. I may complain one day that you’re not doing X…and then yell at you the next day because you DID do X. I need you to understand now, that none of it is personal. I love you. I”m just pregnant. And I need you to be able to roll with whatever kind of crazy may come” Totally helped him understand that nothing about me during the pregnancy was anything that would become The New Normal. I particularly like the “I’m going to put that offer in the help bank for another day” suggestion. Great line!

  14. 42tlh42 said:

    Congratulations Letter Writer! Nothing else to add except that I love the reframing suggestions and will use them myself for completely other reasons.
    Also, I’m glad the Awkward household is getting back to a better place. All the Jedi hugs!

  15. Studies have shown that in uncomplicated, healthy pregnancies, exercise helps pregnant people prepare for labor and delivery. Husband’s backing off may be a way of helping LW in the early stages of pregnancy. If she frames it that way, it may also help him.

  16. PebbleBear said:

    Congratulations! The advice I can give is that I when I was pregnant I would come up with reasons that I needed to be the person to do certain things. Like with pushing the shopping cart- I needed to do it so I had something to lean on/into when I wasn’t feeling well (dizzy/tired,etc). I need to get up to get my vitamins/snacks to stretch my legs and I have to go pee for the 5 millionth time anyways so I’ll already be up. And if your husband gets upset because you won’t let him help you more, remind him that especially in that first month the baby is born that you will probably be asking him to do nearly everything because you’ll be too tired/achy from recovering from childbirth, so he can relax now and save all the help for then.
    I hope all goes well for you! 🙂

  17. Esme said:

    Love this advice. Good tools.

  18. Audrey said:

    Love all these reframe suggestions.

    Also, it might be a good idea to let him do stuff for you! Even if you can do it yourself. Even if it’s silly. Not every expresses love the same way, and maybe this is how he says I love you.

    I’m coming at this from the context of my marriage. My husband automatically expresses his love through action and for me through words. He’s learned to say nice things to me and I’ve learned to do nice things for him. He’s also learned that when I say “Wow you’re handsome” I’m really saying I love you. I’ve learned when he does the dishes I don’t want to do/puts a blanket on me/takes out the trash, it’s him saying he loves me.

  19. Sproings said:

    Another thing that might help is for the two of you to rearrange your stuff to fit your new situation, and use that as a jumping off point for talking through some of this. For example, since you’ve got some dizziness and your center of gravity is changing, it’s important that anything you use on a daily basis is stored somewhere between hip high and eye level, so you minimize bending, stretching, and toppling. If this means moving the rice to a higher shelf so that your candied ginger is easier to reach, then Mr Eggo Preggo just got put in charge of reaching the rice. If the heating pad needs to move to make room for all the spare toilet paper, then Mr Eggo Preggo gets to be the one to fetch the heating pad when needed. Addressing the little practicalities as a team can really help with setting expectations and finding out where your priorities are.

  20. Katelyn said:

    Honestly, A+ alias from LW!! I can’t stop laughing at “My Eggo is Preggo”

  21. katelyn said:

    A+ alias, LW! I can’t stop laughing at “My Eggo is Preggo”!

  22. SadieMae said:

    The Captain’s advice is great as usual! I would just add, don’t worry too much about “blowing up” – with all the discomforts and hormone soup of pregnancy, I think most women get a little testy. I certainly did. And a husband as loving and helpful as yours will understand, especially if you apologize when you’re feeling better.

    Congratulations on your pregnancy and best wishes as you embark on the parenthood journey!

  23. Tami said:

    Great to hear Capt. and Mr. Awkward are making progress to well and happy. Hearing that feels like a nice fleecy jacket. 🙂

  24. Kuododi said:

    No advice to give as pregnancy is outside my frame of reference. Simply wanted to pop in and say “Mazel Tov” and Best Wishes on the new addition. May your pregnancy be healthy, peaceful and may your little one “live long and prosper.”.

    To Captain and Mr Awkward…. delighted to hear the good news about Mr Awkward continued recovery. Best regards to you both.

  25. WMM said:

    I want to suggest, if LW’s husband resists, pointing out that while he feels a bit helpless in the process, LW might be feeling a bit helpless with all of the things changing in her body. A wanted pregnancy is a wonderful situation, but still full of BIG CHANGES that can seem overwhelming, nauseating, exhausting, and so much more. It is fair to be able to say to your partner, “So many things are changing, and I still need a bit of myself that is familiar to me to hold on to. It can look like so many things, and sometimes it just looks like taking care of some rote details around the house that I’ve always done in the past.”

    • HistorianNina said:

      I think this is a really good point. I’ve been pregnant and while it’s true that I was doing all the work, it was actually my body doing all the work on autonomous sub-routine. I wasn’t actually in control of very much of it, and it was definitely a weird feeling. Maybe pointing that out to your spouse, that you feel kind of helpless too, will help spouse work with you as partners-in-helplessness instead of trying wrest control from you (in a loving way! but still) wherever they can.

  26. Funnyletter Who Hates Jokes said:

    LW I am not pregnant and never have been but I feel you so hard. I wasn’t supposed to do anything involving lifting or bending after hurting my back and after like 3 days of my mom and my SO tag-teaming not letting me do anything I was like “NO LET ME DO THE THING AAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH”. The frustration is real.

    Everyone just wants to help and show you they care about you, but letting you carry the occasional groceries is good for your mental health!

  27. atma said:

    I love the Captains advice and so many other readers’, it’s all about reframing things so you’re able to be on the same page, to be partners.

    One thing I think hasn’t ben mentioned. I have family in countries where sick/preganatn peopel aren’t allowed to do anything, not move, not work, etc. And it is not GOOD for them. They get passive and weak. So being active, moving around, doing things, will actually be better for you, even physically.

  28. This would bug the heck out of me just because I can’t deal with having THAT MUCH PERSON all up in my stuff all the time, even if it’s somebody I love who is trying to make my life easier. Being waited on hand and foot is actually super uncomfortable if you’re not used to it. I went on a trip one time that involved glamping and when I tell people about not having to lift a finger for a week they always think it sounds great, and it really creepy. The people working there weren’t creepy or anything; I am just not used to having somebody else do all the thoughtless basic tasks. I was so glad to go home and do my own laundry.

    But y’all sound like nice people with a solid relationship so I would start by telling him straight-up that you’re physically uncomfortable, hormones are being completely unreasonable right now, and your are worried that you might be irritable with (well, everything, but especially) him since he’s closest and always nearby, and that you need some space.

    • Roxy said:

      “when I tell people about not having to lift a finger for a week they always think it sounds great, and it [was] really creepy”

      This! So much this! What an excellent way to put that. You put words to something I couldn’t express.

      When I’m saying, “let me do this myself (and adding goddamnit under my breath)” it’s because I’ve already reached the point where you are creeping me the heck out.

      Being over-helped can sometimes actually be very creepy! Excellent word choice.

  29. Kaos said:

    “…him to offer to do something for you – it’s not an implication that you can’t do whatever it is, it’s an indication that he would like to do it for you. And one possible answer to his offer is “Thanks, but I’d like to do that myself (while I still can).””
    —This

    “It’s not the start of a negotiation.”
    —And This
    I think it’s important that husbands (or boyfriends/girlfriends/SOs of whatever flavor) respect our autonomy and not … intrude (yeah I’m going with ‘intrude’) on our personal choices even when it’s coming from a good, well intentioned place.

    That said… there is something to be said about just letting them do the heavy lifting (sometimes literally) while X Condition (in OP’s case pregnancy) is happening because sooner rather than later they will revert to being whoever they were before X Condition and their default for doing extra will revert with them.

    OP keep in mind also that from this point on your life is different. There will be a lot of “heavy lifting” for you going forward pretty much for the rest of your life, but definitely for the next several years. Even the best intentioned, most helpful dads by and large don’t do close to their “fair share”…with the kids, house, etc.

    That’s not a judgement about them (ok, maybe a little) but mostly on socialization teaching us (yes us) that all of that is Mom’s job and Dad needs a medal whenever he deigns to “help out.” So…take it while you have it. It will not last. I pretty much guarantee it.

  30. EllenS said:

    I think this is great framing. It may also help him understand/get it/remember to give you the choice if you emphasize how important it is to maintain your activity level, because staying as active as you can will reduce uncomfortable symptoms and promote easier labor later.

    Even little things like carrying the groceries are going to promote circulation and help you acclimate as your balance changes, and so forth.

  31. EllenS said:

    Such good news that Mr Awkward is home and y’all are settling in. Best wishes and lots of peace to both of you!

  32. Another Eggo said:

    I am in the 8th month of a bumpy second pregnancy so I feel this very hard. This is something I have had to negotiate with both my husband and my mom (and my toddler who is very sad at not being picked up.)

    The Captain’s re-framing would have helped me – offers of help are a sign of love not an assumption of helplessness.

    The equilibrium we have come to is I am very careful about asking for help picking up heavy things or standing on ladders, and they respect when I say “I’ve got this.” Like it is easier for me to carry a 10 lb thing than bend to pick up a piece of paper or tie my shoes.

    Btw, I also remember the month after C-section, my “spoons” were at my lowest ever. I could feed the baby, and sometimes shower, and eat food that was put in front of me. If it had been on me to feed the dog she would have starved. So I am definitely storing up and explicitly arranging for all the offers of food, holding baby while I shower, any small units of help. I know now that I need to have Xmas gifts already saved in various online shopping baskets and my friend committed to come help me wrap.

  33. JerryLarryTerryGary said:

    I think…pregancy can seem like a team sport, (“We’re pregnant!”) but, no. Parenting is the team sport, during pregancy, spouses are the caddies. Or the person who fetches water for the caddie.
    That said, figure out with your spouse what they can do to be part of the team. Maybe takes over all grocery shopping for a while or something. Ideally, a ongoing autonomous role instead of a continually renegotiated set of tasks (less emotional labor).
    I think another commentator made a good point. You are an independent person who happens to be pregnant, not a porcelain doll. But, your household and partnership is about to change very dramatically, and working on working together to prepare is a good mode to be in.

  34. kchodorow said:

    I have a suggestion! My mom is so kind and caring that sometimes it gets a little annoying. I talked to her about it (when I wasn’t annoyed) and we came up with a system that works well for us: when she’s telling the waiter that I don’t like onions or offering to get me a dozen new work shirts, I can say “TMC Mom, TMC!” (Too Much Caring). That way she knows to back off a bit, but also that I have noticed and “appreciated” her attempt to help. Might be worth trying!

  35. Juliette said:

    I agree very much with the reframing etc. above. It’s worth bearing in mind that the support you want or don’t want may change drastically during your pregnancy. I regret not letting my husband do more pre-emptively in my first pregnancy as I suffered from Pelvic Girdle Pain and could scarcely walk by the third trimester, something I could have partially avoided if I’d let him help with certain things, though that is obviously particular to my physiology. I think there is also a mindshift for when the baby arrives in terms of sharing the parenting effort (google ‘maternal gatekeeping’!) that took me some time to adjust to, especially as I was breastfeeding so there was a lot that only I could do or made much more sense for me to do.

    On the other hand, if you’ve got a good relationship, which it sounds like you have, then it should be possible to communicate that you still want to do certain things while you still can and that feeling independent is really important to you psychologically.

  36. Danielle said:

    Hey there! Also currently pregnant after a long time of trying; partner is also very protective.

    Something that has helped: partner accompanied me to all OB appointments. I keep a list in my phone of all the questions/concerns that come up between appointments, and ask then. So I get the answer, and partner can hear it too.

    We both get to hear the neutral medical answer and it’s something to refer back to later. This is helpful if partner gets concerned about me doing an activity. I can say, “remember, Dr. X said it was ok for me to carry grocery bags.”

    Luckily, partner is a quick study and once the doctor addresses something, he usually understands and doesn’t bring it up again. Tbh, this method is helpful for me too, since it *is* really hard to acknowledge my current limits!

    Hopefully you have a good medical provider, and your partner is a good listener.

    Good luck!!

  37. kanel said:

    Yes to redirecting the helpfulness to something that doesn’t annoy you and is actually helpful. Especially, as a few have mentioned, redirect it to him taking responsibility for various baby- and household related areas. If you feel it suits you, use it as an opportunity to make sure you two as a couple have a good way of sharing responsibilities around those things that traditionally fall on women/mothers, with men/fathers “helping” and instead do what you can to become more equal in your parenting, household and family responsibilities. Pregnancy is a great time to tackle those issues, especially if it’s the first pregnancy because you are both wide open in a way.

    I’m also pregnant right now, in week 36 with my second kid, and I’m a little annoyed with my partner who treats me pretty much like I’m not pregnant. Like I can do everything just fine, even though I have pelvic girdle pain and back pain and an enormous belly. He helps with stuff I can’t or shouldn’t do sometimes if I ask him, but sometimes it takes weeks and repeated reminders, like getting my maternity fall/winter coat from the attic five floors up without elevator. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, at least not yet. Not being “allowed” to do things you can and want to sounds equally annoying.

    I wish you a good pregnancy, delivery and parenthood!

  38. Survivor. said:

    I see myself in your description of your husband – in my case my partner has disabilities and his physical mobility varies. He can dislocate a joint or seriously injure himself and not even know until later. I’m a compulsive helper with anxiety. What helped was for me to decide to actively practice sitting with the discomfort of not helping unless asked. I reframe that as an affirmation that my partner needs me to celebrate and witness what he *can* do. It’s a sign of love to step back and let him make those calls. It took me a while to grasp that as I grew up in a home where love = fixing it 24/7. My job is to do life *with* him vs doing life for him or doing life to him.

    Also, we agreed that when I begin to hover and fuss, my partner will calmly say ‘you sound anxious right now’ which is our agreed cue for ‘back off and tend to your own emotions.’ It gives me a pause to check in with myself. He is assuming my offers come from a rational place whilst putting the responsibility back on me to confirm that. I can then say ‘you are right, I’m anxious and I’m sorry that I tried to take over’ Or I can say ‘I’m ok, can we do this together/can I assist you with X bit of this, because I think you are at risk of injury here.’ Ultimately, sulking when he refuses my help is unhelpful. No means no.

    My partner lives with a lot of frustration that his body is unreliable, a landscape of pain and obstacle to his being free. The world judges him on what he can’t do. I try to remind myself, the more independence he has on can do days; the less anguish he feels on the can’t do days. It’s his body and he gets to choose to be stubborn to some degree. My valuable contribution is to be on his team rather than trying to captain it!

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