True intimacy during pregnancy depends on how willing each partner is to face momentous changes openly, honestly, and together. These skills will become valuable assets when facing the challenges of childrearing -- from breastfeeding to preschool and beyond.
Elissa Sonnenberg

Breaking from a stressful lifestyle
Jane* and her husband left their regular, hectic schedules in New Jersey and headed for the Florida coast. They spent long hours relaxing on beaches and poking around art galleries for a week. It was an idyllic vacation they'll never forget -- especially since Jane was pregnant with her second child.

"Our trip was a great way for us to temporarily forget about our parental responsibilities," says Jane, who took the trip during her complication-free second trimester. By taking the time to reconnect with each other, Jane and her husband not only strengthened their relationship, they helped build a home environment in which their two daughters can thrive. "I think that anytime you feel positive about the father of your child, it helps make for a happier parent," says Jane, "and a more welcoming household for the child to be born into."

Don't wait
Jane didn't wait until traveling to share intimate moments with her husband. "I think the nesting things we did while preparing for both children made us feel closer," she remembers. "Planning the rooms and shopping for furniture and supplies added to the excitement, anticipation, and bonding."

By growing together through their experiences, Jane and her husband discovered new dimensions of intimacy that reinforced the strength of their partnership, and helped head off some common postpartum problems.

"When a baby's born, it's a time of wonder," says licensed social worker Claire Lerner of Zero to Three, a national nonprofit organization that promotes healthy social, emotional, and intellectual development of babies and toddlers. "But it can also be a time of tremendous stress. The less alone you feel, the better able you are to nurture your baby."

>From pregnancy to parenthood
Lerner works with many new parents who struggle with feelings of isolation -- the mother at home alone with the baby and the father feeling left out of important moments of discovery and growth. In addition, new parents don't get enough sleep or quality alone time during the first few wondrous days and weeks with their bundles of joy. That's why Lerner believes that intimacy, grounded in closeness before and during pregnancy, is an essential tool for this time and beyond for preventing frustration buildup.

And it's good for baby
Parents aren't the only beneficiaries of parental intimacy. "For babies, it's enormous," Lerner says. "They're taking in and reacting to the world around them from birth. They pick up on tension and stress. And they always benefit from having two active parents in their lives... they get so much from both mom and dad."

Sharing special time with your partner during pregnancy offers yet another bonus, one that your baby will appreciate most of all. "If you're getting the nurturing you need from the relationship," she adds, "you have much more to give."

Tags: good intimacy

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