Once the congratulatory handshakes and pats on the back subside, you’ll probably find that you are no longer in the limelight. Just like an ageing actor past his prime, you’ll find yourself relegated to the sidelines. Don’t take this personally. When it comes to men and pregnancy, there is only so much that you can do. The expectant mother becomes the focus of attention. She is the star of the show. After all, she’s the one carrying the baby. She’s the one who will be getting all out of shape for the next nine months or so. She’s the one who has to put up with all the nausea, discomfort and crazy cravings in the middle of the night… you get the picture. So it’s only natural that as the father, you feel that you are being ignored.
Expectant father’s survival guide
Now that you’ve figured out that your wife is the one in the driver’s seat and you’re the co-driver, prepare yourself like one. There’s no way to anticipate every possible scenario, but you need not be completely in the dark! Planning ahead and being prepared are the best ways to handle what’s coming. Getting involved early and at every level of the pregnancy not only makes things easier for her, it also keeps you from feeling left out.
‘Can I still have sex with my wife? Will it hurt the baby? If I’m not careful, will my baby be born with a dent on the top of its head?’ These are just some basic questions which many first time fathers ask. If you are too shy to ask or want to avoid feeling ignorant, do your homework. This means reading all the material you can, from pregnancy and parenting books to websites like this one. The more that you know about pregnancy now, the easier the coming months will be.
Preparing the nest
‘Nesting’ begins when your wife gets the powerful urge to clean and prepare the house for the arrival of the baby. Show her that you are also excited by the impending parenthood and offer to help. In come the crib, stroller, car seat, baby toys, tiny feeding utensils and nursing gadgets that you never knew existed.
You and her will have great fun choosing adorable garments from pyjamas to mittens and bootees. You may not be able to match your wife’s level of enthusiasm but your participation counts. So if she changes her mind about what colour the nursery should be, just smile and repaint for the third or fourth time!
Remember that your wife’s body is going through a pretty intense period of time. Expect that things she used to do are no longer easy for her to do, and even if she’s willing, she won’t be able to do as much. This is the precise time for you to start doing extra things around the house. Cooking is a great idea, provided that she can keep the food down and has not developed an aversion to the food she used to adore.
The bed you share may seem less cosy as she becomes more uncomfortable and sleeps fitfully, making frequent trips to the bathroom in the night. You can help by accommodating her graciously – for example, by making room for her gigantic body pillow. You may even lose your bedmate for a while, because some pregnant women prefer to sleep in a reclining chair.
By the end of the third trimester, your wife may be suffering from swollen ankles, fatigue, constipation and haemorrhoids. She may be uncomfortable with how she looks and with her limited mobility. Everything will become tedious – walking, standing and sitting. Be patient and pick up the slack by helping out around the house more than ever.
Talk to Your Baby
Studies show that babies in the womb can hear outside noises (and voices) as early as the fourteenth week. Your baby will already be familiar with its mother’s voice because she is carrying the baby. There is no reason why you shouldn’t spend at least five minutes a day speaking to Baby in the womb or even singing! This will help forge a closer bond with your tot months before he or she enters the real world. You’ll also note that by this time Junior kicks quite a bit – this is truly a wonderful experience that you should take the time to enjoy.
What’s in a Name?
Get interested in baby names. This is a part of the pregnancy that puts mothers and fathers on equal footing. If you know the sex of the baby, this makes name choosing a little bit easier. Check out our baby name recommender for some ideas.
Get some experience with a baby. Just hold the baby for a while, talk to him/her and check out how the little one will stare at you and fully check you out. If the baby is fussy, try calming him/her by rocking or walking.
Think of doing things together with your child as he grows up.
Finally, visualise yourself holding your brand new baby, looking down at him/her in your arms and say, “I’m your father.“
Balance your accounts
Remember, a baby isn’t a toy to play with for a while. Raising a child is a long-term commitment. It’s crucial to have a detailed understanding of your family’s current fiscal situation, and start budgeting for the mid- and long-term expenses that will come in. If you’re unsure, see a financial consultant who will show you how to save for your child’s education, insurance, spending money and other commitments. After all, you’ll want to provide only what’s best for Baby Dearest – even more so if you’re already planning for Baby Number 2!
Be Prepared for Her Mood Swings
You love her dearly, but oh my … she can get very hard to live with! Be prepared to expect the following:
Imagine PMS but a thousand times worse! Irrational arguments – she’s never wrong. Deal with the fact that as the male, you will never be right.
You haven’t done anything but she suddenly bursts into tears. Just remember you can’t do anything to help, and asking her what’s wrong may only make her cry more.
Get prepared to jump out of bed in the middle of the night and drive to the other side of town just because she has a sudden carving. Don’t complain, just do it!
Constant complaining about how fat she is
Don’t be surprised if you have to spend hours explaining that, “No, you don’t look like a cow; you’re just pregnant and beautiful.”
She will stress out about almost anything. Most of the time it’s over something silly. The best you can do is reassure her that everything is going to be okay. But just remember she won’t believe you anyway.
You are always wrong
Don’t argue. Just accept it!
You’re to blame
Nothing you do is ever right. It doesn’t matter what you do with the best of intentions, guaranteed it will backfire and the consequences will be the same as if you did something terrible to her.
Although It would seem that the only emotion a pregnant woman has is negativity, just remember she doesn’t hate you. She’s coming to terms with her changing body and facing her inner fears for the future, and it’s easier to blame you.
When it comes to the actual birth, you should be prepared for just about anything. Because there are so many different ways for labour and delivery to play out, it’s difficult to predict what a typical experience will be.
The days when dad’s role was limited to driving mom to the hospital are long gone. Not only can you be in the delivery room, but you are often expected to play an active part in the labour process. First, you need to decide if you want to be part of the delivery. If not, you should be prepared to spend a few hours in the hospital waiting room. Bring snacks, water, some good reading material and a camera.
There’s no way you can predict it, but on average, for a woman having her first baby, labour lasts 12-24 hours from her first contractions to delivery. Your wife may be in the early phase of labour for many hours before the hospital will admit her. If at all possible, spend this time together and help to keep her feeling at ease. When it’s time, proceed calmly to the hospital.
Make sure that you and your wife discuss, in great detail, how you want the birth to go. If she tells you beforehand that she doesn’t want an epidural, even if she’s in pain and screaming, “Give me drugs now!”, then you will know not to grab the anesthesiologist at the first sign of discomfort. Even better, write down the intentions you two have in a birth plan.
Oh, and when the mother of your child looks at you with a hateful look and screams, “You did this to me, it’s all your fault!” just remember what she really means is, “I love you and I’m so happy to be having your baby!”