Things Dads to Be Should Know and Do During Pregnancy
Expectant first-time dads experience a steep learning curve. Evolving marital relationships and expectations, physical changes in their partners, new or more intense emotions (for both spouses), increasing medical expenses, and many other developments occur throughout pregnancy. Here are a few tips to help dads-to-be navigate these months.
- Dads-to-be may feel left out from time to time. Baby showers are typically for the expectant mom and her female family and friends; expectant dads are frequently excluded. Expectant moms often decorate baby’s room and purchase baby’s first necessities (i.e., clothing, blankets, diaper bags, and the myriad other infant accoutrement); expectant dads are again not expected to participate (or not participate much). Obstetric appointments are often attended by expectant moms only; here again, expectant dads are generally not expected to participate. These are but a few of the examples that, in our culture, minimize the expectant dad’s role in pregnancy. However, dads-to-be can participate above and beyond the baseline cultural expectations set forth for them. Good communication and creativity are key. For example, a dad-to-be may suggest a baby shower in which both genders are invited . . . and activities can be planned to interest and involve men as well as women. Expectant dads can partner with their spouses in shopping and decorating in preparation for baby’s arrival. Further, dads-to-be can attend obstetric appointments and help their wives comply with their doctor’s requests (i.e., walking, getting bed rest, etc.). Care should be taken not to hover or smother in the attempt to be involved in the pregnancy, however; omnipresence can create marital strife. (It bears noting that there may be times, despite an expectant dad’s best efforts, that he may still feel left out. In such a circumstance, dads-to-be are encouraged to share their feelings with a friend who is or has been a father and who is a good role model.)
- First-time parents-to-be typically experience a wide range of intense emotions: excitement (“We’re going to have a baby!”), fear (“I’ve never done this before! What if I am not good at parenting?”), love (for spouse and baby), etc. Expectant dads should know a few things about these emotions: they are usually but not always based on logic, and it’s helpful to seek to understand the logic underlying the emotion; expectant moms’ emotions may be governed in part by hormones that are guiding her body through her pregnancy; sometimes, quiet moments of reflection and healthy doses of patience and understanding help parents-to-be keep stressors in perspective; researching issues that drive fear can lessen the fear (i.e., reading books on parenting so as to lessen fears of failing as a parent); and accepting that parenting is the most all-encompassing job anyone will ever have, and thus accepting (or coming close to accepting) that every parent will fail from time to time, but the successful parent learns and grows from those failures, issues sincere apologies, makes amends, and moves forward better is important. As noted in #1 above, expectant dads benefit from having good communication skills and an ability to share their thoughts and feelings judiciously with their spouses and positive husband/father role models.
- Moms-to-be need to know that their spouses still find them attractive. Sometimes, pregnancy causes expectant moms to cease to see themselves as lovers. Expectant dads need to be patient but to persevere in reassuring expectant moms that they are still sexy. Expectant dads should not make critical statements about their spouses’ changing bodies.
- Pregnancy doesn’t just make the waistline grow; feet, noses, and other parts of the body often grow as well. Some of these changes are temporary (i.e., feet swollen with edema); some are permanent. Expectant moms may or may not be accepting of these changes; expectant dads should be on the look-out for signs that their spouses may be struggling with these physical changes. Expectant dads who are perceptive may reassure their wives, comfort them, and prevent the situation from becoming a larger issue in the expectant mom’s self-esteem.
- Finances can be strained due to pregnancy. Frequent visits to the obstetrician cause mounting medical bills. Decorating and furnishing baby’s room can be pricey. Buying all the paraphernalia that goes with having a baby can also be quite pricey. Wise dads-to-be are prepared, ensuring that there is health insurance that adequately covers the pregnancies (either because the expectant dads have insurance that covers spousal pregnancy or because the expectant moms carry their own health insurance), ensuring that the parents-to-be have savings set aside for pregnancy-related expenses, and able to live within the budget that they and their spouses have jointly crafted.
- From here on out, life is no longer about individual- or couple-based experiences and goal achievement. Instead, life is about family . . . putting the needs of the family ahead of the needs of the individual parents, for example. Let’s not mistake the magnitude of this change. This is not to say that what the individual parents want is no longer relevant, it is simply secondary to the good of the family unit as a whole. Hedonist tendencies need to take a back seat upon becoming parents.
Of course, there are many things that dads-to-be should know and do during pregnancy, but the above is a good starting point.