Congratulations! You’re going to be a dad! Everyone says that, or something like it, but you didn’t necessarily feel like it when you first heard did you? Let me guess, a moment’s excitement followed by anxiety, concern, worry and possibly even pure, unadulterated terror? Uh huh, been there, and so have millions of others. You’ve just embarked on a journey that is unique for everyone, but which also features some recognisable landmarks that others can help you with. And it all starts well before the first dirty nappy, so here’s crash guide on pregnancy for dads.
During the first three months your partner will probably be feeling tired a lot as her body adjusts to the fact that there’s a new life growing inside her and uses up most of her energy on creating a whole new person. Don’t be too surprised if all of a sudden she’s tucked up in bed by ten every evening or starts to fall asleep in front of the telly.
Morning sickness is the archetypal early pregnancy symptom, but not everyone gets it and it doesn’t always occur in the morning nor necessarily involve vomit – she might have as healthy an appetite as normal or the merest whiff of certain foods might send her rushing for the bathroom. You can help out by taking on more of the food-prepping and not waving full Englishes under her nose. Like most things with pregnancy, it’s good to be prepared for everything, but expect nothing.
Remember, both your lives may be about to change, but it’s her body that’s changing now, and that’s both an exciting and a frightening thing. Chances are, she’ll be reading books and scanning websites for help and advice on pregnancy. You’re reading this so you’re already half-way there, but try to do it with her, she’ll appreciate the support and you’ll feel more involved.
Your partner will probably find this the best time of pregnancy. Most of the early symptoms such as the sickness and tiredness have gone, as the most crucial parts of development are completed. Her body now progresses into full-on child-carrying mode, creating the most ideal environment possible for the growing baby. At the same time, the baby isn’t yet so heavy that she starts to feel like a beached whale every time she has to walk across a room. When mums-to-be are described as ‘glowing’, this is usually the period everyone’s talking about.
But, no-one ever said there was anything logical about pregnancy, and you can expect your other half to be prone to sometimes totally uncharacteristic mood swings, as well as occasional requests for vanilla and gherkin ice cream. Your partner’s body is flooded with hormones and changes at an impressive rate as it gives developing the baby top priority. This is likely to affect her behaviour, so be prepared for what might seem unreasonable requests in normal circumstances to become perfectly acceptable during pregnancy. Whether it’s midnight demands for her latest food craving or a tendency to break down in tears in the supermarket, go along with her whenever possible – remember, it takes two to have a baby.
She’s getting big and the pressure’s beginning to tell. Not just the physical pressure of lugging several extra, unevenly distributed pounds around, but also the anticipation of the birth and the realisation that it will probably be long, drawn out, and in all likelihood will REALLY #’$%ING HURT!!!
Everyone gets scared at this stage and she’ll need your support and reassurance. It’s a good idea to go along to antenatal classes with her in this trimester, not only will they help you both prepare for the birth itself, but you’ll also learn lots about looking after a brand new baby. The classes are great confidence boosters and a good way for you to take an active role in the pregnancy.
It seems incredible that just a generation ago it was considered perfectly normal for the father not to attend the birth. Nowadays of course it’s unusual if you DON’T go. It’s an amazing experience to witness the birth of your own child, and it may really help your partner for you to be there. If you feel you’ll only be a liability, make sure she knows this beforehand and understands. And if she’s not happy with going through it without you, then you really should consider rising to the occasion.
Before you get to that part though, there’ll be a good few months when she’ll be frequently annoyed because she can’t find any decent clothes to fit her – despite the fact that this childbearing business has been going on for quite some time, few clothes makers seem to have cottoned on to the fact that this is a time when most women would like to look as good as they can, rather than transform into frump of the month. And remember, she really won’t appreciate any jokes about her size or weight right now.
Carrying all that extra weight around will probably mean backaches and swollen feet are a running theme, this is where it’s easy for you to take part in the pregnancy by dispensing a little TLC – massages and foot rubs will probably make her day.
You might have heard of the nesting instinct, and it really does exist. As the big day approaches, even the most slovenly of women can be transformed into a paragon of domestic correctitude. There’s no point in fighting it, and it will certainly help if you cooperate wherever possible. She won’t feel settled until your home is ready for the new arrival. Some mums to be are better at getting all this organised than others. If yours isn’t driving the preparation buggy, be prepared to take over the reins and get things ship-shape. You may not get much thanks, but the peace of mind (both hers, and therefore yours) will be worth it.
Lots of blokes feel a bit strange about lovemaking during pregnancy and worry that they might harm the baby. Rest assured that your baby is safely sealed away in a protective environment: unless there are potential complications and your doctor advises you to avoid sex, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy sex together throughout pregnancy. Well, nearly no reason. Pregnancy hormones affect women in different ways, some women find they have a higher sex drive and are more sensitive than usual, others lose interest completely, and this is likely to fluctuate throughout pregnancy. Try to be sensitive and understanding of these changes and if sex isn’t on the menu then look for other ways of being intimate. Of course, you might find that you’re the one who loses all interest as your partner’s body changes – which really calls for a bit of sensitivity!
Every pregnancy is different of course. As a couple you may experience all of the oddities above or none of them. The important thing for you as a dad to be is to go with the flow. There are no set rules for behaviour or reaction. Often you’ll just be doing what feels right. Remember that she may be carrying your child, but hopefully, both of you will raise it, and that begins here.