Advice for expectant fathers leading up to birth

Pregnant women indeed experience a variety of emotions and life changes. But first-time dads have their feelings and concerns to deal with, too. While men may not show it outwardly, the effects of becoming a father should not be underestimated.

You’re not alone if you’re surprised, panicked, overwhelmed, scared, or unprepared. This, like any major change, will necessitate a significant amount of adjustment. And if the pregnancy wasn’t planned — which happens in half of all pregnancies — you might be experiencing these feelings even more strongly.

If you’re experiencing conflicting emotions, it’s perfectly normal. You can also take steps to become more at ease with the pregnancy, the prospect of parenthood, and the preparations to ensure that both go off without a hitch.

Here are a few issues that may be bothering you, along with some suggestions for putting them in perspective:

How can I help my partner? How will this change our relationship?

Your doctor will most likely warn you about potential problems, especially if you and your partner are older. It’s frightening to hear all of this. However, there are several things you can do to help your partner — and your unborn child — stay healthy during the pregnancy.

Try to attend doctor appointments with your partner so you can ask questions, gather information, hear the baby’s heartbeat, and see a sonogram image of the baby. You might also want to tour the maternity ward at the hospital or the birthing center where the baby will be born.

Pregnant women undergo significant physical, hormonal, and emotional changes and deal with the same life changes as soon-to-be fathers. As the pregnancy progresses, it may have an emotional impact on you. Moodiness can be challenging, regardless of the cause, but patience and understanding can help. Your partner will undergo hormonal changes; just ride the hormone wave, don’t take things too personally, listen, nod, and smile. 

Is this the end of my independence?

It doesn’t have to be the end of the world when you become a father. True, until your baby starts sleeping through the night, you may not get much sleep or personal time during the first few months. However, as the baby sleeps more, you and your partner will have more time to do things you enjoy.

Again, it’s critical to collaborate, communicate, and trade childcare responsibilities so everyone gets what they need. Also, try to meet other new parents who can share their experiences and serve as a sounding board.

How am I going to get through labor?

No rule says you must catch the baby when they emerge, cut the umbilical cord, or even be present in the delivery room.

You’ll learn about massage and pain-management techniques in childbirth classes. You’ll stand behind your partner and massage her head and shoulders while she pushes. Talk to your partner about what you’re comfortable with as you learn more about this.

It’s common to fear fainting, but few men actually do. Many men report far less blood in the process than they anticipated!

Of course, expectant mothers put in the most effort during labor, but fathers also play an essential role. Someone will need to look out for your partner’s interests and needs. Before the due date, talk to your partner about your pain management, medication, and treatment preferences to inform the medical team if your partner cannot. You’ll also be the link between your partner and your family during the birth.

Will I be a good dad?

Remember that you won’t have to deal with every aspect of fatherhood at once. In the first few years, a lot of parenting involves skills learned in childbirth classes and honed through practice.

It’s similar to other new roles you might play in your life. You don’t have to feel guilty or worried about anything. You don’t automatically know how to be a good husband just because you’re married. You learned a lot with your wife along the way.

Speaking with and spending time with other fathers about your issues may be beneficial. If you have unresolved issues with your father, try to talk to someone about them before the baby arrives, such as a counselor or a family member, so they don’t interfere with your relationship with your child.

Communication can be difficult for expectant parents. Pregnant women have powerful physical reminders that a child is on the way and that life will change dramatically before the pregnancy. So, while you’re still getting used to the pregnancy, your partner might want to discuss it.

You have other options if you aren’t ready to talk to her yet. You might feel more comfortable confiding in friends, relatives, and other new dads, who can reassure you and offer helpful advice.

Remember that billions of men have gone through — and survived — fatherhood before you. There is no secret handshake, and you are not expected to be a good father immediately. Simply do your best to prepare for the birth, recognize that on-the-job training will come next, and seek out the many resources available to assist you.