Your life is changing forever. It’s for an amazing reason, but life as you know it will never be the same.
Change number one: You used to be the center of attention. Now there’s a tendency for everyone to focus on your partner. This is a good thing. She needs lots of positive reinforcement to get through the challenges of pregnancy.
Change number two: Your thoughts and feelings may be ignored. Don’t be surprised — after all, you’re not the one carrying the baby.
Change number three: As a father-to-be, you have a lot more on your plate. For example, there are philosophical questions to deal with. Will I make it through the pregnancy? Can I deal with my pregnant partner’s special needs and still be my own man? Will I be a good dad?
If you are asking yourself these questions, you’re well on your way to becoming both a supportive partner and a great dad.
Will I Make It Through the Pregnancy?
Yes, you’ll survive. Along the way you will most likely make those typical guy blunders, such as telling your partner she gained a few extra pounds or reminding her to lay off the chips.
You should know that she also wouldn’t appreciate you mentioning that your shirts weren’t ironed or that the house was a bit messier than usual. Comments such as these, along with a million other seemingly innocent ones, could end your life. Only kidding — well, kind of.
So take it from someone who knows from both personal and professional experience:
• Remember that your partner is never fat — she’s pregnant.
• Be better than tolerant when she is tired or crabby.
• Do some laundry, iron your own shirts, and help tidy up the house.
• Give her a back massage and hugs often, without her prompting.
• Remind her of the great job she’s doing.
Can I Deal With My Pregnant Partner’s Special Needs and Still Be My Own Man?
While your partner is experiencing a lot of physical and emotional stress, so are you. First off, you may not be going to the gym as often as before, and ten pounds plops on your belly quicker than you might realize. I used to wonder why men put on weight, until I watched and ate alongside my wife. She was eating for two — and sometimes three — while I kept pace. Two pieces of chicken became three, one bowl of spaghetti became two, and I probably ate a little more because I was getting nervous. If I ate like that for nine months, the doctor would have had a tough time figuring out who had the bigger belly.
Years later, I can reflect back and offer wisdom and advice:
• Don’t radically change anything in your life.
• Exercise, go out and live your life.
• Be smart about your food choices, and don’t try to keep up with your partner’s ravenous appetite.
• At the same time, be respectful of her needs and issues. Making a baby is hard work, and your partner needs your support and understanding. And when she freaks out, reassure her.
Will I Be a Good Father?
We all want to give our kids a better life and more attention than we received growing up. Being a parent is an awesome responsibility and the best job ever. Here’s how to get a good start:
• Be interested in the pregnancy. Read about what’s going on, and go to at least some of the doctor visits. It’s your baby, too.
• Good parenting also means making sure that you protect your new family financially. Learn everything you can about life insurance and why you should purchase a policy.
• Get ready for the toughest one of all. Yes, the car. Your nice, two-seat roadster isn’t going to cut it with a newborn. Just try getting a car seat into the backseat of one of those cars. A sedan, a wagon or a minivan is circling you. My sportscar was replaced by a brand-new, four-door “family” vehicle. (Of course, this might be a good time to grovel to your partner. Maybe you can forestall the inevitable for a little while longer.)
• And, finally, attend childbirth education classes. Some might think that these classes are passé, with the advent of epidurals in labor. However, I can assure you that you will really want to know what is going to happen and how to be part of this amazing time.
Now, as for being a good father: If you want to be there, hold your baby, bathe him, teach her to ride a bike or kick a soccer ball, help with the homework, take him on a hike, give her the keys to the car, and attend your child’s graduation, you have done a good job.
However, you will never, ever quit being that good father — not until your last day and your last breath. The road you travel will have some bumps and a few hairpin turns along the way, but if you and your family travel together, you will enjoy the ride forever.
Craig L. Bissinger, MD, an ob/gyn in Parsippany, NJ, and a father of three, is the author of Pickles and Ice Cream: A Father’s Guide to Pregnancy.