We’re all familiar with the classic, black and white movie and TV images of anxious father to be, pacing back and forth in hospital waiting rooms, smoking a cigarette, waiting for the doctors to burst out and announce whether they’ve had a boy or girl – the dads are pretty much detached from the whole delivery process.
And there’s a bit of a basis for his detachment. When a woman is pregnant, it’s hard not to notice – the baby bump appears in all its glory, and she “glows” with excitement. Friends and family give her lavish attention and she will tell anyone who will listen about the upcoming arrival. But other than the giddy expression when the future dad first finds out his wife is pregnant, no one can tell just by looking at him that his life is about to change, too.
It certainly does seem like fathers get the short end of the pregnancy stick. They were, after all, pretty integral in the conception of the baby, and they will be integral in the baby’s life. So what is a father-to-be to do during those nine months his wife is pregnant?
Here are four things fathers should remember during pregnancy:
Fathers ARE important during pregnancy too.
And not just for the conception part! Fathers-to-be can and should provide support in many ways, both emotionally and financially.
As the news comes that a baby is on the way, the dynamic of the couple’s life together changes. For many women, the mere thought of carrying a child, giving birth, caring for a newborn and eventually raising the child into adulthood, is completely overwhelming. Sometimes she will think that she just can’t do it! And here’s where dad comes in. Fathers can be big cheerleaders during pregnancy – tell her she will be a great mother, even if she doesn’t agree with you. When she is distraught, listen to her without judgment and without offering solutions. She just needs to vent frustrations, and know that you care enough to just listen.
Another thought that may be on both of your minds is how to pay for it all. So many doctor visits, the hospital stay, diapers, wipes, a crib, clothes, car seat and so much more – it’s a huge investment! Remind the mom-to-be that you will both make it work. Communicate regularly about the best avenues for getting needed baby items. Make sure all your health insurance is up to date and try to start saving during the pregnancy to try to get ahead of the game.
Be prepared for the changes that come during pregnancy.
And not just physically. But yes, your wife may feel like she has an icky stomach bug much of the time, and since the baby is being fueled by her body, she will likely feel tired and sluggish and need extra sleep. This is totally normal, so please allow her to rest as much as possible.
But more than the obvious physical changes, your wife will be going through some emotional change too. Your wife, who was once interested in things like trying a new restaurant or getting together with friends, will become completely consumed with being pregnant and being a mom – it will impact every other area in her life. She will need your constant reassurance that everything will work out. Assure her that you will be there for her every step of the way. Just knowing that you care so much will help her feel more at ease and ready to tackle issues as they come.
Dads can help make pregnancy easier.
The more you show you care, the easier her pregnancy will be. Talk or text when she has issues or concerns. Go with her to doctor appointments. Show her your own excitement about the baby. Cook dinner and do other household chores so she can get more rest. Offer back or foot rubs to ease her aches and pains. Go shopping with her for maternity clothes and baby supplies. Give her plenty of love and attention. Read pregnancy books with her. Have fun coming up with baby names together. You may not be the one carrying the baby, but you can get just as excited!
What NOT to do during pregnancy.
Pregnancy emotions will definitely run the gamut – ups and downs, highs and lows, excitement and dread. Bottom line, fathers need to be there through it all. Just because your body isn’t contributing to the baby’s growth and development during pregnancy, it doesn’t mean you are “off the hook.” The number one thing fathers should NOT do during pregnancy is sit back and do nothing. Be there for your wife, so she knows you will be there for your child. And never dismiss any of your wife’s concerns or gut feelings. Even if there is no medical reason to support what your wife may be feeling or thinking, never brush off her concerns.
For many married couples, pregnancy is the first real test of the “for better or worse” marital vow. Things can get pretty emotional and tense, but ultimately, when a husband makes it known right from the start that he wants to be a true partner in pregnancy, it makes a stronger bond with his wife and a stronger bond with his baby too.
Malini Bhatia is the founder and CEO of marriage.com, a website dedicated to providing value in every marriage, including resources, information, and a community that supports healthy, happy marriages. Bhatia has global experience in international management and communications. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband of 11 years and two daughters.