She says she’s pregnant, but you don’t see the changes right away. Within a few weeks, her nausea and fatigue are followed by what you might perceive as ‘weight gain,’ but really, it’s her pregnancy. And what about the baby? Well, most parents say that the baby does not feel ‘real’ to them until the baby is born.
Couples often find that pregnancy creates stress in their relationship. She is thinking of the baby and feeling pregnant every moment of her day. After the ‘announcement’ phase of the pregnancy, life for you may turn back to ‘work as usual’ and this difference in experience can make communication awkward. The reality is that you each have a different experience of
Do you feel like a dad?
Even a planned pregnancy can feel like a surprise. While your pregnant partner lives the experience day-by-day, your experience is not that immediate. In the early days, neither the pregnancy nor the baby may seem real to you. Additionally, fathers in general struggle for recognition as parents. They tend to be seen as helpmates and breadwinners, not as parents in their own right. Family and friends focus on the pregnant woman, and then on the baby, and it is natural for some dads to feel excluded.
By staying connected to your partner and the pregnancy, the baby will seem more real to you. This will also help ease your own adjustment to fatherhood, and help others see you as a parent.
Here are some ways you can take an active role:
Feeling the baby move
Hearing the baby’s heartbeat
Seeing the baby on ultrasound
Telling friends and family about the pregnancy
Giving the baby a nickname
Reading or singing to your baby before birth (babies can hear as early as week 20 of the pregnancy!)
Attending doctor’s appointments with your partner and asking your own questions
Attending prenatal classes
Reading books about pregnancy and fathering
Thinking about the kind of father you want to be
Talking with your partner about the kind of father you want to be
Talking with other men about fatherhood
Getting involved in daily household activities
A tip for mothers and friends
You can help the transition to fatherhood by making the pregnancy a shared experience and encouraging your partner to share his thoughts and feelings. It helps when family, friends and health care providers identify the father as a parent in his own right, not just as a support to his pregnant partner.
Isn’t this a woman’s job?
Parenthood starts in pregnancy, so it’s never too early to get involved. Participating as much as possible with the pregnancy helps because:
Your transition to fatherhood will be easier
You will be less worried during her pregnancy
It is easier for your pregnant partner to reduce risky behaviors (like smoking, drinking or using recreational drugs), follow through on regular prenatal care and attend prenatal classes
Your partner is likely to have an easier labor and birth experience
Pregnant women have identified a father’s ‘involvement’ as how their partner provides practical, emotional and informational support. Pregnant women appreciate it when their partner:
understands her changing emotional needs and mood swings
shows interest in the baby’s development
talks about the baby and how you will adapt your lives
goes with her to prenatal visits and classes
helps with household tasks
reassures her that she will be a good mother
provides for the family financially
reassures her of their love by accepting her changing body
understands that her desire for sexual relations may vary
Is being the ‘strong silent type’getting you down?
Men often take on the ‘strong’ role to avoid upsetting their partner during her pregnancy. This means that you may not have given yourself permission to share negative feelings you may be experiencing.
Fathers have shared that they felt:
ambivalent about the baby
the baby is not ‘real’ in the way that it is to their pregnant partner
worried and confused by changes in relationship with partner
sad, mourning loss of the couple they were or changes in future life
distant from their partner as she focuses on the pregnancy
Make time to talk about these issues with your partner, friends, family or a counselor or physician. Taking time to talk about what you are feeling can help you be ready for fatherhood.
Reprinted with permission from Perinatal Education, Birth & Babies, Alberta Health Services. Perinatal Education offers over 30 different courses for expectant and new families. For more information about pregnancy and to view the course calendar, visit www.birthandbabies.com.
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