Fatherhood doesn’t have to spell the end of fun. True, you may not get much sleep or time for yourself during the first few months until your baby starts sleeping through the night. But when the baby sleeps more, you and your partner will have more time for things you enjoy, together and individually.
Again, it’s important to work together, communicate, and trade off on the childcare responsibilities so that you each get what you need. And try to get to know other new parents, who can share their perspectives and offer a sounding board.
In the early years, you can include your little one in many activities — maybe your child can sit with you while you watch a basketball game or read the newspaper or a book. Check out the special baby carriers that let parents take their tots along on walks and hikes.
It’s easy to fear losing out on free time, but most moms and dads discover that once their child is born they treasure time spent with their baby.
How will this change our relationship and sex life?
Pregnant women experience huge physical, hormonal, and emotional changes, while also grappling with the same life changes as the dads-to-be. As the pregnancy progresses, it may affect both of you emotionally.
Moodiness can be tough to deal with, no matter what the cause, but your patience and understanding can go a long way. Try to help your partner work through any stress she might be feeling about the pregnancy and parenthood.
If you’re not feeling stable or good about your relationship, try to work through the issues as soon as possible. Many couples mistakenly think that a baby will bring them together. But a baby can’t fix a troubled relationship — that’s the job of you and your partner. And the sooner you find a way to work together, the sooner you’ll feel more comfortable with your impending parenthood.
You can enjoy sex during pregnancy as long as the pregnancy is considered low risk for complications of miscarriage or preterm labor. Discuss with your doctor, nurse-midwife, or other health care provider any risks that may be relevant to you and your partner. You don’t have to feel embarrassed; they’re used to such questions. As with any other aspect of pregnancy, it’s important for you and your partner to speak openly about what feels right for each of you.
Of course, just because sex is safe during pregnancy doesn’t mean you and your partner will want to have it. Many couples find that their sex drive — and comfort level — fluctuates during the different stages of pregnancy as both get used to all of the changes. Again, keeping the lines of communication open is key.
How am I going to get through labor?
As far as the gross-out factor goes, no rule says you must catch the baby when he or she emerges, cut the umbilical cord, or even be in the delivery room.
In childbirth classes you’ll learn about massage and pain-management techniques where you’ll stand behind your partner at her head and shoulders while she is pushing. As you learn about this, talk to your partner about what you’re each comfortable with.
It’s common to fear fainting, but the truth is that few men do. In fact, many men come out of it thinking that there’s much less blood in the process than they expected!
Expectant moms, of course, do the hardest work during labor, but dads still play a crucial role. Your partner will need someone to look out for her interests and needs. Long before the due date, it’s important to discuss preferences about pain management, medication, and treatment so that you can tell the health care team if your partner is unable to. You’ll also be the connection between your partner and your families during the birth.
How can I help my partner?
Your doctor will probably warn you about things that can go wrong, particularly if you and your partner are older. And it’s likely that you’ll both have various tests and screenings for birth defects and other health problems.
Hearing all of this can be frightening. But you can do many things to help your partner — and your unborn baby — stay healthy during the pregnancy.
If you know other families with newborns and young kids, it may be helpful to spend time with them. If you don’t know other new parents, your doctor or local childbirth center might be able to put you in touch with other families in your area.
Try to go with your partner to doctor appointments, where you can ask questions, gather information, hear the baby’s heartbeat, and see an image of the baby on a sonogram. You may also want to tour the maternity ward at the hospital or birthing center where you plan to have the baby.
Start preparing your home for the baby by making any needed home improvements or renovations.
Remember that anxiety about pregnancy and parenthood is like anxiety you might feel about anything. Use stress-relief strategies that work for you — perhaps exercise or enjoying movies, books, music, or sports.
Talking About It
Communication can be a challenge for expectant couples. Even before the pregnancy shows, moms-to-be have strong physical reminders that a baby is on the way and life is going to change dramatically. So your partner might want to talk about the pregnancy while you’re still adjusting to it.
If you’re not ready to talk to her yet, you have other options. You may be more comfortable confiding in friends, relatives, and other new dads, who can offer reassurance and helpful suggestions. Many hospitals and childbirth centers also have professionals who work with new parents and can speak with you confidentially.
Remember that billions of guys before you experienced — and survived — fatherhood. There’s no secret handshake and you’re not supposed to instinctively know how to be a good dad. Just do your best to prepare for the birth, know that what follows will be on-the-job training, and reach out for the many resources that can help.