New Dads: 5 Tips for the Transition to Pregnancy
There is a universally-accepted fact that pregnant women are irritable, weepy, picky and extremely demanding. Want to know a secret? We notice the changes in our personalities as much as you do, there's just not a lot we can do about it. We, the pregnant women, really don't like how we feel any better than you like how we react to it, and we do try to make things easier on you whenever we can -- it just doesn't work very well.
Rule #1: Be prepared
Need a field guide to pregnancy? First-time dads can find some great information in this book. It's tailored specifically to common questions about pregnancy, labor, and the early stages of parenthood.
Unfortunately, the crying and 3:00 a.m. trips to the grocery store for yet another carton of double chocolate fudge ice cream can wear on the dad-to-be's nerves. At the same time, the new mom will probably be pretty different from her normal self, and have trouble sleeping, and be unable to do a lot of the things she normally does. This can strain the relationship, and this is the worst possible time for additional strain. What do you do? Obviously, some coping skills are in order.
I've been through three pregnancies and made every effort to be nice to a very patient husband, but there's still a hormone storm and a little alien being growing inside. So please, be patient, and try a few of these tips to make it a little easier.
Tip #1: Keep open communication and be proactive
First, I know it's easy for me to advise a completely open approach. After all, I'm not the one whose head will be bitten off if it comes across wrong. That said, I still believe that open and honest communication is the best way to go about things. If you're getting way too drug out, not getting the sleep you need to function at work or at home, etc., then tell her. You may want to stay away from wording like, "I'm too tired," or "I feel like you're asking too much from me." You know your lady love well enough to know where such phrases could potentially lead to trouble.
Instead, try requesting ten minutes to yourself every day after work before anything is expected of you, or before any conversations really get going. Be sure to keep well-stocked on any food she might be craving to avoid those late-night grocery store runs, and make sure she knows if you have to be up especially early. When in doubt, just ask her if she has any cravings or desires that aren't currently in the house. Sure, some will probably still strike in the middle of the night, but it's a good way to try to hedge your bets a bit.
Commentary on pregnancy from "Dudes to Dads" author (book linked above)
Most of all, remember that your feelings are important here too. She does have a lot of hormonal crap going on that's probably making her feel a little over-sensitive and miserable, so certainly think about what you say and how you say it. Listen to what's going on with her too, and then don't be afraid to voice what's going on with you mentally, emotionally or physically.
Tip #2: Don't forget to take care of you
"Take time for yourself." Everyone says it, and it may seem impossible to do sometimes. The further you get into the pregnancy, the harder it gets to find the time to do what you need for you. As your lovely lady grows larger, there's a good chance she'll need your help to get out of the bathtub, tie her shoes, and do other simple tasks that used to seem so darn simple.
Here's a tip: Buy her some flip-flops, and make an agreement that you're going to go out with your friends one evening a week for some decompression time. Or go to the library. Or lock yourself in a room and watch a football game alone. Whatever your relaxing thing is, reserve the time to do it. It's really important, and this is actually the easiest time you'll have available for the next 10-20 years. Dead serious -- if you think a pregnant woman takes extra time and attention, just wait until you get a load of the baby's demands.
Be sure to make a specific agreement ahead of time about how long you're going to reserve for yourself and stick to it. She might be feeling a bit abandoned (or she might be enjoying her favorite chick flicks without you in the house to complain about them), so it's important for her to know when you'll be home. As it gets close to "the big day," be sure to let her know exactly where you are - which better be close to home in case you get that frantic "it's time" call - and keep your phone charged with the ringer on. Score some extra brownie points by checking in with a call or text message every now and then, and pick up a little something special for her on the way home.
Tip #3: Tell her she's pretty. No, really. And hug her. A lot.
Nothing quite soothes the raw edges of a hormone storm like spontaneous compliments. If you're interested in easing the "hormonal outbursts" altogether, make sure your words have a lot of hugs and kisses to go with them. In today's society, skinny is often equated with beautiful. You can bet your last dollar, most of us females feel like ugly, bloated cows during pregnancy. Every bit of attention can do a world of good toward easing the stress and anxiety related to carrying that baby.
Tip #4: Set apart a space that's just for you. No baby, no lady, no puppies and kitties. Your space.
Finally, work with your pregnant partner to set up a "time out" spot for yourself and rules regarding its use. To avoid confrontations it's always important to have a place to go and calm down before you hit the end of your rope, so be sure she knows that's one place you should not be disturbed in. Try to use time outs sparingly and for a reasonable amount of time; too much and she'll eventually be forced to break the rules of time out just because she needs your help.
It's your space and your time, but you can make it about the baby too
Do you like to be hand's on? Turn time in your "man cave" into fun stuff you can do for your new kid. Hey, s/he is going to need some great toys, right? With these, you'll have her blessing to go play with power tools.
Tip #5: Relax, and just go with the flow
Finally, the most important thing to remember about pregnancy is -- drum roll -- just chill. This is truly the best thing you can do for you, your significant other, and your unborn baby. It's a scary time, and it's fine to examine those feelings. Whatever you do, don't panic. Frankly, nothing is under control. The good news is, you don't have to stress about it because you don't need to control it, and it really won't do any good to get worked up. Try not to have too many set-in-stone plans for anything to do with baby. In fact, try not to set any plans in stone during the third trimester at all, because that's pretty much setting yourself up for aggravation and disappointment. Take a deep breath, and just take the minutes and hours as they come to you.
You're about to be a dad for the first time!
How do you feel?
Thank you for reading, and I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to leave your own thoughts and tips in the comments, or throw some questions out there that might not be safe around the currently pregnant. There's a lot going on, but you don't have to just stumble through it alone.
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