Quite often expectant fathers get bent out of shape over what they should be doing during the pregnancy. The pregnant woman is often the focus of all attention. She's the one carrying the baby. She's the one doctors examine. She's the one with oodles of books written especially for her. She's the one who has to push when the time comes and they put the baby on her belly when it is delivered. So, the question is: Are you only along for the ride? Yes, you really are only along for the ride.
However, there are a few specific things that you can and should do in the 9 1/2 months of pregnancy that will go a long way to make you a more equal participant in the whole affair.
Once you find out that you are pregnant, the expectant father should - as soon as possible - get educated about what is ahead. This means reading every part of this website! It is simply too late to wait for the second or third trimester to get a handle on the complexities of pregnancy. The staff at thefunkystork.com knows all too well that the first trimester goes by really, really fast! Take the time right away to explore the resources that are available online, from your medical professional and from books. The more that you know about pregnancy now, the easier the next months will become.
Support, Support, Support
You'll note that most of the Tools for the Clueless section on thefunkystork.com is geared towards helping you help her with chores like cleaning, cooking and diapering. While this is certainly a big part of your involvement, your main role is to support your partner emotionally and physically throughout all stages of the pregnancy.
The first trimester is a key stage. If there are to be any complications, this is the stage at which they are likely to manifest themselves. Frequently, the first trimester is the worst in terms of morning sickness and nausea. Remember that your partner's body is going through a pretty intense period of time - she is growing a baby. If she is fit, she will soon have to tone down the intensity of her workouts and switch to yoga or Pilates for the duration of the pregnancy. This is the precise time for you to start doing extra things around the house and offering to exercise together. Cooking is a great idea, provided that she can keep the food down and has not developed an aversion to the food she used to adore.
The second trimester is often referred to as the honeymoon phase since most of the first trimester discomforts will have subsided. Your partner's crankiness, fatigue and nausea will likely disappear, thus making this is a great time for a pre-baby vacation. Airplane flight is usually safe, so a surprise vacation might be in order.
The third trimester is generally when the weight becomes burdensome and the discomforts of pregnancy return. By the end of this trimester, your partner may be suffering from swollen ankles, fatigue, constipation and hemorrhoids. She may be uncomfortable with how she looks and with her limited mobility. Everything will become tedious: walking, standing and even sitting. Be patient and pick up the slack by helping out around the house more than ever.
This is also the time when nesting begins, which is the powerful urge pregnant women get to clean and prepare the house for the arrival of the baby. Be warned that this urge only intensifies as the due date approaches. Show your partner that you are also excited by impending parenthood and offer to help set up the nursery. And don't forget to attend every prenatal class and play the role of supportive partner.
Play An Active Role Throughout The Pregnancy
Presuming that you've educated yourself and are supporting your partner as described above, you really ought to attend as many prenatal medical appointments as possible. Your doctor is the expert on how your pregnancy is progressing and can answer the questions you need or want to know. It is a good idea to get to know your partner's doctor since he or she will be the one in charge during delivery. Building a rapport early will make the later stages that much easier. Men shouldn't be afraid to ask the questions that their partners are afraid to ask.
Studies show that babies in the womb can hear outside noises (and voices) as early as the fourteenth week. Your baby will be familiar with your partner's voice because she is carrying the baby. There is no reason why you shouldn't spend at least five minutes a day speaking to her womb or even reading a book! This will help you forge a closer bond with your tot months before he or she enters the real world. You'll also note that by this time junior kicks quite a bit - this is truly a wonderful experience that you should take the time to enjoy.
Get interested in baby names. This is a part of the pregnancy that puts mothers and fathers on equal footing. If you know the sex of the baby, this makes name choosing a little bit easier. There are several resources that are available through our shop that you should check out. Other resources are also available online.
You have some relatively big decisions to make regarding your role during childbirth. The days when dad's role was limited to driving mom to the hospital in the Oldsmobile are long gone. Not only can you be in the delivery room, but you are often expected to play an active part in the labor process. First, you need to decide if you want to be part of the delivery. If not, you should be prepared to spend a few hours (on average 15 to 16 hours) in the hospital waiting room. Bring snacks, water and some good reading material. You should be able to polish off For Whom The Bell Tolls during this period.
If you decide to be in the delivery room, you can take an active or a passive approach. Passively, you'll stand or sit quietly while the doctor and your partner take over. Taking an active approach, you could be a labor coach, which involves helping your partner relax and monitoring her breathing throughout each stage of labor. Many men who have taken this role recommend active participation since it could be a once in a lifetime experience.
The real journey begins after the child is born. Get in the game early because you'll want to develop your own unique bond with the baby. You will want to establish your own tricks of the trade when it comes to coddling, feeding and changing the baby. These rites of passage lay the groundwork for your future relationship with your child.
When it comes to your relationship with your partner, you MUST learn about the signs, symptoms and remedies for postpartum distress syndrome. You can read more about this in the other articles on our website Life After Birth: The First 6 Weeks and Etiquette for Expectant Fathers. But remember, you MUST take it seriously because the consequences of inaction can be disastrous and tragic for everyone involved.
Get Ready To Be A Dad!
By the time the third trimester rolls around, you will be making a very quick transition from expectant to full-time dad. In the life of the relationship between father and son/daughter, pregnancy is only a small slice. Your real role in the pregnancy is to get ready to be a major player in the family and show personal leadership when it comes to raising your new child. In the meantime, you should be thinking about the kind of father you want to be, the kind of values you want to instill, the kinds of things you'll want to teach your child. Spend some time reflecting on this both alone and with your partner.
You should also spend some time reflecting on how having a child will change your family dynamics and your relationship with your partner. By the time your baby is born, you will be different people with a different outlook on life. After all, at the end of this process, two will have become three.
Owner and creator of http://www.thefunkystork.com - the only site for the modern expectant father.