Common Fears of Fatherhood and How to Cope
Congratulations, she's pregnant! How do you feel? If you're like most dads-to-be, you are more than a little nervous. It's okay; it's normal to experience some anxiety. According to Robert Rodriguez, PhD, a psychologist and author of several books for expecting dads, virtually all men have some fears about fatherhood. Sadly, some of these fears are strong enough to break up the relationship and some guys take out their fears on their wives or girlfriends through mental or physical abuse. But it doesn't have to go that way.
Let's take a look at the most common fears facing dads-to-be and what you can do to get over them and start enjoying the pregnancy and your new baby!
It's no secret that little bundles of joy cost a bundle of cash. Expect to spend about $10,000 in just the first year! But you can make it work. It may take some tight budgeting and good organization, but there are ways to cut costs and live more simply. Remember that babies don't need a bunch of fancy toys or the latest styles; they need your love and attention.
Mom and Baby's Health
Pregnancy and childbirth can be scary and you can easily get bogged down with all the talk about what might go wrong. But the facts don't lie: 96 to 97 percent of all babies are born "normal" (without a birth defect) and the risk of a woman dying during childbirth in the U.S. is just 13 in 100,000. That's less than 1 percent. So try to stay positive and focus on everything that can and will go right about the pregnancy, the birth, and beyond.
Gone are the days when dads paced the waiting room while mom labored alone. Most women want their partners at their bedside during childbirth, and most guys want to be there too. But that doesn't mean they aren't worried about fainting, puking, or what they might see and never be able to erase from their memory. While childbirth can be a very intense experience, most guys who have been through the process say it's intense in a good way - a powerful emotional, spiritual, bonding moment. TV and movies are mostly to blame for the overblown dramatics you may fear - the screaming, the blood, the chaos. Once you are in there, chances are you will forget all about puking or fainting and focus on helping her and seeing your beautiful baby for the first time.
If you have had at least one thought about whether or not this kid is really yours, you're not alone. This uncertainty has plagued man since the beginning of time. In fact, Jerrold Shapiro, PhD, surveyed 227 expecting men and found that more than 50 percent of them had "fleeting thoughts" or "nagging doubts" about their baby's paternity. If you are in an unstable or relatively new relationship your concerns may be more intense and prolonged, but according to Dr. Rodriguez, in many cases these feelings really reflect your low self-esteem rather than any rational doubt. So don't let a few irrational fears cloud your judgment and ruin your relationship.
Being a Good Dad
If you are at all concerned about being a good dad, you should take that as a good sign that you will be. Seriously. Being concerned shows that you care, which is the first step in becoming a good dad. Try to look at these concerns in a positive light rather than as an indication that you will screw up or that you are incapable of being a good dad. Most guys feel that they aren't ready to be a dad and will drop the ball (or the baby!). But remember that learning to be a dad is a process, not an overnight transformation. Spending time alone with your baby will help you learn what to do. Start with short periods of time - half an hour or an hour, and work up to a whole day. Your wife or girlfriend will appreciate the break and you will develop a close bond with your new baby!
Yes, you will have sex again...one day. Just don't expect it to happen the day after the baby comes home from the hospital and don't rush your wife or girlfriend into resuming sex. Her body has just gone through an incredible trauma and needs time to heal and rest. In addition, her hormones are fluctuating like crazy - transitioning from pregnancy peaks back to normal levels - and she has a baby that is demanding her attention and every ounce of energy. So don't be surprised or offended if you and your libidinous needs are low on her list of priorities. Give her some time to recover and get into a routine. You can increase your chances of having sex sooner by helping her out around the house and with the baby as much as possible, being supportive and affectionate, and being understanding and patient. But rest assured that she will eventually regain her energy and her libido.
Many guys wonder if they'll ever get their old life back or ever see their buddies again. While it is important for you to focus your time and energy on your new family, it is also important for both you and your wife or girlfriend to have a break now and again. Just don't expect to see your friends as often as before or stay out all night. Talk to your wife or girlfriend about having a night out once a week or once a month. You can take care of the baby while she has an afternoon or evening out with her friends and she can stay in while you are out with yours. But don't forget to make time for date night for the two of you to reconnect as a couple.
Your relationship with your wife or girlfriend will undoubtedly change. You are transitioning from being a couple to being a family and many guys are nervous about losing their place. Suddenly you are a third wheel to mom and baby. Where do you fit in? The fact is, you are an integral and critically important piece of the family unit. She may have biology on her side, but you play an essential role in your child's life whether you know it or not. It may take a bit more planning and work, but you and your wife or girlfriend can (and must) make time for each other as a couple. Plan date nights, take a walk together every evening, check in with each other during the day, leave each other love notes, whatever works for you.
Talk about it. This is not the time to be a guy's guy and clam up about your fears. Talk to your wife or girlfriend. She will probably appreciate your honesty and willingness to open up about your concerns - and she probably has a few herself. But if you are really freaked out and are close to jumping ship, she may not appreciate the added stress, so try talking to your buddies, brother, dad, uncle or some other guy in your life who you trust and who has kids and understands what you're going through. Or get in touch with a counselor who can help you understand why you are having such a hard time adjusting to fatherhood.
Take a class just for dads-to-be. While there are tons of classes geared towards moms-to-be, there aren't too many for dads. But they are out there and they're worth your time. Look for one that covers pregnancy and childbirth as well as what you can expect after the big delivery day. Most dads are ill-prepared for what happens once the baby comes home and that is the source of most anxiety. These classes will talk about changing diapers, feeding, burping, comforting a crying baby, helping your wife or girlfriend through recovery and postpartum issues, as well as how to parent as a couple. Check out the Bootcamp for New Dads website to find a class in your area.
If you are worried about what might go wrong during pregnancy and childbirth or about what might happen in the delivery room, your best defense is a good education. Knowing the facts and preparing yourself mentally will help calm your fears and make you feel prepared and able to help if and when the time comes. Go to every prenatal appointment, attend childbirth classes, read books, check out informative websites just for dads, talk to other dads and your wife or girlfriend's obstetrician.