When I first saw those two lines on a stick confirming the most significant identity shift of my life was imminent, my first thought was: This pregnancy stuff isn’t just for women, is it?
That might be an obvious revelation, but it never occurred to me until that moment. I was so focused on conception, something my partner and I struggled with for nearly two years, that I’d characterised pregnancy as something that women go through, not men.
Never had I been more wrong.
Pregnancy is a journey for any expecting parent, and, as with most journeys, there will be highs and lows. You may have moments of despair and harbour anxious thoughts: ‘Can I do this?’ ‘How do I do this?’ ‘Where do I begin?’
You are not alone. These thoughts are natural – I certainly experienced them all.
I will now reveal some of my biggest fears and causes of anxiety during my partner’s pregnancy and talk about how I overcame them.
Is my baby OK?
The injustice of science left me feeling helpless. I couldn’t accept that I was at the mercy of biology dictating how my baby would develop and that I was powerless to intervene to protect my child from harm – by forestalling a miscarriage, say – or from developing any life-changing or life-threatening conditions at such an early stage.
To help alleviate those concerns, I focused on the elements of pregnancy that I could control, assisting my partner in eating healthily and remaining as calm and relaxed as possible around her.
I focused on these areas because they were things that I could proactively do to influence the environment of my baby’s mother and thus enhance the environment of my baby.
Pro tip: I’m confident that most pregnant women would welcome a pregnancy massage. You’re welcome ;)
How will I bond with my baby?
This one is easy – you begin immediately while your baby is still a tiny ball of cells.
Download a pregnancy app and use it with your partner to discover what is happening to your baby each day. Learn about the beautiful transformation your partner’s body is going through, and understand why she’s sometimes hormonal and prickly.
Remember, this is your journey too, so lean into the experience. By immersing yourself in it and becoming an active participant, you will – perhaps unknowingly – begin the bonding process.
From there, those bonding opportunities only increase in tangibility: noticing your partner’s bump, hearing your baby’s heartbeat, seeing your baby on the ultrasound monitor or my personal favourite – feeling my partner’s belly when our baby had hiccups (called foetal hiccups).
I would also read stories to my baby and talk to it daily. These are both excellent techniques to help you bond, though just reading is fine if you’re not comfortable talking.
Will I be a good dad?
I have a default response to any expectant father who asks me that question. And that is: if you’re asking if you’re going to be a good dad, then you’re on the right path because you care enough to ask.
But ultimately, it’s not the best question, because it’s unquantifiable. How do you define what it means to be a ‘good’ dad?
You need to dig deeper and ask specific questions. Do this, and you have a better chance of finding the answers.
Perhaps you’re worried that you don’t know anything about the practical aspects of looking after a baby, like how to install car seats, how many layers to dress a baby in, how to sterilise bottles, or any other concern –fill in the blank. Perhaps you’re anxious about the birth. I’d be surprised if any expectant parent wasn’t nervous about that famous stage of pregnancy.
But the battle is half won when you take a broad, seemingly unanswerable topic and break it down into specific questions. Googling ‘how to install a car seat’ will return many valuable online articles to get you started. It’s the same with ‘how do you sterilise a bottle?’
Here is an article I wrote for Mamatoto about labour with men in mind, and here is a link to my website, where you will find several in-depth guides I created for expectant dads that are free to download. Perhaps they will help you.
Maybe you have financial concerns. Maybe you’re worried about the freedoms you will soon have to forgo so that you can perform your duties as a caregiver. Maybe it’s something else.
I was worried I would have to stop watching television in my bedroom when my baby was sleeping. Seems daft, right? I don’t care. That was a legitimate concern, so I spoke with my partner about it because it played on my mind.
Regardless of what the problem is, begin by narrowing your concerns down so they’re specific. And then address them. You don’t have to rely solely on the internet either. Try these:
- Talk to other parents.
- Talk to your partner.
- Write your thoughts down in a journal.
Talking and writing
You and your partner are a team, and whether you realise it or not, you will soon become the ultimate team. So, talk to your teammate. Reveal to her (or him) what’s on your mind. Solve these problems together. It’s excellent practice for when baby arrives.
For my part, I was overwhelmed when I learnt that I was to become a dad, so I wrote everything down in a journal. Journaling became my free-of-charge therapy, helping me navigate the terrain that is pregnancy. In fact, my pregnancy journal became my first book, Dear Dory: Journal of a Soon-to-be First-time Dad. It explores in depth what pregnancy is really like from an expectant dad’s perspective.
Perhaps journaling will help you. Not sure where to begin? Try these writing prompts:
- What is on your mind that’s causing you fear and anxiety?
- What actions could you take – like, for example, talking – to alleviate any negative thoughts? Here is an excellent resource: Tim Ferriss – ‘Fear Setting’.
You don’t have to show anyone the stuff you write down. It can all be just for you. But the physical act of writing down your fears can be a surprisingly effective way to discover how to deal with them.
I can’t envision a single expectant father who doesn’t undergo some level of anxiety during his partner’s pregnancy. Don’t bottle it up; release it. Seek a method that works for you, but then get in the habit of offloading when you need to. I promise it will help.
Remember: you are not alone.
Tom Kreffer is the author of Dear Dory: Journal of a Soon-to-be First-time Dad, Dear Arlo: Adventures in Dadding, Toddler Inc., and he is the creator of the Adventures in Dadding Newsletter.
He loves Star Wars and Marvel movies, and he has a degree in film and television that he firmly believes to be worth less than a second-hand toothbrush.
My website www.tomkreffer.com
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org