experience a variety of emotions and life changes. But most first-time dads
have their own feelings and concerns to deal with, too.
If you feel shocked, panicked, overwhelmed, scared, or like you're just not
ready, you're not alone. Like any big change, this will require a major
adjustment. And if the pregnancy wasn't planned — half of all pregnancies
aren't — you may be feeling these emotions even more intensely.
You don't have to feel guilty or anxious about having mixed emotions; it's
completely normal. And you can take steps to get more comfortable with the
pregnancy, the idea of parenthood, and the preparations that can make both
go as smoothly as possible.
Here are a few concerns that may be bothering you and ways to keep them in
Will I be capable of caring for a baby?
No one is born knowing this stuff, not even your pregnant partner — that's
why there are childbirth classes. Depending on what's available in your
area, you can take classes as early as the 12th week of pregnancy or one
that focuses just on the day of labor and can be taken as late as the eighth
month. And some communities offer classes designed just for first-time dads.
Most classes teach how to change a diaper, hold the baby, feed and burp the
baby, put the baby to sleep, install a car seat, and childproof your home.
You'll also learn where to park your car when you get to the hospital, how
to get through labor, and how to care for your baby and your partner when
you get home from the hospital.
Along with the lessons, you'll meet other guys going through the same
experience who might be dealing with similar feelings, and that can be a
huge help. The nurses and childbirth educators who lead these classes have
seen dads in a variety of emotional states, so don't feel embarrassed or
hesitant about asking them for help.
Will I be a good dad?
Remember that you're not going to have to tackle every part of fatherhood at
once. For the first few years, a lot of the parenting involves skills taught
in childbirth classes and mastered through practice.
It's much like other new roles that you might take on in your life. If
you're married, you didn't automatically know how to be a good husband. You
learned along the way with your wife.
You have plenty of time before you have to set curfews, teach your child to
drive, and dole out relationship and career advice. These opportunities to
teach your child will feel like a natural progression when they arrive. If
you need guidance, check for resources in the community, including parenting
It may help to talk to and spend time with other fathers and discuss issues
you may be grappling with. If you feel like you have issues about your own
father to work through, try to talk with someone — maybe a counselor or a
family member — before the baby arrives so that they don't interfere with
your relationship with your own child.
How can we afford this?
Feeding, clothing, and educating another human being is going to cost money
that's now spent on other things — there's no question about it. But you can
reduce your stress about the finances.
It may help to get a sense of what your costs will be right after the baby
is born. Your health insurer, employer, or your partner's employer may be
able to give you an idea of the costs and what is covered. Many workplaces
now offer some paid paternity leave, so be sure to ask.
Consider meeting with a financial planner to get some money-management
guidance. You may also want to talk to other new parents you know to get an
idea of how they managed and what unexpected expenses cropped up.
You can open a college fund — or any kind of bank account — any time to save
for new expenses. You may want to start putting away a few dollars each week
to fund items like childcare and diapers. That way, you'll have a head start
on meeting your child's financial needs.
Remember, you won't have to pay for certain expenses. For instance, if your
partner decides to breastfeed, you'll save money on the cost of feeding your
newborn. Also, many families share maternity and baby clothes because
pregnant women and babies wear a particular size of clothes for such a short
Is this the end of my independence?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.