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Last October, my wife Ashley shoved a positive pregnancy test in my face and proceeded to jump in the shower. She left me standing there holding our then 11-month old son wondering how this could have happened…again…already!
The truth is we were planning to try for kid No. 2 in about a year. I’ll spare you the details, but sometimes things happen a little earlier than planned, and you have to suck it up and smile. Realizing that there are many people who have a hard time getting pregnant – and often pay big bucks to do so – helped me to stop freaking out.
The benefit of having your first two children so close together is the fact that all the stuff you learned about pregnancy and bringing home a newborn are still pretty fresh in your mind.
You’ve probably heard of the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and the whole series of books that follow. They’re like bibles on babies. Obviously, it will be a little tough for me to cover everything you’ll run into during your family’s pregnancy adventure.
Every situation is unique. But my goal in writing this article is to let you know about some of the common situations we as dads must endure. I’ll include some of the basics, and answer some of the questions you might be afraid to ask.
What to Expect From “The Pregnant One”
The biggest thing that differs among pregnancies is what the woman carrying your child is going through. Not only will the pregnancy experience be different from woman to woman, it can be very different from baby to baby with the same woman.
It seems a little backwards, but for some reason that first trimester is usually the toughest for many moms. That’s when they often get morning sickness as their bodies are going through a lot of changes.
Most women say they feel pretty good during the second trimester. Then things can sometimes get ugly again towards the end of the third trimester. That’s when they start feeling uncomfortable and just can’t wait to get the baby out.
This might be tough to hear…but sometimes it will seem like your wife is going through nine months of PMS. So be prepared for an emotional roller coaster ride. Just don’t tell her you feel that way unless you want your head ripped off.
Your wife or significant other may seem like a completely different person during her pregnancy. My wife is usually a very social and slightly hyper-active overachiever. But especially during that first trimester, Ashley was constantly fatigued, unmotivated, and could even be a bit of a loner.
Remember to try to cut the mom-to-be some slack if she doesn’t have her usual energy, or isn’t as pleasant as usual. Although I have to admit that I let Ashley know when I felt like she was spending a little too much time on the couch.
I paid for that, but I needed to vent.
We’ve all heard about those notorious cravings during pregnancy. At first I thought most of those stories were old wives tales. But a lot of couples have told me about strange cravings like salted watermelon or pickles and peanut butter. During Ashley’s first pregnancy, she had a taste for stuff like macaroni & cheese and mashed potatoes. This time around it’s been Thai food – a bit more expensive.
You can expect to be the one sent out to the grocery store and to pick up take out. The good news is that you get to partake in the cravings as well.
As men, we’ll never understand exactly what the women we love go through during pregnancy and childbirth. We tend to want to solve all their problems. But that’s just not possible. What we can do is be there for support.
Expect to listen to a lot of complaints while giving backrubs as well as the occasional foot rub – and don’t expect the favor to be returned. The foot rub thing is kind of a tough one for me because I hate feet, but NY Jets Coach Rex Ryan would love it.
What to Expect In the Bedroom
This topic is number two on the rundown because I know how much you’re wondering about it.
I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you exactly what to expect as far as the future of your sex life. It’s true that some women experience an increased sex drive during parts of their pregnancy. However, that’s not a guarantee.
You should realize that your wife might be feeling very self-conscious about her body. Letting her know you still find her attractive will probably pay off later.
Here’s an interesting fact. Pregnant women often have very vivid sexual dreams. She’s probably going to want to tell you about these crazy dreams, and you never know where the conversation could lead (wink, wink).
After the pregnancy, your love life might dry up a little as well. Realize that she’s going to need at least a couple of months to let her body heal. Plus, she may still be feeling a little awkward about her physical appearance. You should let her know you’re interested, but be patient and sympathetic at the same time.
I know I sound like a couple’s therapist here – but….the most important thing you can do for your relationship is to keep the lines of communication open.
Even if you aren’t sticking to your normal love-making schedule, find a way to stay passionate with each other and spend time together. It’s going to get harder to find moments for just the two of you with a kid in the picture.
What to Expect From Your Kids
If this isn’t your first child, you’ll also have to think about how the pregnancy is affecting the kids you already have.
Make no mistake, bringing a new baby home changes everyone’s world, but it can be especially hard for the new siblings. You may have to deal with jealousy and other behavioral issues as your children adapt to the change.
In my case, our son Max will be 20 months old when his new brother or sister arrives. He probably won’t even remember life before the new baby arrived, although it will certainly have a big impact on him.
I’ve been trying to clue Max in on what’s happening. We look at pictures of his mom when she was pregnant with him. I’m sure it completely blows his one-year-old mind when I try to explain that he was once inside Mama’s tummy.
It’s good to be open with your kids about what’s going on. You may even want to use the opportunity to explain a little about the “birds and the bees” and where babies come from. Maybe you don’t want to get into all the dirty details, but it might be easier to explain things to a younger child who won’t get the giggles. They’re going to learn about it from somebody someday. So it might as well be you.
Bringing another child into your family will also have an effect on who your current children become. I recommend reading The Birth Order Book by Kevin Leman to find out more about how family dynamics can play a role in the development of your kids’ personalities.
Whatever the case, as a parent of multiple kids, your challenge will now be to make sure that each child gets the attention they need. Consider scheduling some outings with your older kids after the baby is born so you can spend some one-on-one time with them.
What to Expect Financially
Having a baby can cost you quite a bit of money. You’re going to be writing a lot of checks to pay a lot of bills. Not only are there medical bills, but you’ll also have to stock up on baby items including clothes, cribs, toys. Then there are also the diapers, wipes and formula. Eventually, child care may also figure into the additional cost of having kids.
You may even have to purchase a new vehicle to make room for car seats. I’ve got one of those 3-door Saturn Coupes. It was working out alright with one kid, but I’m going to have to figure out something different now.
If you’re feeling down about possibly becoming a mini-van owner, just keep telling yourself that they have a lot of storage space. Think of it as more of a work van instead of a grocery getter.
Don’t be ashamed to accept hand me downs and visit secondhand stores and garage sales. In most cases, baby stuff is barely used anyway.
It’s smart to sit down with your significant other and try to map out how this new baby is going to fit into your budget.
Find out if she’ll still be getting paid while she’s on maternity leave. Ask about the possibility of paternity leave for yourself. Look into your health insurance coverage to make sure you know what’s covered and what might not be. I’d suggest beefing up you savings account so that you can both afford to take some time off when the baby comes home.
What to Expect In the Delivery Room
The “big day” is another aspect of pregnancy that can be different every time. The best thing you can do as the dad is be on high alert when you get down to the last couple weeks before the due date.
Hopefully, you paid attention in those birthing classes (aka Lamaze), because you may need to act as a coach for the woman who’s about to give birth to your child. On the other hand, she may decide to throw everything she learned in those classes out the window.
Your top priority in the delivery room should be to offer encouragement. Let her know it’s going to be okay, and that she’s doing a great job. That is…unless she tells you to shut up. Many times women don’t like hearing their man’s voice when they’re pushing out an eight-pounder. I can understand that. She probably needs to focus, right?
My wife was extremely worried about pooping during the delivery. Yes it happens. Think about it. It’s like your squeezing a tube of toothpaste. It has to come out somewhere. If your wife is concerned or feels embarrassed, make sure you let her know it’s no big deal, and tell her it wasn’t that much – even if it was.
Watching someone go through labor and bring a child into the world can be exhausting. I know it’s much worse for the mother, but you’ll certainly feel some empathy. Nobody likes seeing the woman they love in pain.
When my son Max was born it was the most euphoric thing I’d ever experienced. I felt proud, relieved and extremely happy at the same time. I even got to cut his umbilical cord. As far as that goes, it was a lot more rubbery and tough than you might expect. You have to give the scissors a good squeeze to cut all the way through.
To be honest, I completely forgot about my wife after Max emerged from the womb. Ashley was getting stitched up while I was following the nurses around taking pictures as they cleaned him up and weighed him.
What to Expect When The Baby Comes Home
Your family’s world will change immediately once a newborn baby enters the picture. It will keep changing as the baby changes.
Everyone knows that you aren’t going to get a lot of sleep with a newborn that needs to eat every couple of hours. But what you’ll hate even more is constantly being asked if you’re getting enough rest, or if the baby is sleeping through the night yet. Seriously, if I had a nickel…
If your wife is trying to breastfeed, she may run into some difficulties. It’s important to let her know that it’s not her fault if breastfeeding doesn’t work out.
Diapers will quickly become a part of your everyday life. Don’t worry; you’ll be a pro in no time. The nice thing is those baby poops start out pretty mild, and get worse as their diet changes. So you’ll kind of ease your way into the real stinkers.
However, brand new babies have what I refer to as tar poops. That’s called meconium, and it’s because they are getting rid of the amniotic fluid he or she breathed while in the uterus. Your baby will only have a few of these and might be done before coming home.
Finally, I’d like to congratulate you. In my opinion, being a parent is probably the best thing you’ll ever do with your life. Enjoy every moment. I’m already realizing that kids grow up very quickly!
Thoughts and Stories for Those Expecting
If you have tips for new dads, or if you can think of something important that I missed, please leave a comment and share!
The following is a guest post from blogger Kasey Steinbrinck.
Kasey is a former TV news and radio producer who has also worked as a newspaper reporter. He now creates web content for Check Advantage, and writes about personal finance and the economy on the Check Advantage Blog. During his free time, Kasey chases his 15-month old son around the house.