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Tales from the Dad’s side - Pregnancy for expectant dads

Tales from the Dad’s side - Pregnancy for expectant dads

Tales from the Dad’s side - Pregnancy for expectant dads
Tales from the Dad’s side - Pregnancy for expectant dads
 
Christ the excitement before we had our first baby. The thrill when we realised we were bringing a little one into our world – a monumental step. I remember the first scan at 12 weeks. How miniscule, other-worldly and moving that was. Seeing the curled-up form of our little baby, with its own independently beating heart - was a life-defining moment. A new life in the making. It was mind-blowing and emotional. And we discovered it was going to be a little boy. We couldn't wait to see our baby again so, a while later, we went for another scan, paying extra to get 40 photos, the DVD, the whole shooting match!
 
On holidays that summer, before the birth, we started a book for our new baby, a kind of place to write letters to him. Now we’ve got books for each of our three kids. Hopefully they’ll make interesting reading for our adult children one day. If the house was on fire and everybody out, these might be among the very few items I’d consider going back in for. Everything is in those books - reminiscences, anecdotes, the crazy stuff they do, the mad phrases they use, if they’re doing my head in, that’s in there too.
 
The first pregnancy is full of upsides for dad. There's hardly any debate about who’ll drive back from the pub. No worries about contraception and chances are mammy’s appetite in the bedroom won’t be dented till well into the third trimester. There’s plenty time to get organised, get informed, get equipped and decorate the baby room etc. And it's a second childhood for dad.  I remember learning that our first was going to be a boy, I was thrilled - a boy! boy toys! Lego bricks! wheels!
 
It's awesome seeing your partner's body changing and imagining a little one growing in there. I learned that his hearing abilities had developed by 24 weeks and I remember having one-way conversations with Amy’s bump from then onwards. When the kicking first started I was convinced there was a code here to be cracked somehow. This was my boy successfully communicating with his dad, planning his escape!
 
Like mammies, us dads evolve to meet the challenge too. More love flows, we grow closer as partners and try to create a baby ready and friendly place. Dads get involved in the whole “nesting” process – that time during the third Trimester when expectant mums become concerned with not only space, colours and fabrics, but also about income, expenditure, and financial security. It's her deepest maternal instinct to provide for her baby’s security. Also, sex is going to become less frequent and less adventurous around then. An insecure dad might feel a bit un-alpha-male but, hey, you’re going to be a dad soon, so time to climb down from the proverbial cross – as she’ll need the wood no doubt – for shelving or something.
 
If there’s stuff that’s taking from your enjoyment of this special time, discuss it with her. If you feel unable to do that, then at least have the odd chin wag with a buddy who you confide in – its’ probably nothing that other dads won’t be familiar with. As our first pregnancy progressed, getting married became an important issue for us. Unmarried dads have very few rights in Ireland. If a child is born outside of marriage, mammy is automatically the sole guardian – in the eyes of the law. Dad can become a joint-guardian if both parents sign a “statutory declaration”. We didn’t want complications, for ourselves or for our little fella, so we got married during the third trimester.
 
Becoming a dad can sometimes require that us dads up our game. This needn't send a shudder up the spine - as the first baby won't transform life beyond recognition. If you're active outside of home, with sports, hobbies, social life etc, as well as work, you might need to make some choices or changes. No need to throw your toys out of the pram though. ‘You-time’ won’t disappear when the baby arrives. Your fellow dad buddies will readily understand, while the non-dad buddies might be trickier. Don’t isolate yourself. It's important that you hold onto your pint night with the lads or whatever your thing is. Even with 2 children, I found that there was still adequate ‘me-time’ available. But pregnancy no3 was a game changer. ‘Me-time’ evaporated overnight. The workload became constant and totally overwhelming. I had to flog my boat around then. Literally. That was a ballbreaker.

Overall, I found the first six months heavy going with each of our kids - sleep deprivation being the biggest challenge. Everything escalates when sleep is bad. Don’t hesitate to use the spare room or take those naps. And there are plenty non-habit-forming sleep remedies available over the counter – use what you have to use. Do what’s needed to keep yourself ticking over and the parenting adventure will be full of joy, new possibilities and fulfilment. Good luck on your journey!
 
Tom Evans is a father, hubby, writer, counsellor, and psychotherapist based in Midleton, Cork.