Advice for Pregnant Dads—2014
Nearly 35 years ago, when my wife was pregnant with the first of our two children, I went looking for books for expectant fathers. Mostly, I found books aimed at mothers, and the sole short chapters in them devoted to dads advised us to forget our worries and take care of our wives. While I appreciated that advice, I found it insufficient to be fully present in the pregnancy, so I wrote a book, “When Men Are Pregnant: Needs and Concerns of Expectant Fathers” (1987, Impact Publishing). Lots of dads and moms read it, and even Oprah endorsed my tips for new families.
Now my daughter has two young children. When my niece became pregnant this year, my book was out of print, so I wrote a new book, based on current research. “When She's Pregnant: An essential Guide for Expectant Fathers” (2014, XLibris) was published last month.
Ironically, while much has changed in the form of modern pregnancy and birth, not much at all has changed about the essence of expectant fathers’ anxieties and fears.
Men still gain weight, get moody, sick, sad and downright irrational. They worry about their wives’ health, losing out to the babies in the competition for wives’ attention and affection, not being able to provide for the family financially and otherwise. Some expectant fathers reported buying weapons for protection!
Shockingly, a good number of expectant dads reported a fleeting question that the new baby actually was or is their biological offspring. That’s true in the original research as well as the new study.
In 2014, the realities for expectant couples are certainly different-- parents are older today, have smaller families and fewer than half are actually married. And yet, the psychological aspects of pregnancy for both mom and dad remain mostly unchanged.
There is a double-bind for many dads -- be more present, but not all of you. As more mothers have careers, fathers are expected to play more active roles in the pregnancy and later childcare. But at the same time, there was and is this unspoken rule that fathers should not burden their wives and other family members with their own worries. Contrary to that is some good news: when men do open up to their wives about their anxieties, their bonds during pregnancy strengthens.
Here are some excerpts from the book that help dads – and moms—feel better about the process—while also heading off fatherly anxieties:
● Discuss your feelings with your wife before and during pregnancy, but also the nitty-gritty details like who has the 3 a.m. feeding on weekday nights.
● Attend as many medical checkups and childbirth classes with your wife as you
● Feel the baby kick, and talk and sing to the baby.
● Share your concerns and fears not only with your wife, but with other men.
Most men find empathy when they talk to their men friends especially other expectant or recent fathers.
● Tell your pregnant wife she’s hot! Research shows men find women pregnant with their offspring MORE attractive- not less. Make sure to tell her!
● Let dads be dads. In the only chapter aimed at moms, Shapiro says the most
important thing women can do is give dads one-on-one time with the baby. Don’t worry if he’s attaching the diaper the wrong way- give him some time to figure it out and he’ll be a better dad and partner for it. Remember, no child has ever perished from an improperly-attached diaper.
Jerrold Shapiro is a professor of Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University, a licensed clinical psychologist and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association.