Dads-To-Be: The Episode For Dads-To-Be

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Our Experts In This Episode
Nada Arnot owns The Funky Stork, a website with a ton of pregnancy and parenting info for dads and dads-to-be.  Arnot says her site is for "modern expectant fathers and hip new dads". 
Welcome to your Pea in the Podcast, I'm Bonnie Petrie with everything you need to know about your body, your baby and the big changes ahead in your life as you begin your journey to becoming a mommy.
This week, you know what your pregnancy is like for you but what about your partner?
We'll talk about his fear...
"There is a lot of fear and especially for men."
His insecurity...
"I'd like to believe that I'd always be the number but I know when we have kids I know that's not going to be the case."
What he may think about being at the birth...
"I really can't wait, I want to have a front row seat."
But should he be there?
"It can be a little traumatizing."
We'll find out what he thinks about you...
"You're making my baby, that's pretty hot."
We'll talk to a woman who runs a website which dads-to-be flock for expert information. And we'll talk to a dad-to-be who is getting ready for the birth of his first baby. That's all coming up in this Pea in the Podcast: Dads-to-be.
We've spent a lot of time talking about how this pregnancy and the prospect of becoming a mommy is affecting you, but you didn't get here alone. This is a time of momentous transformation for your baby's father too. He's becoming a daddy! The earth probably shook just as much for him as it did for you when you saw that positive pregnancy test, it did for Joel...
"I really, really just wasn't prepared for kids, not that you ever are it just wasn't something that I felt was lacking in my life. It just wasn't something that I had my heart set on; I really could say I didn't want kids. For some odd reason as soon as she told me we got pretty emotional and I was excited which surprised me because I wouldn't expect myself to react that way.  Had somebody (asked) me how would you react if you found out she was pregnant I'd say oh man I'd probably freak out. But I actually, it was a really positive reaction.  I was excited."
And as the months have passed his excitement has only grown. But it's hard for daddy's-to-be to get information. Nada Arnot discovered that when she was pregnant for her first child and wanted to fully share the experience with her husband.
"Well, all of the information about pregnancy, whether it be basic information from what is a trimester and what is morning sickness to what to expect in you know the first six weeks after birth, how to change a diaper and how to feed a newborn and what not I found that all of the articles spoke to women, literally spoke to women by saying you and referring to you as she or her and so there was absolutely nothing talking to dads. And so it is always hard.  I know if I am reading an article about how to change a tire for example and if it is always talking to me as if I were a man, I just really can't get into that process. I mean I'm just not as engaged."
So she started a website for dads, The Funky Stork, so now men have a place to go for information and camaraderie, and those things are just as important for your partner as they are for you, because becoming a daddy can be scary.
"There is a lot of fear and especially for men because they don't, you know, for the women they feel the baby growing in them on a daily basis for the men as far as they are concerned nothing is going on and so because they have absolutely zero control in the process once the baby has been conceived there's a lot of uncertainty and a lot of fear, so, you know, we speak to men, like, 'so what? You're scared but that is totally normal. You know you feel a little inadequate, that is totally normal too!', and it's just speaking and putting it out there like that I think really calms a lot of men down."
Joel admits he struggled with fear.
"I tell her pretty frequently, like, man, this is, you know, I'm scared.  From now on you got to like be responsible about somebody else's life. It's not just you and I anymore, so you know this is a big step for us."
Arnot says men can also struggle with their perceived position as provider in this new family.
"Especially in hard economic times like recently the economy has been all over the place, I know a lot of fathers are concerned financially there's a rising cost of food in many cities, the rising cost of childcare, how are they going to afford to raise a child especially if the wife is staying at home. And there are a lot of financial constraints that need to be accounted for. But the burden of raising family is not entirely on their shoulders. This is a partnership and just keep their relationship strong, it can keep their foundation strong with their wife then everything will be okay."
And becoming parents, even though your partner is generally as thrilled about this as you, can tap into an insecurity about his place in your life.
"She said to me that I've been replaced.  I know she's joking but in a certain sense you know it is kind of true. I mean I'm not the focus of her affection anymore. I'd like to believe I'd always be the number one but you know when we have a son, or when we have kids, I know that isn't going to be the case and be realistic about it that our kids are going to come first for both of us."
Arnot said this feeling is nothing for you to be angry about or for your partner to be ashamed of during your pregnancy or after your baby comes.
"There's also a small element of jealousy, but that is okay. And you know we talk about that being normal as well, and that's where it's important for them to, for the father to get involved and try to bond with the baby whether it be every morning their tradition is to go out for a quick walk around the block. Something small can go a long way. And it can go a long way for alleviating any jealousy or tension that might be growing between the couple also."
Another thing that may happen is your partner may suddenly turn all caveman on you.
"I think a bit of biology kicks in there too, they become extremely protective. Which is actually endearing. It can be a little annoying for the wife but it's also endearing. I know my husband certainly became really paranoid about the way I crossed the street, it's like I've been walking all of my life, I'm okay."
This may really rub you the wrong way sometimes, your hormones are wacky after all, but take a deep breath before you snap.  He has the best of intentions. This is not a battle worth fighting. And speaking of hormones, there is no way a man will ever be able to understand the hormone bath your body is taking while you build a baby. Nada Arnot says that can be really upsetting for your partner.
"There is actually an article about 'Does Your Wife Hate You?' for that very reason. A lot of men feel that way especially because they are already feeling awkward about the fact that they have this third person in their household, like we had spoken about earlier, that there might be this slight element of jealousy and all of the sudden their wife is extremely cranky whether it be from hormones or just pure exhaustion. That is common, and, you know, my advice is take everything sort of with a grain of salt, understanding where your wife is coming from. Do what you can to relieve some of the pressure on her and just let her know that you're there for her. You can't get wrapped up in the emotional rollercoaster because sometimes, and speaking from experience, I was fully guilty of lashing out about small things that were not just so I could lash out but I was tired and I was hormonal. My husband did everything.  He just went with it, and that made a big difference because if he had reacted emotionally it would have just escalated."
Joel is very Zen about his wife's ups and downs and all arounds.
"I'm a pretty patient guy so I try to keep in mind what she might be going through because I know she's got a lot of things in her head and a lot of hormones pumping that normally aren't there. So I just try to be patient with her and she for the most part she's okay. Seems like she's been the opposite, listening a little bit more attentively, and she's been sort of less sensitive, but for the most part I'm very patient with her, and we have our little spats here and there but usually we'll talk it out or we'll just calm down and just move on."
Hormones will also have a great impact on one other very important part of your relationship, your sex life. Some of you will be ravenous and some of you may not be interested at all. Some of you may not care one way or the other, but your partner isn't pregnant. His interest in sex may not change a bit. Joel's hasn't, but he has had to accept a bit of lull in his love life.
"Only because she's actually craves it less. She's had less of a sexual drive since she's been pregnant and she says it's just because of her hours and the schedule she works and she works in the morning. She gets up so early that she gets home she is tired and sometimes she really is in the mood but thinks wow I really could take a nap or you know I could exert myself physically. I think I'd rather rest. So she says that she just hasn't had the same drive as she has had before, which is, to me, from what I have heard it is common for women to get more active while they are pregnant. But the times that we have been together it is not an issue for me. I think she worries about it more but I have never felt the baby is watching or anything like that. I have heard some people have had that in the back of their head but it has never bothered me. I have never had that worry or that paranoia."
Some of you, regardless of your level of interest in sex, may feel like you're not attractive to your partner while pregnant.
"I see her still attractive. So I mean you know just with a little belly. But it doesn't bother me at all."
But it bothers her.  Joel knows this and he wishes it didn't.
"I try to draw attention that guys always hit on her and try to just let her know that she is a good looking girl. So now that she's pregnant, the same thing. I try to say you know you're making my baby, that's pretty hot."
Nada Arnot at the Funky Stork says as you navigate your sexual relationship during pregnancy and after your baby's birth, keep the lines of communication open.
"This is not something that you should be shy talking about and if you're comfortable with the sex during pregnancy and your wife is completely ravenous great, go with it. But if you're uncomfortable, you know open to communicating that to your partner because you don't want your partner thinking that, a lot of women get this sense that oh my husband doesn't want to have sex with me because I'm no longer attractive. When really there are other things going on and like we had said earlier, a lot of men feel like there is a third person in the room, like they may be poking the baby and there are a lot of fears that they might be having that aren't necessarily grounded in real science."
"If they do have a real concern from a medical perspective, they should feel comfortable going together to the wife's doctor and talking about what are the complications of associated with having sex during pregnancy. If the wife isn't interested in sex it's not about him. It's really normal. The body is doing something incredible and it's doing it the way that it wants to do it. And so if the wife is not interested in sex it's not because she's not attracted to her husband anymore because of him, it's just a hormonal reaction."
Joel understands this.  He knows his wife's low sex drive during pregnancy is not about him.
"But I was hoping for the higher interest, but it is what it is, no big deal."
So they are going for intimacy, which is so very important.
"You know even though we're not having very much sex we're still pretty intimate. She gets all kinds of back and foot rubs and head rubs; I rub my hands through her hair that really relaxes her. Then she just discovered that she likes her hands rubbed, that's a tension reliever that relaxes her. We still have quite a bit of intimacy."
And Arnot says there are other ways to stay connected. You might want to call your partner over right now to listen to this part so he doesn't think you're making it up to get him to do the dishes.
"The helping around the house.  My husband really picked up good habits like he do would yoga with me, because I did prenatal yoga every day, so every once in a while he would do yoga with me and that was a really nice sort of bonding experience it was really important to me that he came obviously with me to childbirth class, or Lamaze with me even though in childbirth I never actually used any of the techniques, they went out the window as soon as I went into childbirth. But it was nice to at least be with him and he felt like a real participant at that point."
You can also have him come to your doctor appointments, if his work schedule allows it.
"A lot of men find that one it is very difficult to make it work with their employer to go to all of the appointments and the other thing that I have heard is they don't feel like they are welcome in the appointment. My advice is if you can arrange your appointments such that he can get away from work, telling your wife's doctor right from the beginning that you really want to be an active participant in this and that you want to know everything that is going on and hopefully they'll change their approach and be able to speak the dads and they're not just somebody who drove the wife to the appointment. But for guys who can't actually make it to the appointment the ones that I would say that are most critical to make it to are the first one and the ultrasound. Especially if you decide if you've agreed to find out the gender of your baby, that's not a time you want to miss."
Another thing Arnot suggests parents share is the baby shower.  It used to be he private domain of women, but no longer.
"This is a celebration for them, as well.  I think right from the beginning if you could start with a celebration at a baby shower I think it will actually a lot of men get really excited about that."
We did a co-ed shower, lunch in a restaurant, we had a great time and so did our guests, of both genders.
Then there is the big day, birth day. Does your partner really want to be there?
"Absolutely, I can't wait. She thinks that I'm not going to hang; her sister thinks that I am going to pass out. But they are absolutely wrong that I really can't wait. I want to have a front row seat. But I'm excited."
Most dads-to-be feel just like Joel. Although the experience is intense.  Don't be surprised if it is overwhelming.
"It can be a little traumatizing. Again it really goes back to seeking education. And you know the best advice I have found is if a man has other new dads to talk to that can go such a long way that can be so therapeutic for men. Sometimes it's just a matter of talking about it and getting it out. I think just like the woman forgets the pain that they go through during childbirth after a while, those types of images go away for men as well. So you get a time everything involved and you know they are a lot of other experience that will happen within the first 6 weeks your first child. It can be quite overwhelming to the point where the childbirth experience was inconsequential"
And only the most beautiful memories of childbirth remain for both of you.
It's almost a forgone conclusion for most people that mom will have no trouble bonding with the baby. After all it's been a part of her for 40 weeks, give or take. But lots of dads-to-be worry they won't be able to bond with their new little one.  That fear is often exacerbated if there is a flood of visitors and mom is either nursing the baby or passing it off to a well meaning guest. Dad sort of becomes an outsider.  This doesn't have to happen. In fact in the first hours and days after birth it is very important that daddy and baby get some alone time together. They can cuddle and dad can stroke and talk to them. My baby's father loved the time when he could take his shirt off and our little girl could cuddle on skin on skin, sometimes with a blanket on both of them -- thick as thieves -- as they still are.
Arnot says a couple has to make this bonding time a priority.
"Absolutely and I think it makes a huge difference for the relationship, as well, between the mother and father, at least the husband and wife. For us we made it very clear to our family that we appreciated their help but we didn't want them coming until week 2 or 3. That we would do it on our own for the first couple of weeks and we figured by the time that week 3 rolled around we'd be so tired that we'd be absolutely grateful for any assistance. That at least for a while we wanted to be alone with our son and bond as family."
Some of you will want to have extended family around right away, and that is fine. The support of extended family is wonderful, but it is important that you make sure that daddy and baby and you all together get special time alone. In fact, a support system as we mentioned with extended family, that is essential to get you through those first few months of parenthood when you aren't getting any sleep, and your partner may need help understanding that just because you are on maternity leave what you're experiencing is nothing like a vacation. When he comes home from work you will need his help and there is plenty he can do. Arnot has some guidance at the Funky Stork.
"Such as how to clean a house and so there is a checklist for how to clean the house. Just in case it's something they might not have been doing beforehand and they might not even know where to begin. So it is a checklist of things that need to be done around the house. Or easy recipes that they can whip up quickly that are healthy that won't stall necessarily any weight loss that the partner is trying to achieve post-pregnancy. And like I said they are super easy to make and super easy to clean up and they are actually really delicious."
And he can help you with those middle of the night feedings. If you're breastfeeding he can change and rock the baby after you nurse. If you're bottle feeding you can alternate. But there will be times when your baby's father still feels helpless no matter how involved he is.
"A lot of babies do have big problems or problems like acid reflux and that made my husband feel really inadequate because when they're having a reflux attack there is nothing that really can calm them down. It's just incontrollable crying and so, you know, for the mother it's one thing. You try to cope with it, but the fathers who already feel like there isn't necessarily that automatic bond or that automatic nurturing element, my husband at least felt like well now I'm even more useless. It was really difficult for him and I had to in many respect assure him that this is normal. We just go with it and try to do our best together."
And he isn't useless. A colicky baby just needs to be held.  If you can let go of the fact that they're crying remember that it is not about you, both of you can hold and cuddle your crying baby and both are you are doing something very important, and remind yourselves and each other that this intense time does not last forever, although it may feel like it will.
Now a few more words about sex after giving birth. We are talking about men after all...
"Women's bodies do go back to not necessarily exactly the way it was before but pretty close. Otherwise women would not be having babies."
You know he's worried about it and you can reassure him. But actually making love after the baby may take some effort.
"As you know babies don't necessarily sleep when you want them to sleep and so fitting in that intimacy into a relationship can also be difficult, and it's frustrating for men, especially when they do get the chance when the baby is finally asleep. Often they are both so exhausted that they are no longer interested and so you know there are other ways that you can engage in the intimacy side of sex and you know you have to learn to accept that and this is not permanent, our sex life can come back and it does and you know maybe for the first little while the bonding between a husband and a wife consists of a lot of baths together, massages or dinners or just doing things that you really like to do or what you liked to do before."
"You know what we did is we hired a babysitter, we went on date night, and it can just be something simple, it could be even just be going to a coffee shop and just sitting down together reading, we found that that was so relaxing and it was such a precious time to at least be together in quiet."
Quiet, a commodity after the baby comes. And you know it's easy to forget, through all of this, that men need support too. It's as important for him to create a support system as it is for you. If he doesn't have a group of friends right now that he can lean on and talk to it's not too late to make one.
"Some of our best friends we met in our childbirth classes and that was a great experience for my husband. So the guys could go out on weekends alone and I don't know what they are talking about but I am assuming a lot of it was also related to the sense what's going on, we're actually going to become dads. You know and that's that whole identity shift is huge. It is huge for mothers as well but for a lot of men to suddenly go from being a guy to being daddy it's hard to wrap your mind around sometimes."
Yes there are big changes ahead in his life too, in his journey to becoming a daddy. He'll never be the same.  He'll be better.  He'll be a father.
We hope you've enjoyed this Pea in the Podcast: Dad's-to-be. Please visit our website for more information about our experts, to find links and transcripts and to register to get tailored week by week shows for each week and stage of your pregnancy. It's everything you need to know about your body, your baby and the big changes ahead in your life in your journey to becoming a mommy. For Pea in the Podcast, I'm Bonnie Petrie. Thanks for listening.

A Special Thanks To...
Joel in Texas for sharing with us his journey to becoming a daddy for this podcast.