There’s no doubt about it, becoming a father is life-changing. Here’s how to deal with the issues and challenges that it brings.
You can be honest about it, dads-to-be. The prospect of fatherhood can be seriously daunting.
When you see that positive on the pregnancy test, you might experience a whole host of emotions including joy and elation; a sense of achievement; feeling annoyed or shocked; fear; resentment; worry; anxiety; disbelief or detachment. (Draper, 2002a; Chin et al, 2011; Forsyth et al, 2011; Kowlessar et al, 2014). And every single one of them (and more) is completely normal.
What to do if you’re feeling out of things
One thing’s for certain, no matter how involved you are in the pregnancy, you can’t experience everything. You can’t feel the baby move inside you and you aren’t the one feeling nauseous at the smell of the fridge. Yet you can find ways to feel more physically connected to things, like:
taking the pregnancy test together so it’s shared news
going to antenatal appointments and scans together
listening to your partner’s anecdotes and observations about being pregnant and asking questions
feeling the baby when they move.
(Draper, 2002a; Draper, 2002b).
It’s very common to go through changes in your relationship once you have a baby. You might feel:
closer to your partner
like you are now a family unit
as if you have a shared goal in life
a greater appreciation or love for your partner
like you have less time as a couple and that this is causing problems in your relationship
like you are less intimate with your partner
an increase in arguments or disagreements, which is important to note as it can be a risk factor in paternal postnatal depression.
(Easter and Newburn, 2014)
To help things improve, discuss the roles you’re taking on and your expectations of parenthood (Brotherson, 2016). If you had expected things to be different, say so. See if you can list the tasks and work out a better solution or split them more evenly (Brotherson, 2016).
Towards the end of pregnancy, lend support by helping more with household tasks. Try helping with heavy tasks to ease the strain on your partner’s back. Cooking meals might help your partner if they feel nauseous at the smell of food (Brotherson, 2016; NHS Choices, 2017).
For more advice on keeping your relationship strong during the transition to parenthood, you could check out the relationship charity Relate. They have a range of articles about new parents and relationships.
Lots of people worry about money when they have a young baby. You might have lost one income and spent a lot buying baby things, childcare and treats for when you’re both tired. It might help to look at what benefits you're entitled to and start planning your budget as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant (Brotherson, 2007). The Money Advice Service also has information to help you manage your finances when you're having a baby.
A lot changes when you have a baby. One of the main things that change is your habits. Eating healthily to support your partner to have a healthy pregnancy is good, and so is cutting down drinking for the same reason.
If you’re a smoker, pregnancy is the moment to quit so you have plenty of time before the baby arrives. Get advice on how to stop smoking here.
New dad worries and solutions for them
For practical reasons like breastfeeding, your partner might now stay home with the baby while you go out to work. You might not have had such ‘traditional’ roles before (Twenge et al, 2003; Katz-Wise et al, 2010). Discuss who each partner expects will do the various household and childcare tasks and why (Brotherson, 2016).
Your partner may also feel like they end up doing more work, whether it’s paid, unpaid or both (Gjerdingen and Center, 2004). As for you, you might feel outside of the dynamic between your partner and your baby.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.