I will start this off by saying I am not one of those husband’s that refers to “We” when speaking about his wife’s pregnancy. She has to carry the baby, I just assisted in the beginning and felt guilty about what she had to go for. I used that knowledge to do extra and make things a bit easier for our pregna…I mean her pregnancy. For example:
“You want a foot massage? I am your man!”
“Of course, that giant horseshoe shaped pillow will fit perfectly on our bed, maybe we should get two?”
“I am not sure if we can run both the air conditioner and heater at the same time, but I will go check it out.”
Ok, I am not sure that last one happened, but it is a placeholder for something equally….unique.
Much about each of the 9 month periods before my children were born are now a blur to me. My brain has been filled with Disney Jr., figuring out if daycare is closed tomorrow and how best to manipulate my children into staying in their own beds. I do remember a few key points about how I tried to make my wife a bit more comfortable and proud to have me as a husband. I was definitely not a perfect husband and still am not, but maybe you can be with a few tips to make her proud of you.
Be Uncomfortable Together
Especially if this is a first child, she needs someone to reassure her and be by her side through all the discomfort. You likely won’t know the first thing about what she is going through, so don’t pretend to. Just nod your head and spend a few minutes trying to listen to what she wants.
- If her ankles are swollen, bring her a glass of water, prop her feet up on your lap and explain how you were reading a great blog that says swimming can help bring the swelling down.
- If you enjoyed partaking in too many alcoholic beverages before her pregnancy, stop it, you are now part of a pregnant “we”. She probably wants to drink too and nobody likes to be the sober one, especially for 9 months. That isn’t to say you can’t still enjoy a drink every now and then, just do it alone, like in the shower or on the way to work.
- Now is not the time to argue over the furnace being turned up a few notches or the air conditioner left running most of the night. A couple dozen dollars is nothing to what that child is going to cost in a couple of years. Suck it up, adjust the thermostat and make up the difference by selling your Xbox as you won’t be playing it once that baby comes. Yep, you are almost a grown-up now.
Adding a new family member is going to be scary, exciting and emotional for both parents. You will both need to be supportive of each other before and after your new baby arrives. It isn’t the 50s anymore and they even let men into the delivery room now. Take the time to understand your role as a father and a husband. Your wife or girlfriend will be grateful that she has you by her side.
- Be engaged. You don’t literally need to be engaged to have a baby , be engaged with the pregnancy. And let her know it. This was tough for me as I was scared as hell the first time, but it means a lot to your significant other. She will remember her pregnancy much better than you did, so make sure to fill it with good memories.
- Read a book about pregnancy or being a dad. Fatherhood has been around for awhile and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, learn from others what has/does work. If you don’t like reading, go sign up for a trial of Audible and use your credit listening to a book about what to expect. This will turn you into an instant super-hero and might even let you off the hook for forgetting something else in this article.
- Find a parenting class. These can be of any topic, but I would highly recommend you know a thing or two about babies before you have one. Unless you make burritos at Chipotle, you are probably going to need to learn how to tightly swaddle a baby. I assure you that this usually has a direct correlation to how well your baby, and consequently you, sleep each night. The hospital where your child will be born will likely have classes soon. Make sure to book in plenty of time so you don’t end up bringing your newborn with you. If you get the option to wear the pregnancy belt around, just do it, this will help you appreciate the section above on discomfort.
- Help pick a name. Don’t get too pushy with a particular name, but also make sure to voice your opinion. Your child is going to hold you both responsible, so you might as well have your say. Spend some time looking up baby names with her or at least help narrow down the list of potential names. If you get stuck, see if you can find any names with the same initials as a parent or grandparent. It’s a nice way to honor those that are special to you.
- Buy her a push-gift. I still think this is a bit silly, but I have always been a bit temperate on giving/getting gifts. I didn’t know this was even a “thing” until the day after she gave birth. Learn from my mistakes and get her something that shows you care. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but rather something that marks the occasion. Of course, jewelry with a child’s birthstone would be nice, but a nice picture frame with the date might go over just as well. Just don’t fill it with a picture of your wife in labor, that will likely negate the positive feelings.
No, I am not talking about your wife. That is a horrible thing for you to think of and you should be ashamed. I am referring to all of the housework that needs completed to get ready for your new child.
- Complete your honey-do list. Time is soon going to be in short supply. Now is the time to run to Home Depot and be the handy-man that you day-dream about on your way home from work. Fix that sliding door that always gets stuck or that door bell that you haven’t heard in 3 years.
- Baby proof the house. You don’t need to go crazy here just yet. Your child won’t try to stick anything in the electrical outlets until at least a year old. But, you can get started on some basic safety precautions like ensuring dressers can’t tip over and kitchen cupboards have safety latches installed. I can assure you that whether or not it is true, you will feel that you have saved your child from death at least once before they are in preschool.
- Paint the Nursery. Even if the color of your future child’s room rates a 0 on your list of cares, the nursery is likely something she wants to be perfect. Bring home some paint samples from your previous trip to Home Depot or maybe even pick out some decals to spice it up a bit. You can’t go wrong with a nice 12 month photo collage of your new baby to hang on the wall.
- Take care of the pets. I had to look up why I was being asked to take out the cat litter during my wife’s pregnancy, just to make sure it was true. It is. Your pregnant spouse should not be handling dog or cat litter due to possibly coming into contact with a little parasitic infection known as toxoplasmosis. If you really want to know what it is, check it out here. Otherwise just trust me, it isn’t good and you want your wife at the pinnacle of health while carrying your child.
- Literally, do the heavy lifting. We found out my wife was pregnant with our first child about a month before we had booked a week long canoe trip. She insisted we go and I love her for that. Needless to say, I was paddling for 3 that trip. She still helped, but we took lots of breaks and multiple trips to portage the canoe and backpacks. There are some articles that will state she shouldn’t lift more than say 25 pounds. Let her doctor make that decision and instead focus on reducing the amount of lifting she needs to be doing on a daily basis. Start with carrying in the groceries or carrying the hamper to the washer.
Plan For the Future
- Save for college. You have 18 years until your next financial ruin. Start saving money aside now. Even $20 bucks a paycheck could be over $15,000 by the time your child is ready for college. In 18 years, that should be enough to buy a couple books for them as a consolation prize as they sign their loan forms. Look into your state’s college savings plan, also known as a 529 plan. The best part is you can generally deduct up to a certain amount from your state income taxes. Also, there will come a time your kids have enough toys. Send the grandparents and other relatives links to the savings plan so they can contribute in lieu of another cardboard puzzle that you will have to pick up every other day.
- Go shopping now. Set aside money or purchase the things that you will need ahead of time. You can never have enough diapers, but purchase a few different sizes for your baby to grow into. You will go through A LOT of diapers and they aren’t cheap at $20-30 a box. Also pickup wipes, bottles, burp rags, and any other disposable items. I wouldn’t bother with stocking up on too many clothes. Family and friends will be all too happy to buy clothes and you will end up with many things that get used once or not at all.
- Purchase and prep the car seats. You normally can’t leave the hospital with your baby until your car seat has been inspected. Do not wait until the last moment. Check with your local fire or police department if you are not completely sure you know how to install it properly. Many communities have specific events where they will help install and/or check your car seats for proper operation.
- Pack a bag for the hospital ahead of time. You likely won’t know the exact time that you will need to rush to the hospital. Have your bags packed well in advance. Bring your normal overnight luggage but also include a couple surprises for the lady of the hour. Some magazines, a tablet, movies, phone chargers and light snacks might help to pass the time in case you end up spending more time than originally expected.
When Your Baby Comes
Unless you are planning on picking up a male breastfeeding vest, it is entirely likely your baby will form a stronger bond with his/her mother during feedings. You can help strengthen your bond by playing a stronger role in everything else. This also lets your wife have a break which we know she would appreciate after carrying a child around for 9 months.
- Bottle feeding. Maybe you have chosen to formula feed or your child has a difficult time with breastfeeding. In this case, you have a great opportunity to give your spouse a break and build your relationship with your child. Even if this isn’t the case, take an active role in being close by and assisting in feedings. For the first few days and weeks, you should be paying special attention to how much your baby is eating. Buy a whiteboard and keep track of how many ounces he/she is consuming. This keeps you close-by and makes you a part of the experience.
- Wake up when your baby does. The easy thing to do is let your wife be the one to get out of bed alone and feed the child. You are not being part of the “we” if that is your attitude. Offer to take turns with this. After all, your new baby is still going to need changed and that does not require a mother’s touch. Even if your wife is breastfeeding, you can still bring your baby to her and ensure that he/she is placed back in the crib after the feeding.
- Take lots of pictures. Unless you are a photo-bug already, you may not always think to capture those moments when your children are young. Pay special attention to capturing pictures of your wife with your child as she will be sure to capture plenty of you. If nothing else, you can use these photos to embarrass your children in the future, just as your parents did to you.
- Practice what you have learned. By now, you have finished the book that you so expertly decided to read prior to your new family member. Show your wife and child that you know how to be a good father. You will make lots of mistakes, I still do. Hopefully, your mistakes won’t leave you embarrassed like the time I had to palm a pile of poop that my daughter left on the steps of the winner’s circle at the horse track during family night. The key is to get involved and show you care. This pregnancy does involve you, even if you have the easier part.
I hope you can find one or two tips in this post to help you and your wife get through the stressful and exciting time of adding to your family. If you have any of your own tips that helped you already or even things you wish you had thought of before, I would love to hear your comments below. I am also up for those horror stories so we can all laugh at your misfortune and secretly thank you so we don’t make the same mistakes.