By Patricia Newton
Itís no secret that pregnancy can wreck havoc to the emotional and physical well-being of any confident, healthy woman. But what about dads? Many times too much pressure is put on dads and we expect them to be someone they just canít be. Dads should be able to be involved during pregnancy and labor in a way that feels comfortable to them. In trying to find out just what that might mean for the dad in your life, consider the following suggestions.
Keep him informed with how you physically feel. Now this doesnít mean you have to dwell on the fact that your heartburn is so bad you have to sleep sitting straight up every night. Or that your swollen feet are completely unrecognizable by the end of the day. But dad does have a major concern for your health, and for the baby youíre carrying. When he asks you how you feel, tell him honestly. Sometimes itís easier to share your anecdotes with other women who can relate to what youíre going through. Girl talk can be helpful, but donít let dad feel rejected by keeping your physical complaints from him.
Share your emotions. True, dads might not be as emotional as moms. And chances are they will never be able to fully understand how we can go from crying over a television commercial to laughing at ourselves in a matter of minutes. But dads have feelings too. The two of you need to know how each other feels about how your life together is changing. Is either of you concerned about how childbirth might change your sex life, or what financial strains you might be under in the future? Now is the time to be open with each other. Go away for a quiet, reflective weekend together. If that isnĎt possible, have your meaningful weekend at home. Unplug the phone, close your curtains and donĎt answer the door. Take the time to get real with each other before baby comes along.
Talk about labor. What do the two of you think labor will be like? How would you like him to help you during labor? Share your thoughts with him. What does he think he will feel comfortable doing during labor? Will he be the strong, physically supportive type, or would he rather sit quietly on the sidelines and have someone else, such as a doula, take on a more active role? Does he already know he doesnít want to see the actual birth, but would rather be by your head and greet the baby with you? There are no right or wrong answers. Take some time now to discuss these matters and plan accordingly. By accepting dad for who he is, you will help a big part of labor be more pleasant for everyone involved.
Give him the facts. Encourage dad to attend your prenatal appointments with you and to ask any questions he might have. If he is unable or not interested in accompanying you to your doctor or midwifeís office, itís not the end of the world. Just be sure to summarize each visit for him afterwards. Granted, not much happens at many of the routine appointments, but just by letting him know your blood pressure and weight gain, he will feel included. Do some research to find what types of childbirth preparation classes are offered in your area. Tell him that such classes are much more than lying on the floor, breathing in front of strangers. Find one the two of you would enjoy attending together so that you both can be better informed on the many birthing options you have available to you.
Devise a plan for labor. Once the two of you have learned in your childbirth preparation class all of the benefits and risks of many common interventions and procedures, the two of you need to discuss which options sound good to you. What procedures do you strongly want to avoid? Which ones would you be in favor of? Dad needs to know where you stand on these issues because once you are in the throes of labor, he might very well become your spokesperson. Consider writing a birth plan together. Seeing your wishes clearly written in black and white could be beneficial to both of you, especially if labor ends up being not at all like you expected it to be.
Pregnancy can be an emotional nightmare, or it can be an enlightening era of self-discovery. Thereís no better time to open those lines of communication than during pregnancy. Once the difficulties of parenting begin, youíll be glad you did.
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