Advice for Expectant Fathers
Expectant fathers go through profound changes, too, even though their bodies don't change. Overcoming fears and assumptions is part of becoming a father.
Feeling Left Out continued...
This lack of focus can make many men feel a little shut out. "What often happens is that fathers wind up feeling excluded really early in the pregnancy," says Brott. "And that process can get worse as the pregnancy goes on and after the child is born."
Excluded by whom? Is some sinister conspiracy at work?
Hardly, but Brott observes that traditional social forces can push men away from embracing their roles as fathers. Many men wind up excluding themselves, however unintentionally.
"There's no question that some dads-to-be and even experienced fathers can feel alienated from the pregnancy and birth process," says Marcus Jacob Goldman, MD, an associate clinical professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and author of The Joy of Fatherhood: The First Twelve Months.
Goldman, the father of five sons, emphasizes that the most important way to prevent this estrangement is to have an honest and open relationship with your wife. "One of the potential problems is that men and women can take two different roads to the birth process," he tells WebMD. "They journey on parallel tracks, never interacting with each other, or maybe interacting through envy and misunderstanding."
That's a mistake, and it's important to be communicating openly right from the beginning. While expectant fathers may be boiling with anxiety and worry, they may be reluctant to tell their wives about it out of compassion. For instance, fretting about your capabilities as a father may seem trivial and selfish while your wife is hunched over the toilet throwing up a dozen times a day.
But Goldman and Brott agree that you shouldn't dismiss your concerns, and a lot of important things need to be worked out over the nine months of pregnancy.
For instance, it's common for expectant fathers to become deeply worried about the family's finances, especially if their wives have been working and will be taking time off. "A lot of guys take on extra jobs or work overtime when their wives become pregnant," says Brott. "It's almost instinctual, and driven by a fear of the unknown as much as anything else."
However, that's a decision that you and your spouse should decide together. Impulsively signing on for extra hours may not be that helpful; it may make your wife feel abandoned and you feel resentful and further excluded from the pregnancy.