by Timothy D. Riel
I am about to become a father for the second time. Seriously, my wife is ready to pop at any second. My daughter is due to arrive on the 26th, but both my wife and I are pretty sure she's going to show up early. Not as early as my eldest daughter, who was born one month, to the day, before she was due, but she probably won't be too long now.
Two of my best guy friends have also recently been told that their wives are pregnant with what will be their first children and so "The Birth of a Child" has been a pretty big topic around the "World of Tim" camp.
Having gone through it once before, there are some things I want to share with and warn my friends about, certain aspects of the whole pregnancy and childbirth thing that come solely from the male point of view. After a few discussions with some of my other friends who are already fathers, there are a few things we all agreed new fathers should know.
Here are the things, as a father and as a husband, you will go through and some tips to help you out.
I am Really Excited but I'm Also Terrified
The normal state of a man in this situation is usually equal parts joy and terror. Even if you are lucky enough to have planned to have a baby, the moment you find out is a mash-up of extreme emotions. My wife and I had planned to get pregnant so I had expected to be happily thrilled when I would receive the news. When she told me it was like I got hit by a truck. A soft Marshmallow truck filled with wishes, but a fast-moving extremely large truck nonetheless. Here’s what I remember my brain doing on the day my wife told me we were going to have our first baby:
The whole day is a blur of these kinds of thoughts, criss-crossing through my mind.
After the first pregnancy test, I was so disoriented that I needed to get out of the house. My wife and I got into my car and I just drove. We didn't say much as we drove through the streets of my town but I do remember smiling for most of the drive.
At one point we stopped at a drug store to buy another test. This was mostly because I'm a huge nerd and not so much that I didn't think we were pregnant. At the time my first daughter was conceived, there was a great commercial for a home pregnancy test that was completely digital. The ad finished with the line, "It's the most advanced technology that you will ever pee on" or something like that. I absolutely wanted to have the computer pee stick, so we stopped and bought one.
Then I drove to the Tim Horton's on the corner and my wife peed on the stick in the bathroom as I bought an Extra Large Double Double. The thing that got me through the day without a full emotional collapse was the sense that my wife was also going through the same thing and that we were a team in this; that we were a team and we would be the best gosh-darned team ever. Here they both are. The coolest part was that during the time you have to wait for a result, the window shows a spinning hourglass. Awesome.
When I Tell People That We are Pregnant, Women Always Correct Me
Many women reading this have undoubtedly already mentally corrected me every time I write, "We were pregnant." I'm not sure why women get so heated about this. When my wife and I were going through this the first time a lot of women would stop me and let me know that "we" were not pregnant, my wife was the one that was pregnant.
This is technically very true. My wife was carrying a child, my wife had morning sickness, my wife was sore and had trouble sleeping and it was her body that was being warped and rearranged to house a human being, not my own. I will not now, nor ever, argue that point, a father is not technically pregnant.
Even with this said I refuse to stop saying "we" when speaking of our pregnancy. Physically, my wife is doing the heavy lifting, but for nine months I, and every other father, am going through my own insane changes. Since there is no word for the emotional distress that occurs during this time, I choose to call it pregnancy. I am there every step of the way for my wife, helping her deal with the new changes but there are new things happening to me too.
Ladies, don't for one second think that nothing changes for us. It's not as if my wife now has to deal with being pregnant but for me it's business as usual because it's not. When we became pregnant, I changed as a person. It was a process that I went through along with my wife. My guy friends that I have spoken to about this say the same thing, we were definitely pregnant.
Here are the things that happened to me during the nine months we were pregnant:
1) I became irrationally territorial. I hated everyone that got within six feet of my wife. I spent most of my day watching to make sure that no one bumped into her, or attacked her with large knives or hit her with a truck. I would go insane every time someone wanted to touch her belly to see if the baby would kick. Everything and everyone was a threat to my wife and baby and I was the only one who could protect them.
2) I was struck down by insomnia. I would wake up every hour or so every night convinced that either my wife or the baby or both had died. I still remember waking up and putting my hand under my wife's nose to see if she was still breathing. The stress of it all made me stay awake at night and yet I had boundless amounts of energy. I was superhero-like in my ability to wake bright eyed and bushy-tailed at any point of the day or night. An ability that I had never had before and have never regained since.
3) My personality changed almost completely in certain areas. Only the people who knew me very well before my eldest daughter was born will be able to attest to this, but I became much more assertive and less compromising in the way I was treated. I used to take a back seat to other people or let people take advantage of my loyalty and willingness to please. I would work extra hours for free, I would take on extra tasks to make other peoples lives easier. In those nine months I could no longer allow those things to happen. I started demanding the respect I had worked hard to earn, I stopped letting people take advantage of me and I became a man. It was nice. I also became calmer and developed a better sense of what was important and what could be put aside for another time. I stopped worrying about everything and learned to better prioritize.
These may not seem like major changes when compared to the trauma that a pregnancy can cause to a woman's body, and indeed in that comparison they are not, but they are major changes in a man and are not ones that occur easily. It's when we are pregnant that these things happen to us.
You see that? THAT'S a man!
How am I Going to Afford This Baby?
I stayed awake at night doing the budget, trying to figure out how I was going to make enough money to support a child. I could sell a kidney, I supposed. Maybe it's time to sell the DVD's…Maybe I'll get a second job.
I needn't have worried too much though, because although children can be very expensive, babies are not.
Stop yelling at me through the screen, I can't hear you and before you write angry comments in my comments section, hear me out.
The first step to having a non-expensive baby is to have a baby shower. This, if you don't already know, is the most boring event in the history of events. It combines the awesome activities of sitting quietly in an uncomfortable chair with looking at things that are soft and pink but are not body parts of beautiful dancing women and as a bonus, you get to do it for 4 hours. Yay…
It is terrible, but you need to do it. It's the key to a great first year of parenthood.
Here are some tips for the baby shower:
The baby shower is where you get all the stuff you will need for the first year of being a dad. It also greatly cuts down on the amount of things you'll need to buy.
Another reason babies are not expensive is because you will stop doing many things you used to do. That balances the cost very well. You may need to spend a hundred dollars on formula, a hundred dollars on diapers and a hundred dollars on clothes in a month. That’s a lot of money that you’ll need to add to the budget… or will you. Don't forget, there will be less going to the movies, less going to the restaurant, less driving around, more meals at parent's places and much, much less partying. Well, at least for the first year. So, do you think you can find three hundred dollars in your budget now? Exactly. This is how I spent my free time. Didn't cost a thing.
Who Should Be in the Room and Should I Videotape It?
My wife and I went through the birthing classes given by the hospital, which by the way I totally suggest you also do. At one of the classes we were all given a small booklet called a "Birthing Plan." In it was a list of things you could request from the hospital and all the special things you would like during your birthing experience because you certainly won't be in the right frame of mind to ask for these things when it happens. The plan had things like who would cut the cord, who would hold the baby first and who would be in the room. My wife and I discussed this last one for pretty much the last four months of the pregnancy. My wife wanted her mother to be there at the birth along with myself. I wanted to be the only one there with her. The arguments were plentiful for both of us but they both boiled down to two things, feeling safe and sharing a moment.
My wife had initially argued that she wanted her mother in the room because she needed someone to help her through it. My counter-argument was that I would be there to help her through it. My main argument was that this was the most important event in our life and I didn't want to share it with anyone other than my wife. If her mother wasn't there when we made the darned thing, I didn't want her there when it came out.
It must be said that I adore my mother-in-law and that in all other things I welcome her graciously with open arms, but in this I was adamant. This was a moment for me and my wife and no one else.
After discussing it for four months we came to a compromise; during labor my mother-in-law and I would both be there to help out my wife, but when it came time to push, my mother-in-law would step outside and my wife and I would go the rest of the way together.
You and your wife may decide differently but for me, it is the best decision I have ever made in my life. The ten minutes I spent holding my wife's hand and helping her keep the rhythm of her breathing to the moment that my daughter was born is the most amazing, intense experience I have ever had.
It is impossible to explain to people how profound a moment it really is. I completely lost control of myself. The feelings were so intense that I burst into big, slobbery man-sobs that shook me to my very soul. A potent combination of rapture and an overwhelming sense of complete helplessness took possession of my senses and I couldn't see or think straight. It was an all-encompassing fog of un-earthly power and the bond it formed between my wife and I is the strongest thing we have together.
Through the hardest times of our marriage I re-visit that moment and I remember not only how much I love her but also how powerful that love can become when it is given substance in the form of my daughter. The birth of my daughter is the single strongest thing I have ever experienced.
Plus, how happy was I that my mother-in-law wasn't there to watch me turn into a slobbering, snotty man-mess.
As for bringing a video camera, let me tell you two things from my own experience.
First, I am a video professional. The first thing you realize as someone who takes a lot of video is that being behind a lens takes you right out of any event. You cannot participate in anything from behind a camera and this is not an event you want to miss.
Second, you don't want to videotape it. There's a moment right after the baby is born and you've cut the cord and you follow your baby and the nurse over to the "Baby Checking" table that you will look back at your wife. Brace yourself, it will not be pretty.
The bed your wife will be put on was designed specifically for birthing babies. When it's time to push, your wife get's put into stirrups and the front half of the bed folds down, leaving the sheet hanging straight down to the floor. After your baby is born, there is still some after-birth that needs to come out as well as anything that occurs during the whole pushing thing. When I looked back, all I could see, hanging underneath my beautiful and very tired wife, was a scene from a horror movie. The sheet was so generously spattered with gore that for a second, I thought a serial killer had murdered someone beneath my wife. It was a Jackson Pollack of blood and mucous.
Still want to video tape it? Bring a normal camera, that way you can control what you save for later.
The Best Part is Finding Out You’re Not Alone
The first time I went through the nine months leading up to my daughter's birth was an intense and scary one. I was afraid of the things I was thinking and the emotions I was feeling, everything seemed so irrational and I felt so very helpless.
I remember sitting down with my father around the seventh month and telling him all the things I have told you now, about how irrationally territorial I was and how every second would bring a new danger to my wife and child that I would need to protect them from and mostly about how completely helpless I felt about the whole thing. He told me that when he was expecting me, he felt the exact same way and that it would pass. He told me that I, as a man, was already equipped with everything I would need to be a good father. I'd like to think he was right.
I hope this has helped you if you are going through this or want to go through this. I hope you add your two cents in the comments section if you have already gone through this yourself.
But mostly, if you are lucky enough to be there when your child is born, be prepared to turn into the biggest crybaby mess that has ever existed.
Note to the reader: This article was written 7 hours before my daughter was born.
Tim is a proud father of two beautiful girls. When he's not getting his pigtails braided or his make-up re-touched he likes to write about trying to not be fat, trying to be on reality TV Shows and trying to be a good Dad.
Copyright © Timothy D. Riel. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org. Image Credits: Marie Josée Bourassa