by Sam Holt
Having interviewed hundreds of new dads across the world for the Being Dad films, I've identified one universal male emotion when it comes to pregnancy -- denial. I saw a great bumper sticker once which read:
I think it was written by a pregnant woman and directed at her partner.
When a woman discovers she is pregnant she is thinking, "Wow! I've got a baby inside me. A real little person who will have fingers and toes, a cute little face -- a boy or a girl!"
Herein lies the fundamental difference between men and women. He's most likely thinking nothing. Well maybe he'll go into a mild panic about his life being over but he's not thinking, "I'm a dad!"
When you say you're pregnant you really mean I'm a mom...the baby is inside you growing and you are performing your first mom duties by providing a safe and optimal environment in which to grow. By the same token he's technically a dad and by looking after you, and therefore the baby, he too is performing his first dad duties.
For men to be great partners during pregnancy and supportive birth partners I believe women need to start working on the denial factor from day one and get him into "I'm now a dad" mode. It all starts from the moment you tell him that you are pregnant.
Don't say, "Honey, I'm pregnant." You need to start making this about you and him so consider your words carefully. Maybe tell him by saying, "Honey, you're going to be a dad," or "Honey, we are going to have a baby."
My point is we need to get him believing and acting like he is a dad now -- not just when the baby comes out. That's a nine month head start on fatherhood. With that he will be better placed to understand that being supportive during pregnancy and being a good birth partner he's not just helping you, he's helping the baby and being a great Dad.
Pregnancy and birth can make men feel very emasculated because it's really not about us at all. We don't experience any of the physical stuff, often feel left out by medical staff and can be made to feel like we are just along for the ride.
I don't think that necessarily need be the case. As the pregnant woman you can do many things to help him to start feel like a dad, be more supportive of you and actively involved in the birth such as:
Include him where possible. Remember, he's going to experience lots of emotional turmoil as well and most importantly -- start enjoying the journey together.