by Bruce Linton, Ph.D.
The last three months of pregnancy have begun. Within 90 days your baby will join you and your partner on the "outside." Your partner's body is making the final adjustments in getting ready for labor and your baby is beginning to mature in preparation for birth. You may have finally adjusted to "being pregnant" when a new flood of feelings arise within you as you get ready to welcome your baby to the world.
You've probably begun to wonder what you will be like as a father. What are the expectations of this new role as a parent? Reflecting on your father as a model may not fit how you see yourself as a dad. Fatherhood from generation to generation has changed significantly. The social and societal expectations for fathers, even twenty years ago, are quite different than today. Fathering and parenthood are not fixed roles. Dads' roles are influenced by the society in the time when they live and the needs of each individual family.
Thinking about your own father and his parenting is a good place to start. What did you most enjoy about your father? What will you do different? Do you see any of your friends or family members who you feel are fathering the way you would like to? This last trimester is a good time to re-examine your relationship with work and think about how you may want to make adjustments both for and after the birth. Remember to allow yourself flexibility in your planning. No one can anticipate exactly what it will be like when their baby arrives, and the best made plans often need to adjust to circumstances and feelings you cannot be aware of before the baby has arrived.
Being involved in a prenatal class is a way to prepare yourself for the birth. More important, when you take a prenatal class with your partner you can begin prepare as a couple to share the birth experience. What will be your role doing birth? What are your partner's expectations? Can you allow yourself to think about what you may need? Classes will give you the understanding of the stages of birth process and what to expect during labor and delivery.
The physical changes your partner has been going through will intensify during the last trimester. These physical changes will also have an effect on her psychological state. As men, there is nothing parallel for us as to the body hormonal changes a woman undergoes during pregnancy. The enthusiasm she may have experienced in the second trimester as the pregnancy was beginning "to show" does not guarantee she will feel the same way in the last month, when she has the full weight of the baby inside her. Expectant mothers can feel out of control of their bodies and this can be a very frightening experience.
You may feel some distress at your partners needs for increased help during the final month. No matter how much a couple can do in preparing for the birth of their baby, or getting their home ready for its arrival; there are always a few things that feel incomplete. Be patient with each other. Remember to keep the channels of communication open, neither of you can know exactly what birth and parenthood will be like. If you feel overwhelmed between work and getting ready for the baby, it would be wise to talk about this with your partner. This is a good time to reach out for support. Other dads have gone through what you are experiencing. Friends, family, the dads in your prenatal class, other dads whom you may work with can all be sources of support for you.
Here are here are a few practical tips that pregnant dads have shared with me about the third trimester of pregnancy:
For your wife/partner:
- Get "the nest" ready together if possible Work together getting things for your baby, such as baby furniture, getting the house ready, preparing extra meals.
- Find out how you can view at least two birth films together.
- Let your wife know that you want to know what you can do to "be there" for her at the birth.
- Go on a tour of where your baby will born.
- Begin to plan for the birth. Check and see how flexible you work will be both about time off for birth and after.
- Ask two new fathers about the their experience of their baby's births.
- Reach out to the men in your childbirth preparation class; see if you can have a dads-to-be night out.
- Find an exercise program that you feel you could continue after the baby is born.
Bruce Linton, Ph.D. is founder and director of the Fathers' Forum programs for expectant and new fathers. He is a former contributing editor to "Full-Time-Dads" magazines, and columnist for Parents' News in San Francisco, California. He is the author of Finding Time for Fatherhood (Berkeley Hills Books, 2000). Bruce is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and received his doctorate for his research on men's development as fathers.
Copyright © Bruce Linton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.