The best way to manage your feelings and feel included in the whole process of your wife’s pregnancy is to understand what your child’s mother-to-be is going through
My readers might be thinking, ‘why am I talking about this topic?’ The other day I was talking to some young parents about their experience of dealing with pregnancy. I was surprised to find out that most of them had played no role during their wife’s pregnancy. They had their parents and other extended family helping out during the whole period and of course after the child was born. Although they showed ‘I don’t care’ attitude, I am pretty sure they were equally excited. It’s just in our culture men feel awkward showing their emotions in public. After all, they are men and emotions are for the weaker being like a woman.
Hence, they curb their curiosity, empathy, and other emotions to prove they are the strong being. In the process they miss out on the most important part of life: enjoying the different stages of the formation of new life, they helped create. However much they like to avoid it as soon as the news is out regarding the pregnancy of their partner, men’s difficult time starts. I can almost imagine the situation. Let me share some of it with you. I am sure some of you will identify with these situations and some might be going through the stages.
It all starts with ‘congratulations, so you are going to have a baby’ remark. That’s because it’s a joint affair. It’s not just your wife who is having a baby, you too are having one, consider it that way. I know you are surprised. Remember you were the second person to find out your wife is pregnant and hearing the news you felt like you fell from the sky. Right? Well, pull yourself together, and prepare yourself to face pregnancy along with your partner and eventually acquire the status of a father.
Yes, it’s exciting and at the same time terrifying, because you did not expect it so soon, though you were trying, and now you are not prepared for this. Still, you feel this swelling pride inside you of having achieved something precious. With all this excitement, there is this condition that you can’t tell your family or friends or work colleagues for the first 12 weeks for various reasons. Then after you have told everyone, the news gradually starts to sink in with slow realization: you are indeed going to be a father and now there is no turning back. With those thoughts, you start preparing yourself to put up with people commenting and questioning you over and over till the baby is born.
The very first comment, rather a question coming your way will be, ‘are you excited?’ You respond with a very unsure kind of attitude. That’s because you are still feeling awkward and are still getting used to the ideas of becoming a father. This will be followed by a statement: ‘You know your whole life is going to change.’ This will be followed by advice, ‘make the most of the time you have together while you still can’. This almost scares you. Like an afterthought, another question will follow, ‘was it planned?’ Now you start thinking and even before you have finished your thinking process, another question comes your way, ‘do you have a name yet?’ Next is a bit satirical, ‘you will never have a social life ever again.’ And finally, kind of caution, ‘don’t complain of being tired now.’ One thing is for sure and that is, pregnancy is not like what you see in the films or on television. In films, pregnant women look almost the same with just a little bump, but in reality, plenty of changes take place in a women’s body during pregnancy.
I can imagine, you are still in a state of shock. The prospect of being a father is, of course, exciting but at the same time could also be unnerving. The best way to manage your feelings and feel included in the whole process of your wife’s pregnancy is to understand what your child’s mother-to-be is going through. For that, you will have to accompany her to all her doctor’s appointments, help and share all the experiences of your partner through her pregnancy. Talk about future days with a new member of your small family. Plan your next change of lifestyle choices with your partner that may affect your baby soon and how that will change your relationship.
However, there is one thing no one will tell you about and that is, couvade or sympathetic pregnancy in men. Shocked? Don’t be because there are cases of men suffering from similar symptoms as their pregnant partner. In the Western world, 23 percent of men have reported emotional and physical changes associated with pregnant women. That is because modern men have become more closely involved with their partner’s pregnancy. According to a research, men become more emotional and suffer mood swings, even nausea. They also gain weight because they accompany their partner in their food cravings. That is the science of fatherhood according to professor of biology at Queens’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
Being a woman, I can assure you that though I have written so much, I still am not sure of what happens when you become a father. All I can say is it is an out of the world experience, a truly life-changing one at that and it is practically impossible to even conceive in advance how it will affect you. Hence like a scout, be prepared for when the time comes, and you are officially a father. Yes, you do have to make preparation to do at home, so the little one and your wife are comfortable. At the same time, you will also have to open up your mind and accept the fact that your space will now be shared with your child and you will have to accept the new rhythm in your life.
For the first time, you will be responsible for another person for the rest of your life. I know you already have the responsibility of your parents, your home and your wife, but this is different. You will now finally understand your parent’s feelings toward you and why they always treat you like a child: it’s their job to do so. For some, this transition is normal and easy but for some, it takes a while to accept the new role and the changes that come with it. This is a very important transition, of course, exciting and very logical. Cheer up now. There will be someone who will put you on a pedestal and look up to you as their role model. Now that is a nice feeling, right?
Pokharel is an educationist and author of several children’s books