Excerpt from: The Expectant Father
When my wife and I got pregnant in July 1989, I was the happiest I'd ever been. That pregnancy, labor, and the birth of our first daughter was a time of incredible closeness, tenderness, and passion. Long before wed married, my wife and I had made a commitment to share equally in raising our children. And it seemed only natural that the process of shared parenting should begin during pregnancy.
Since neither of us had had children before, we were both rather ill-prepared for pregnancy. Fortunately for my wife, there were literally hundreds of books designed to educate, encourage, support, and comfort women during their pregnancies. But when I began to realize that I, too, was expecting, and that the pregnancy was bringing out feelings and emotions I didn't understand, I couldn't find any books to turn to. I looked for answers in my wife's pregnancy books, but information about what expectant fathers go through (if it was discussed at all) was at best superficial, consisting mostly of advice on how men could be supportive of their pregnant wives. And to make things worse, since my wife and I were the first couple in our circle of close friends to get pregnant, there was no one else I could talk to about what I was going through, no one who could reassure me that what I was feeling was normal and all right.
Until fairly recently, there has been precious little research on the mans emotional and psychological experiences during pregnancy. The very title of one of the first articles to appear on the subject should give you some idea of the medical and psychiatric communities attitude toward the impact of pregnancy on men. Written by William H. Wainwright, M.D., and published in the July 1966 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, it was called "Fatherhood as a Precipitant of Mental Illness."
But as you'll soon find out, an expectant fathers experience during the transition to fatherhood is not confined simply to excitementor mental illness; if it were, this book would never have been written. The reality is that mens emotional response to pregnancy is no less varied than women's; expectant fathers feel everything from relief to denial, fear to frustration, anger to joy. And for anywhere from 22 to 79 percent of men, there are physical symptoms of pregnancy as well.
So why haven't men's experiences been discussed more? In my opinion its because we, as a society, value motherhood more than fatherhood, and we automatically assume that issues of childbirth and childrearing are women's issues. But as you'll learnboth from reading this book and from your own experiencethis is simply not the case.
Who, Exactly, Has Written This Book?
When Jennifer Ash approached me about collaborating with her on The Expectant Father, we agreed that our goal was to help you understand and make sense of what you're going through during your pregnancy. Thats an important goal, but one that is clearly dependent on your partners being pregnant. A good understanding of your partners perspective on the pregnancyemotional as well as physicalis essential to understanding how you will react. It was precisely this perspective that Jennifer, whose son was born only a few days after my second daughter, provided. Throughout our collaboration she contributed valuable information and comments not only about what pregnant women are going through but also about the ways women most want men to stay involved.
A Note on Structure
Throughout the book, Jennifer and I try to present straightforward, practical information in an easy-to-absorb format. Each of the main chapters is divided into four sections as follows:
What She's Going Through
Even though this is a book about what you as an expectant father are going through during pregnancy, we felt it was important to summarize your partners physical and emotional pregnancy experience as well.
What's Going On with the Baby
This section lets you in on your future child's progressfrom sperm and egg to living, breathing infant.
What You're Going Through
This section covers the wide range of feelingsgood, bad, and indifferentyou'll probably experience at some time during the pregnancy. It also describes the physical changes you may go through, as well as the ways the pregnancy may affect your sex life.
While the "What You're Going Through" section covers the emotional and physical side of pregnancy, this section gives you specific facts, tips, and advice on what you can do to make the pregnancy yours as well as your partners. For instance, you'll find easy, nutritious recipes to prepare, information on how to start a college fund for the baby, valuable advice on getting the most out of your birth classes, and tips about how to be supportive of your partner and stay included in the pregnancy.
The book covers more than the nine months of pregnancy. Jennifer and I have included a detailed chapter on labor and delivery and another on Cesarean section, both of which prepare you to understand and help your partner through the birth itself. Perhaps even more important, these chapters prepare you for the often overwhelming emotions you may experience when your partner is in labor and your child is born.
We've also included a special chapter that addresses the major questions and concerns you may have about caring for and getting to know your child after you bring him or her home. And finally, weve included a chapter called "Fathering Today," in which you'll learn to recognizeand overcomethe many obstacles contemporary fathers are likely to encounter.
As you go through the book, remember that each of us brings different emotional baggage to our pregnancies, and that none of us will react to the same situation in the same way. You may find that some of the feelings described in the "What You're Going Through" section in the third-month chapter wont really ring true for you until the fifth month, or that you have already experienced them in the first month. You may also want to try out some of the ideas and activities suggested in the "Staying Involved" sections in a different order. Feel free.
A Note on Terminology
Wife, Girlfriend, Lover
In an attempt to avoid offending anyone (an approach that usually ends up offending everyone), we've decided to refer to the woman who's carrying the baby as "your partner."
We realize that not everyone who has a baby delivers in a hospital or is under the care of a medical doctor. Still, because this is the most frequent scenario, we've chosen to refer to the place where the baby will be born as "the hospital" and to the people attending the birth (besides you, of course) as "doctors," "nurses," "medical professionals," or "practitioners."
As a rule, todays fathers (and prospective fathers) want to be much more involved with their children than their own fathers were able to be. Its our belief that the first step on the road toward full involvement is to take an active role in the pregnancy. And its our hope that when you're through reading The Expectant Fatherwhich is the book Jennifer wishes she could have bought for her husband when she was pregnant and I wish I'd had both times my wife and I were pregnantyou'll be much better prepared to participate in this important new phase of your life.