Pregnancy Basics for Expectant Dadsby Dale Kiefer
If you're a first time expectant father, you may feel like you've somehow slipped into an alternate universe. It's an unsettling place where up is sometimes down and common sense no longer rules the day. Forget routine and predictability -- you're an expecting father now. All bets are off.
Your wife's pregnancy will probably introduce you to some foreign concepts that most women take in stride. To one degree or another, they've been experiencing this since puberty. It's entirely possible that Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is nothing more than nature's way of preparing you and your spouse for the wild ride that is pregnancy.
While you've spent your life learning to rely on logic and reason, women have been learning to go with the flow. Of raging hormones, that is. Even the smoothest, most supernaturally blessed trouble-free pregnancies entail at least some degree of emotional unpredictability and physical discomfort. The best you can do is be prepared for the worst and be fervently grateful for the best.
What to expect and what to do.
Here are a few things you may encounter, and some suggestions about how to deal with them:
Remain calm. Your wife is enduring an unimaginable transformation. She's under assault by unfamiliar sensations ranging from nausea and discomfort to emotional vulnerability on a Herculean scale, even as she's losing her energy and her all-important figure.
She may be sick to her stomach, fatigued all the time, giddy, depressed, ravenous, completely without appetite, glad, mad, sad or just feel bad. Her ankles may swell and her breasts may ache. Her back may hurt and she may even develop new allergies. And, unfortunately, she may secretly blame you for her condition (especially if you show no willingness to commiserate with her). Your job is to calmly commiserate, and resist the urge to dismiss her problems and uncomfortable sensations.
If she's interested in sex, great. It's safe in most cases up until late in the pregnancy. And many men find pregnancy to be a huge turn-on. Conversely, others find it distinctly otherwise. Don't fret. Either is normal. But is she loses all interest, do not pressure her. Now is not the time to focus on your needs.
Be patient. This, above all else, seems to be a man's role during pregnancy and labor. Let's face it, there's little else you can do. Much as you may wish to shoulder some of the burden, there's simply no way you can lug around that 15-pound bowling ball in order to give your wife a moment's relief. The burden is hers to bear alone. Your job is to comfort her in any way you can.
The more you understand about the changes taking place, the better you'll be prepared to comfort your wife. The first and third trimesters are generally the most problematic. For some lucky few, the entire experience is an enchanted breeze. Try not to hate these mythical couples, but know that you're not likely to be one of them. Most couples will encounter any number of challenges. Pregnant women experience a host of frightening and uncomfortable symptoms that simply the normal byproducts of a healthy pregnancy.
For instance, you wife may experience any, none, or all of the following:
Frightening dreams about the baby
Frantic concern for the health and safety of the unborn baby
The famous desire for unusual or downright outrageous foods
Changes in appetite
Changes in sexual appetite
Thickening hair or falling-out hair
And even a propensity to burst into tears during commercials featuring babies.
Go with the flow. Provide support and understanding, patience and comfort. And be ready to cheerfully search for sardine ice cream at 3:13 a.m.
Daddy/Baby Bonding Dale Kiefer is a freelance writer living in northern New Jersey with his wife and two young sons. Born in New Jersey some 40 years ago, Dale was raised in Kentucky, where he spent most of his life, graduating from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Biological Sciences. You can see more of Dale's articles at his Suite 101 page devoted to expectant fathers
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