She’s Pregnant – Now What

Babies sometimes find a way of arriving whether you’re ready or not. You can be in a committed relationship for a decade, you can be fervently trying every month and buying pregnancy tests, but the minute that line comes up and says “pregnant,” you might not feel prepared for it. Conversely, we sometimes find ourselves in a situation where our partner is pregnant and being parents is the furthest thing from our minds.

This isn’t to say that a pregnancy that is unexpected is unwanted. Even though most good dads will tell you that there is a moment of terror (possibly followed by many additional small moments of terror) when your partner tells you they’re pregnant, we soon come to realize that the job of being a dad is incredible once you’ve accepted it.

Whether you planned on trying to have a kid for ages or your new partner has suddenly become a fiance, here are a few pointers to help you cope once you see the plus sign on the test window.

Nobody is ever ready

I have a buddy whose father is 61. He has been married three times, his most recent bride is 24, and they have a five-month-old. He has raised two prior sets of humans to adulthood and they’re all great kids. When I found out he was going to be a father again, however, I also found out that he was losing his mind.

It turns out, despite having raised kids and loving them with all of his heart, being an older dad terrified him. Would he be around to see them grow up? Would his young wife get tired of him? Did this mean he couldn’t retire?

He is a fantastic once-again-dad now, and even though it’s kind of odd that his only grandson is around the same age as his youngest son, he is thriving.  

Another buddy of mine was 19 and he was plenty excited to get started on his grown-up life. He married his high school sweetheart but when they got pregnant he wanted to run. His father had a heart to heart with him and told him basically then if he ran, he’d break his legs and drag him back so he couldn’t run again.

My friend realized that he wanted this and now he’s a great dad to three kids.

Finally, my younger brother was 28 and living ‘the time of his life’ going from woman to woman at the bars. He started dating a girl a few years younger and, despite all of their efforts, she got pregnant. My younger brother is a bit of a man child and he was terrified. Like, seeing a ghost in the middle of the night terrified.

He is one of the best fathers I know though – there’s nothing he wouldn’t sacrifice for his wife or child. It just took some time, but the man grew up pretty quickly once his son was born. He went from being a 14-year-old trapped in a 28-year-old’s body to being, well, roughly a 32-year-old man.

The point is that no matter how old you are, you are never ready for a child. They take a lot of effort and a lot of money and a lot of focus. Everything you do for a child today will shape who they become when they are older. To have that kind of power over the life of another person is terrifying.

Or, at least, it should be terrifying; many parents don’t think of the grand scope of things when they begin to teach their children. Some people might not realize that they are shaping 70 plus years of another human’s existence, for better or for worse. And while that thought can be daunting, if we keep it in perspective it can also help us to be great dads and a great influence and role model for our kids.

Nobody is ever prepared, but the sooner you realize and accept that you’re going to have a kid, the faster you can catch up.

Put her and the child first

Your partner is growing a human being inside of her. From the outside it might look like she’s just growing bigger around the middle, but the everyday stress of simply going through daily tasks is inconceivable to a man. Having a baby presses on her bladder, affects her hormones, makes her simultaneously angry, hungry, and sad. 

It can be difficult to understand or sometimes deal with the whirlwind that is a pregnant woman, but understand that she’s doing the literal hardest thing that humans can do. Tell yourself this when your wife asks you to get ice cream every night for a week and then hates ice cream the following week, or when she asks you for a foot rub but doesn’t want to be touched otherwise.

When the baby is born, even if your wife is breastfeeding, you should be up with her if schedules allow. Talk to her or just show camaraderie. Things we can do as men are to show up and protect and provide. It does not stop just because we’re off the clock. 

If your wife normally cooks and cleans and you don’t know how to do either of those things, then you better learn. There is nothing more useless than a man who thinks that all he has to do is work a job to provide for his family. There will be times where it feels like you are overwhelmed (and you definitely will be) but you need to make space for your wife to deal with what she’s handling.

If it helps you get through this frustration and overwhelm, think of the times when, in the future, you’ll be able to play with your kid. As a father, your children will almost always want to play with you over their mother and that’s a cool part of being a dad. You are, by default, almost certainly going to be the fun one, so you can look forward to that.

Learn about everything having to do with babies

Movies have a tendency to make it seem like you go to a Lamaze class and that’s about it. Fact of it is, you need to be prepared for more than just birth. As a man reading this blog, you probably are prone to preparedness. You’re going to be the dad who has the camo diaper bag stuff with everything needed for the hospital and the baby, and that rules. Good for you, soldier!

Learn about the things that they don’t teach you in those classes, though. Your partner will not be able to eat while she is in labor so make sure she has something good when she has the baby. My wife wanted a double cheeseburger with bacon, and I sure as hell had one ready. Learn how to change diapers and don’t act like it’s the most disgusting thing you’ve ever done, because I guarantee you’ve had nights out drinking that were far more gross.

Read books and parenting blogs because there is so much to learn. Being present and informed and ready to help is the best thing you can do as a dad. As your children grow and they see their dad being present and involved and cleaning and cooking, they’re going to grow up knowing that these are important skills to have. The last thing in the world you want are kids that can’t take care of themselves, and teaching them how to be responsible and self-reliant starts before they’re even born. 

The fear of pregnancy leads to the splendor of parenthood

Simply being there for your partner while they go through pregnancy makes you better than a huge portion of fathers. The saying goes that anyone can make a baby, but not everyone can be a dad. As cliche as that is, it’s incredibly true. You probably know at least a handful of people who had crap fathers and I guarantee that their lives were made significantly harder because of it. You might even be one of them, and you’re about to change the narrative for your kid.

Just know that it takes more than just being there and working a job to be a good father. You need to be good to their mother, help with baby and kid duties, truly work in and participate in your home. Being a dad is about more than going to work, earning a paycheck, and coming home expecting a dinner and playing with your kids when (and if) it’s convenient.

Share in the terror of pregnancy and the uncertainty with your partner. If you are lucky enough to still have a dad or grandpa, talk to them about it. Their experience will show you that you are not alone in your fear or uncertainty. Even if your dad wasn’t present (or worse), use that as an example of how not to be. Even if you had the worst father, you can still be an amazing role model if you simply do the opposite of everything he did.

Be there for your wife or girlfriend, be at the hospital and be present – get off your phone, hold her hand, and be a man. Your kid might not see it while he’s in the womb, but you’re being a role model even during pregnancy, and he’ll see it every time he catches the way his mother looks at you.

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