Are you an expectant father? How are you feeling? How SHOULD you be feeling? As I approach the birth of my first child (she’ll be here by the time you read this), I keep wondering if the way I feel is okay.
My feelings about the birth and pregnancy have changed like a kaleidoscope during the last nine months. I’ve gone from joy and elation, to fear and terror, to amazement, back to fear with a side of joy and everything in between. I’ve thought about running for the border. I’ve thought about never leaving my wife’s side again.
I think it is important to recognize these feelings. They are legitimate. Even if someone tells you they aren’t or they tell you it’s wrong. They are full of shit. You have every right to feel the way you do.
There is no normal. Everyone and every situation is unique. It is perfectly healthy for an expectant father to feel joy, sadness, fear, helpless, empowered, strong, weak, or even indifferent. They are all phases. They will likely change throughout the pregnancy.
It is good to discuss how you are feeling about the pregnancy with your partner. But don’t be surprised if she does not support you. It can be difficult for an expectant mother to hear the baby’s dad is scared or indifferent. I’ve stopped discussing my feelings with my wife. I am too worried she will judge me for how I feel about the baby or take it too personally. I don’t want to have to defend how I feel. Hopefully your partner be supportive.
I’m going to try and recall how I felt as the months progress. These are my expectant father feelings.
I felt so overwhelmed with joy and happiness. I’ve wanted to have children for a long time, but I’ve never felt ready for it. When we turned 30 years old, we threw caution to the wind and said fuck it. We made a baby. I felt strong and powerful. I knew my genes were being passed on, a small part of me was able to breath easier.
The pregnancy doesn’t feel real. My wife isn’t showing yet. I can’t feel the baby, other than the super blurry ultrasound, I can’t see the baby. She just looks like a smudge. I feel very proud as we announce the baby to close family.
I feel ambivalent (attracted and repulsed) about the pregnancy. Is this really happening? Am I ready to be a father? Are we in a good financial situation to have a child? Will my marriage survive children? I start to feel left out of the pregnancy.
It starts to feel more real. Up to this point, I wasn’t really sure my wife was pregnant. She didn’t have morning sickness, wasn’t really showing yet. This month we got a good look at the baby via ultrasound and I was beaming. I felt the baby kick! I began to worry about the baby’s safety and about my wife’s wellbeing. I wanted to make sure everything in the house was safe for the developing baby and make sure my wife was eating healthy and taking her prenatals.
I’m scared. Very scared. I start imagining all the things that could wrong with the pregnancy and birth. My biggest fear in life is having to raise a daughter by myself. The reality that this could happen hits me. I realize I’m actually going to be a dad in a few months. We start working hard on the nursery. I spent a lot more time thinking about the baby. What will she be like? My thoughts seem to be limited to her later years, 6+ years old.
I start to think a lot about what I will be like as a father. I start to worry about my parenting abilities. My relationship with my dad was never very good. He was quick to anger. He didn’t take much interest in my life. I don’t want to be distant like my father. I want to be there for my daughter. I wonder if I can be. These thoughts lead to feelings of being trapped. I can’t escape if I want to be a good father. It leads to fantasies of running away to the beach and hiding out for years. I have dreams about playing with my toddler.
I get worried about keeping another human being alive. I am worried about the baby’s future, and mine. How will she impact my life? Can I still have friends? Will I still be able to golf? Will I have time to work my job and my business? Will I be able to finished grad school on schedule? I feel selfish and guilty for having these feelings.
Month 8 & 9
My perception of the baby begins to shift from something pure to something more animal like. She is becoming a human being. Before she was just an entity – ethereal and not quite real. Now she is large and visible in my wife’s belly. I can feel her legs and feet. The baby has become real and will soon be unavoidably in my life (in a good way).
Your feelings are yours and yours alone. You have the right to feel any way about your baby. You will grow and evolve, just like the child you will be raising. You owe it to yourself and your baby to stick with it.