My wife Serenity is now 4.5 months pregnant, and we couldn’t be more excited! I could never pretend to equal the amount of work she is doing, but I have enjoyed finding ways to contribute to the health of our baby, and to make the experience more fun for all of us. It is teaching me how to surrender, trust, and serve, and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with other soon-to-be dads.
I’ve ALWAYS wanted kids. When I was five, I drew pictures of my future children, Jason and Brittany (splled Jasen and Brintny). Being a father is one of my most clear purposes in life. When people ask me why I want kids, I stare at them- dumbfounded- like they’re asking me why I want to breathe. Looking back, my 10 years of therapy, communication workshops, dating coaching, and even my fitness routine were all designed to attract the right partner to have children with. And it worked!
When mine & Serenity’s relationship became serious, we immediately began planning for children (even before we started planning our wedding). That’s when we got the idea for starting a baby food company. When we found out Serenity was pregnant, I couldn’t have been more excited- I STILL get teary-eyed whenever someone asks me how I feel about it. And I immediately set to work on stocking my pregnant dad toolkit.
CHOOSE TO SURRENDER
Despite the title, I don’t believe a man can ever be pregnant, or come close to understanding or equaling the work women do. A pregnant woman doesn’t get to decide to let her life be severely disrupted, it just IS! Serenity pointed out that I went an entire day last week doing nothing for her or the baby, but she never gets a day off. As men we can choose to not let the pregnancy impact our lives much at all. But there’s so much fulfillment waiting for us if we do! Since I committed to playing an ACTIVE role in the gestation and birth of my baby, I have never felt so consistently happy! How exciting to know that I am making a difference in my wife and my future child’s lives. I get to glow too!
TAKE CARE OF MYSELF
My mom used to say “I have three kids”, referring to how she took care of me, my sister, AND my father. I do not want that dynamic in my family. It’s time for me to become a full adult, which for me is the scariest part of fatherhood. I must be able to meet my own needs and also those of my wife and children. I can no longer rely on Serenity to take care of me, as she’ll be mothering our actual children. In fact, she already is. Her attention on me is definitely less than it was before she got pregnant. I don’t want to let that hurt my feelings. I want to be husband and father, not an extra burden or a source of stress.
BUILD A STRONG SUPPORT NETWORK
I immediately began deepening my relationships with other men and close female friends. I re-joined my men’s group (The ManKind Project) and have been having “man-dates” with conscious men I’m comfortable being vulnerable with. I’ve also been calling my parents more, connecting with nature, seeing movies, and any other activities that nourish me. That way I can show up grounded and present for Serenity.
BEFRIEND OTHER NEW PARENTS
I ask every father I meet for advice, which is where a lot of these tips and tricks came from. I’m also building our long-term family support network for future playdates, shared childcare, and an eventual homeschool co-op. Our midwife is introducing us to other clients of hers that will deliver their babies near our due date. We’ve been having double dates and are planning a dinner party to get everyone together. We’ve seen many of our friends become isolated in parenthood and are determined to stay connected and social. We even moved to a different part of town to be closer to our friends that have kids.
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
It is A LOT of work to make a baby from scratch. Mama’s body is going haywire, and nobody experiences that more intensely than her. Serenity was already pretty sensitive, so the physical, emotional, and mental challenges of pregnancy have really rocked her world. This means she’s not quite as grounded, patient, and rational as she usually is and can sometimes take it out on me.
The other day I made her one of her favorite breakfasts, avocado toast, and this time I added salmon. When I served it to her she wrinkled her nose, complained “Eww!” and pushed it away. So I removed the salmon, gave it back to her, and she was happy. At first I was irritated. Here I had spent the time and energy to make her breakfast, and all she can say is “Eww”!?! And then I remembered how much stress she is under, how overwhelmed she must have been by the smell of fish in the morning, and how happy she was now after I fixed it. I was able to smile to myself and let it roll off, focusing instead on my gratitude for her doing the hard work of creating our child.
It turns out that so much of morning sickness is caused by hunger. And she is always hungry because making a baby requires a massive increase in calories! The downside is that cooking is harder because she’s more tired and highly sensitive to strong smells. Which means I get to cook a lot! I quickly discovered some Paleo-friendly foods that she can almost always eat, and keep those well in stock. Here are the staples:
Plus I carry snacks like Kind Bars, RoamSticks, and Nourishing Nutz with me at all times, ready to “feed the hungry dinosaur” as we say. This has done wonders in improving her mood (and thus my mood), lessening her morning sickness, and making our baby healthier.
If you have trouble finding these foods in your area, you can order all of them from Thrive Market.
APPROVE OF HER BODY AND HER WEIRD BEHAVIOR
Serenity is a go-getter and does not like having her life interrupted by having to constantly eat, pee, and nap (which is now literally 2/3 of her day). Most women have a challenging relationship with food already, and have been taught their whole lives they shouldn’t eat too much or gain weight. So even though both of those are essential to pregnancy, the stigma doesn’t just go away.
I can help by being EXTRA approving. I try to be nothing but supportive of any snack she wants to eat (even if I’d consider it junk food), any time she wants to nap (even if there are important things to get done or it’s inconvenient to be quiet in the house) and any time she needs to pee (even if it means pulling the car over twice in a 15-minute trip). I just remember that there is NO ONE more annoyed about all this than HER, so the least I can do is make it a game and tell her YES to everything. As her belly grows bigger, she has to spend energy and money buying all new clothes, so I constantly let her know that she deserves it and can have anything she wants that makes her feel attractive. And I tell her she’s beautiful, and how sexy her new belly is.
CALM HER VIGILANCE
Being physically limited while simultaneously responsible for the health of a defenseless fetus can cause women to become extra vigilant, even paranoid. Serenity worries about all kinds of things. Like she had a little blood spotting and her first thought was “What if I killed the baby!?” Or her heart was beating extra fast, which is necessary for producing so much new blood, but she wondered if she had developed some fatal heart condition.
Thankfully, I’ve already learned that it’s never a good idea to discount a woman’s feelings or imply she’s dumb for worrying, so instead I just hold her and tell her it’s all going to be alright. I do research to learn the facts about the symptom she's experiencing, give her various potential (less scary) scenarios, or tell her exactly how we’d respond if her worry were to come true. Mostly I just stay calm and don’t get worried myself, and do my best to calm her down.
REMIND HER SHE’S PREGNANT
Serenity was always a bit of a hypochondriac (probably from growing up with rather significant health problems before discovering Paleo), but pregnancy has made it way worse. Every new change in her body is alarming. “I have hiccups, why do I have hiccups!?” Or “It’s 10am, why am I soooooo tired.” It may sound weird, but it’s helpful for me to remind her that she has been diagnosed with the fairly common condition of pregnancy, and that these are all just parts of that experience. And then I see if there is anything I can do to help ease the symptom. But I’ve found the symptom isn’t as bad if she doesn’t make up stories and add fear to it.
BE THE MASCULINE
Serenity is the organized one of the two of us. She usually books the plane tickets, handles the ground transportation, pays the bills, or those things that are typically defined as “masculine” activities. I’m the emotional, spontaneous, and creative one, typically “feminine” qualities. But pregnancy has dropped Serenity DEEPLY into her feminine, making all the logistics much harder (#mommybrain), while simultaneously making her more intuitive, sweet, and nurturing. So I get to practice strengthening my masculine, and handling all the details like I did just fine before we became a couple. And when she makes a logistical error, I do my best not to complain about it (still working on this one!) and instead just handle it. I encourage her feminine by bringing her flowers, surprise chocolates, and taking her on special dates like I did when we were first courting. Oxytocin is great for the developing baby, so I touch her a lot and prioritize time for long cuddles and lovemaking, which is even more fun with her heightened sensitivity and femininity.
TRUST HER MAGICAL INTUITION
Serenity was right a lot before (though I may not have always admitted it) but now her intuition is ON FIRE. Pregnancy has brought out some serious magic in her, while also giving her courage to vocalize her intuitive feelings more often. She is right about everything! It’s a lot of little things, like she’ll say “Grab and extra shopping bag”, when we’re only getting 4 things, and then suddenly we’ll find several large items we forgot we needed and be glad we had the bag. Or big things like, “I don’t think this is the right sales manager to hire”, even though they appear to be the best candidate, and then we find someone ten times better. I’ve had to learn to just shut up and trust her. To stop arguing for what I think “makes the most sense” and go with her gut, because apparently pregnant women can predict the future!
DO EVERYTHING THAT DOESN’T REQUIRE HER BODY
There is no amount of practical tasks I can do that come anywhere close to equaling the stress, energy, and discomfort of birthing a child. So much of the physical work automatically falls to her, like feeding and growing the fetus, preparing her body for birth, birthing the baby, recovering from the birth, and then breastfeeding many times a day for months.
The least I can do is cook, clean, take out the trash, book doctor appointments, pay the bills, change diapers, defrost breast milk, and things of that nature. Most of which I would have to do for myself if I lived alone anyway, so I can’t complain. I decided that if it doesn’t require her body, it’s my responsibility. And if she does any of those things anyway (which she often does), then that is just an added bonus! And since I can’t always be there to do it, I have started a “care calendar”, scheduling friends, family, and a post-partum doula to make sure none of that falls to her after the birth. Learn more about this in the book The First 40 Days
JOIN IN THE BIRTH
I have really taken to heart that WE are pregnant. She didn’t get this way on her own! I am devouring podcasts, audiobooks, films, blog posts, and birth stories from friends and family to be as educated as possible. I attend all her midwife and doctor’s appointments and take detailed notes. I’ve enrolled us in Hypno-Birthing classes, BirthFit classes, and some one-day birth classes. If you’re interested in meeting other new parents-to-be, search for Centering classes in your area.
I let her know that EVERYTHING about the birth is HER decision, and I promise to support her in whatever sort of birth experience she chooses. I also express my honest desires when asked, such as my preference for a home birth and hope to catch the baby myself. Our midwife said that she doesn’t think we need to hire a doula because I am going to play the role a doula would normally play. I’ve heard that lot of a doula’s time is normally spent taking care of the father- helping him handle a powerless situation. Instead I’m learning how to handle myself and my partner, and to surrender to whatever she needs from me during that intense time.
In summary, my moto for being a good pregnant dad is “Surrender, Trust, and Serve”. SURRENDER to the fact that I have no control. Mother Nature is fully in charge here, and the best I can do is follow her lead. TRUST that my partner knows deeply what is right for her body and her baby, and I can help us both remember that. And SERVE SERVE SERVE! What greater pleasure is there for a man than to take action that makes the people he loves happy?! What a gift to be needed in this way and to have my effort make such a difference.
And finally, GRATITUDE. I am so grateful for Serenity, God, my parents, and for human biology being so full of love and magic, that we create new life from scratch. What a joy to be a father!
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