To-Do's for Dads-To-Be
Some dads-to-be have a knack for providing support and reassurance as their pregnant partners do the heavy lifting. Others want to be helpful, but don’t know what to do. Here’s what to tell them.
Go to the doctor's. During her pregnancy, an expectant mom will have physical exams, ultrasounds and lab work. “Some of these appointments include education that both parents can benefit from,” says Karen Spring, a social worker for Christiana Care Health System’s Healthy Beginnings program in Wilmington, DE. “The dad-to be’s active involvement will help prepare him for parenting when the baby arrives.”
Spring says the dad should feel free to ask questions. If he can’t make it to an appointment, it’s important afterwards to discuss what transpired.
“In addition to prenatal visits,” says Katherine Greenebaum, nurse manager of Labor and Delivery at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, “there are also many books and websites dedicated to pregnancy and new parenthood. Reading will help expectant dads stay up to date and understand what their partner is going through, she says.
Stay active together. Exercise is physically and emotionally beneficial for both parents-to-be. “Mom and Dad can go for walks together,” says Spring. Walks help relieve stress, and are “a great time for open communication,” she says.
But don’t overdo it. “Now is not the time to start bowling or get ready to run a marathon,” says Susan Evans, childbirth education instructor at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, PA. Before undertaking strenuous new
exercise, pregnant women should check with their obstetrician or midwife.
Share the load. “An expecting dad can help by picking up some of the chores and daily tasks that have become too difficult for the mom-to-be to maneuver because of her growing belly,” says Spring. “Back massages and foot rubs can also help alleviate some of her physical discomforts.”
Deborah E. Schoch, coordinator of childbirth education at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ, suggests that expectant dads can prepare lunches for work. For a nice touch, slip upbeat notes into Mom’s pocketbook or tape them to the bathroom mirror. Taking classes together is another way to share the pregnancy. “If she wishes to enroll in childbirth classes, do it,” says Evans. The dad will learn how to assist during and after childbirth, and taking the class shows he cares.
Be reassuring. “It is important for Dad to reassure Mom that he still finds her attractive and beautiful,” says Spring. “He should also ask her what it is that she needs, and be flexible and understand that these needs might change frequently.”
Talk about it. According to Schoch, dads-to-be need to convey their feelings, emotions and fears to their partner so they can share and work as a team. Likewise, expectant fathers need to be good listeners.
As issues arise, both partners can facilitate good communication in the way they express themselves. “Effective communication uses ‘I’ messages,” says Spring. Rather than beginning a statement with words like “you should do this,” try making statements that start with “what I’m experiencing is…” or “I feel…” or “what worries me is….”
Enjoy it! Pregnancy is a special time for both partners. “Having a baby is like nothing else,” says Greenebaum. “Marvel at how your baby is growing, get excited, be nervous,” she says. “This is the only time for you two to be on this journey together.”
Leah Mafrica is a Metrokids intern and journalism student at Temple University.