The first thing that happens when you announce your wife’s pregnancy is people congratulate you. The next thing they do is start telling you how it will go and what you should do. The most specific advice—nearly all of it useless—will come from your single friends, while those with children will just arch an eyebrow and say “Hmmm” when you mention your plans. Never mind: Here’s everything you really need to know.
1. Your joy as an expectant father will be matched by an equal measure of anxiety.
The medical industry seems intent on hedging its bets these days. Technicians will drone on about possible complications; your wife will undergo a battery of tests, particularly if she’s over 35; and your head will be buzzing with all you need to do (buy new tires, buy a new home) and think about (When will I put up the nursery shelves? What are we going to call this thing?).
“You’re a mess. What you’re thinking and feeling is not rational,” says graphic designer Bob Callahan, a Brooklyn, N.Y., father of 2-year-old twin girls. But it is normal. It’s just that no man ever talks about it.
Bonus tip: The only one to worry about is yourself, as you adjust to the unfamiliar role of supporting player. “Then the baby is born, and you realize that becoming a father is the best thing that could possibly happen to you,” Callahan says.
2. She’s going to get as big as a competitive eater on ESPN2, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
However, you will both be happier if you don’t carp when she orders the 64-ounce porterhouse. “I was afraid of the changes to my wife’s body, but I kind of enjoyed it when everything swelled up,” says Vince Carlen, an editor in New York whose daughter was born last September. “Then I worried about how her body would be after giving birth. It was changed, but in a nice way—better than I could have imagined.”
Bonus tip: The heft of her breasts will astound and delight you, but don’t get too attached—they won’t be yours much longer.
3. Read the instruction manual.
If there was ever a time to give up your macho stubbornness, it’s now. Look at some of the books she spends all night reading. Learn the benefits of breastfeeding, both to her (it’s easier than formula feeding and reduces the risk of breast cancer) and to the baby (toughens up the immune system, and much more). Take Lamaze—there’s as much information for fathers as for moms. Besides, the stopwatch around your neck will go well with the sweatpants you’ll wear in the delivery room.
Bonus tip: There is no accurate instruction manual. If you think real-life labor contractions will actually correspond to the charts handed out at Lamaze, you’ve obviously never seen a 10th seed upset the No. 1 during March Madness.