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Sean sent me an email this week (woohoo—another guy). The poor guy's all mixed up. It seems that his 7-months pregnant girlfriend isn't acting like a girl in love—with him or the pregnancy. Sean's dreaming of marriage, a family and a rosy future with her but says she's so unhappy with "everything" that he can't do anything right. He wants to know how to be a father, what he needs to know about newborns and essentially, how to make everything all better. That's a lot to sort out Sean, but I'll see what I can do.
Let's start with your girlfriend's general unhappiness with being pregnant. It's a big fat myth that all women love being pregnant; that it's one misty, romantic, fairy tale of bliss that every woman dreams of. Nuh unh. Some just hate it. This alien creature takes over their body, kicks them wherever they want and demands total world domination. Pregnancy's no picnic and women heading into their 7th month are getting really uncomfortable. That's just the physical side of it. Now add insecurity, fear, dread of labor, shaky family relations (he did say "girlfriend and fiancé," not "wife"), changes in finances and job status. Heck, everything about her life is turned upside down. Sean also mentioned his girlfriend's father was none too pleased either, so we get to add that to the mix.
I'll bet this young woman is looking at her body in a whole new light too and might not be delighted with what she sees. What the heck happened to her flat stomach? What are her breasts doing inside that jumbo-sized bra? Where did her feet go? Don't even get me started on placenta-brain. Sean didn't tell me anything about his girlfriend's pre-pregnant life but maybe she had other plans besides becoming a mom at this point in her life. Add it all up and a girl's bound to get cranky.
What can Sean do? Just be there. Love her, support her, read baby books to her, massage her feet and demand almost nothing from her. Bring her snacks, go with her to her prenatal appointments, take her out to the movies and dinner and listen to her talk about whatever the heck is on her mind. In other words, start loving your baby by actively loving the Mama. That's a verb—to love. When a woman is pregnant, uncomfortable and insecure, she needs support and lots of it.
How do you learn how to be a father? Again, just be there, Sean. Show up for the job, starting today. Read everything you can about newborn care. Sign up for classes at your local hospital or community center and learn how to bathe, diaper and feed a baby. Study up on child development. If you two don't live together, make sure there's a place in your home for the baby: a crib, changing area and supplies. No matter what chunk of time he/she spends at your house, you've physically made space.
Start talking about how you'll actively take part in childcare arrangements. Not babysitting—father's don't do that. They take care of their children. If your girlfriend needs to return to work, tell her what you plan on doing to support that; either by actually taking care of your baby during her working hours or by paying for childcare. Start putting money away for a college fund. Buy books you'll read to your baby. By supporting your girlfriend, being as active as you can in her pregnancy and planning for your child's future, you're well on your way to being a father.
Your girlfriend may have a change of heart about this whole pregnancy thing once she realizes she's got your total devotion and support. Or she may not. It's a tough time in a young woman's life; scary, uncomfortable and total upheaval. No wonder she's cranky. Since I don't really know anything about you two and your relationship, I'm going to hazard a guess that most of what's going on for her is not about you. Pregnancy is one time in a woman's life when it's almost all about her. What isn't; is about the baby. And that's plenty. It would be a bonus if she could muster up some empathy for you too, but that may be too much of a reach for her right now.
Clearly, fathers have a tough time during pregnancy too. Your life's changing forever but since you don't have a big bump under your shirt, it's not as obvious. You need support too. Seek out men who are good fathers—maybe your own or friends and family members who can guide you down the path. If you're the first in your group—blaze a really good trail and be their role model. Good luck, Sean. You've got your heart in the right place. Now, go be a father.
Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.