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You’ve passed the third billboard in a row. Each one is the same, depicting an expectant mother and a number to call for support. “Unexpected pregnancy?” the billboards read. “Call this number for help.” Where is the unplanned pregnancy support for fathers?
Communities rally around pregnant women, offering support in droves. It’s a necessary aid for those who are preparing to welcome a new life into the world. But one half of the equation is missing. Where is the support for all of the fathers?
In a study performed by LifeWay research, expecting fathers were found to be the most influential factor in the decision to keep the baby. “The study reveals men with pregnant partners play a significant role in the decision to have an abortion but may not be aware of how much influence they have.” (1).
Men often say that keeping the baby is the woman’s decision. It’s their body; they are the ones who have to go through the pregnancy. They extract themselves from the decision-making process, telling their partners to do what they want.
This impassive route takes the expecting dad’s opportunity for support completely out of the equation. “‘Many abortions occur because men are urging their partner to terminate the pregnancy,’ said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. ‘However, around 3 in 10 men give their partners no advice even in situations where she discusses the decision with him.’” (1).
Your opinion matters. You have a say in the future of your child. Without you, there would be no baby. Taking your opinion out of the matter means taking away your support. And support is something your partner needs now more than ever.
When you bring home a baby, your life changes. It’s inevitable. In the beginning, fatherhood will not feel entirely pleasant. A demanding infant is going to live in your home for the next few months, causing extreme exhaustion.
"Right now you are in the period where you realize what you have lost, but have not yet realized what you have gained." (2)
This sounds disruptive. However, by educating yourself, you will be prepared for what your life will look like in those first few weeks. Education is the most important preparation you can make as you become a first time father.
Here are a few things you can expect.
Postpartum depression is a very real thing, and it can affect the new father as well as the mother. In the moments after you bring your baby home, your emotions will likely be all over the place. If you experience extreme depression in the weeks that follow your child’s birth, you could have postpartum depression (PPD). PPD can also present itself in a loss of interest in activities, weight loss, or fatigue. (3)
You should also be aware of your partner’s changing emotions. Her hormones will be swinging, and it’s important that you stay calm, attentive, and supportive. Your family will need you to be their bedrock in this particularly trying time.
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Your day-to-day tasks will need to change a bit, especially as your partner recovers. Helping around the house and with the baby are actions that will speak volumes. In the moments when things feel difficult, the simple act of washing the dishes makes an unbelievable difference. Ask your partner what she needs from you, and watch as her eyes widen with thanks. This is one way a first-time dad can support their family.
Your job is important, and so is your family. As tempting as it may seem to spend your day sheltering from the screams of the infant, you must find the balance. Spending time at your job and for yourself is important, but your partner and child need the new dad around as well.
Though life will be different in many ways, this definitely does not mean it will be worse. Your priorities will shift and your life will become more fulfilling than ever before.
You do not have to make these changes alone.
It’s in the most difficult moments that you will have to remember the best parts of calling yourself a father. Life as a newborn dad is not one for the faint of heart. Sometimes you simply can’t summon the energy by yourself. That’s where your support system comes in.
“A family support network can help you and your partner feel like you have practical and emotional ‘back-up’ as new parents – especially if you’re planning to go back to paid work soon after baby is born.” (4)
This support system can include your friends, a faith-based network, or early childhood educators. The most important thing is that you find people you can reach out to in moments you feel overwhelmed or lost. Fathers’ support groups do exist, and your local pregnancy resource center can help you find one.
There’s an article for that.
Pregnancy Resource Centers make a great resource for new and expecting fathers. Through your local PRC, you can find support groups and parenting courses. They also have budgeting classes, and all kinds of other fatherhood resources. With these centers’ pregnancy and fatherhood solutions, your confidence will increase. This will help you feel more comfortable when your baby arrives.
You have changes to make, but you do not have to make them alone. As you experience this major life shift, there is an entire support network waiting to help you. You’ll find that these changes will enhance your life in ways you’ve never realized they could.
In the midst of the mountain of dirty diapers, you will have a little person who is going to depend on you like no one ever has before. There will be a child who will run to you, arms wide open, yelling “Daddy!” as you enter the room. You will get to experience their enormous milestones, and cheer them on all the way. A connection between a newborn and dad is a connection unlike any other, and it will pave the way to the rest of your life.
But it’s difficult to remember all of that when your cup of coffee has gone cold and you can’t remember what it felt like to sleep through the entire night. So lean on your support system. Take deep breaths. Be there for your partner. Locate a pregnancy resource center nearby. Give your baby a kiss. And don’t blink because it’s all going to go by too quickly.
Watch for our article about co-parenting.