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Coping strategies for the Expectant Father

You are going to be a father. You are really excited. Everyone knows you are. But at times you feel alone, isolated. This has in part to do with the stress you carry in your head: the thoughts, the planning, the changes, the demands. Some pressures are real, like money. Others are self-imposed caused by the fear of the unknown or the expectations you have to meet, more so if you are becoming a father for the very first time.

Think about it..

  • Let it be known from the beginning that you are an integral part of the pregnancy equation and are involved at every step of the way. Set the standard early so that friends, relatives and medical personnel understand your equal participation in the pregnancy. The role of the expectant father evolves just as much as the expectant mother's. Parenthood will involve endless series of decisions and adjustments. Work towards shaping your family's future without rushing the process. Recognize that it takes time to become a parent and consequently don't be pressured into having unreasonable expectations!
  • Remember that as a parent you a person as well and that none of us is perfect.
  • Don't be uninvolved out of fear. You are not the first: many men before you have walked this road and many men after you will in the future. Read useful literature and ask questions. The more involved you are the more informed you will become and consequently the more prepared you will be to deal with anything that comes your way.
  • You may find yourself jealous of your unborn child and your partner for all the attention they are getting. Your role as the expectant father may seem small and insignificant comparatively and you may wish to be recognized for the contributions you are making. This is totally justified. Instead of getting bugged and angry, let your partner know how you feel and seek her support in your role as you provide her in hers.
  • Your family is becoming a crowded place where once it was mainly you and your partner. Keep a positive attitude amidst the changes. Changes can be frightening but in this case everything is going to work out just fine. Some people are going to step back and others are going to come forward. Welcome this change as well.
  • Most men worry about the unknown. They worry about the changes associated with pregnancy, what will happen to their sex lives, what labor will be like and how will they cope with the a brand new, fragile, helpless member to their family. When you have such doubts, just look at your friends. If they managed, so can you!

The Strategies..

  • Exercise is a good way to control stress. An hour everyday at the gym, jogging or bike riding does wonders. Now you still have time but once the baby arrives, you will have very little time to do anything else so take advantage of the free time and freedom that you now have to de-stress by exercising perhaps.
  • Your male friends with children can become another avenue of encouragement. Get advice from them, joke with them, check with them on how they felt during low times and how they dealt with those phases. Most importantly remember that such feelings are legitimate and you are not alone in this.
  • Keep doing regular normal things is another approach to manage stress instead of taking the other extreme. Stick to your regular routine as long as it works for you. Begin your day as always, going to work and putting in the required hours, meeting the same people and from there heading back home to your family. Although it may seem monotonous, the predictable routine can be comforting in this constantly changing world.
  • Keep the due date in mind especially when planning your outings or when you need to travel for work. You need to stay close to home base for at least 1-2 months before the baby is due. Both you and your partner will not feel comfortable otherwise.
  • Take a night off and go out with the guys. Do guy things with your buddies. Communicate this need with your partner; she will understand and may even encourage you to go. An occasional outing with your friends may rev you up - in fact encourage your partner to have her friends or mum over or if she is up to it, to go out with her group of friends.
  • Don't be hard on yourself; not everyone is skilled at the same kind of tasks. A lot of hard work is involved when building a family. Don't do things you are uncomfortable with because that's what you are 'supposed to do'. Do the work you are equipped to do well and you will make a worthwhile contribution to your pregnancy. For example if you can't cook for nuts, don't force yourself into the kitchen. Instead take over the food shopping. Focus on contributions that make you feel good and then you are likely to do it well.
  • Be honest with yourself and your partner. Resentment will build for having to act in a way that is not you. Trust your emotions and allow yourself to be who you are and feel the way you do without external pressure to be otherwise. Be vocal about the difficulties you face. For example if you don't feel comfortable going to the doctor's office, let it be known instead of making up excuses. By explaining your fears to your partner, you are helping her to understand you better.

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