Becoming a dad: what you need to know
Becoming a dad can be a white-knuckled ride – exciting and terrifying at the same time. We’ve got some tips to help you along the way, as well as few things to keep in mind during the pregnancy.
Your reaction to the news
Men have lots of different reactions when they hear they’re expecting a baby. Some leap around with excitement like Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch, and others just aren’t that into it. This is all pretty normal.
Because men don’t experience all the physical changes of pregnancy and giving birth, you may not begin to feel like a dad until after the baby is actually born. This can be especially true if you’re in a same-sex couple, using a surrogate or adopting.
Take some time to think about how you’ve reacted to the news and talk it through with your partner. What are you worried about? What are you excited about? It’s normal to have mixed emotions – this doesn’t mean that you don’t want the baby or that you won’t be a good dad.
Figuring it all out
Becoming a dad can give you a huge sense of meaning and purpose, but this can also be overwhelming. If you’re asking “How can I bring someone else into the world when I can barely look after myself?”, you’re not alone. Try to remember that all your baby cares about is that you’re there for them with love and affection. That’s all that matters.
Becoming a parent can also bring up lots of stuff about your relationship with your own dad. You might want to parent just like your father, or you might want to do things differently. It can be helpful to think specifically about what you want to repeat and what you want to leave behind.
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Start thinking about what being a good dad means to you. This will be different for everyone. Get in touch with what matters to you most, and what kind of upbringing you want to provide for your child.
Dealing with change
Becoming a dad is a time of major adjustment in all sort of ways – your identity, responsibilities, routines and relationships are all changing.
This adjustment comes with stress which, when it builds up, can put your mental health at risk. In fact, depression affects one in 10 dads between the first trimester and the year after the baby’s birth. Anxiety conditions affect one in six dads during the pregnancy and one in five in the postnatal period.
If you have a history of depression or anxiety, it’s important to be aware that becoming a dad can be a risk period for you. This isn’t guaranteed and doesn’t mean you won’t be a great dad, but it’s helpful to keep track of how you’re coping with pregnancy and new parenthood.
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Some men feel a bit left out or like they don’t ‘fit in’ to the pregnancy experience, given so much of the attention is on the mum. This can be a real struggle, leaving some men feeling like a spare part.
If you’re feeling left out, let your partner know and talk about how you can become more involved. Stepping up and taking responsibility for certain tasks – for example, becoming the ‘researcher’ to find out what you need to organise – can ease the load on your partner, get you working as a team, and help you feel more involved.
Useful links and resources