Feel ready to be a dad? Of course you don’t.
Fatherhood is arguably the most important job you’ll ever have. If you’re worried you’ll somehow “screw it up,” you’re not alone. Even the most confident guys can be filled with doubts when they think about caring for a newborn. Let’s dispel a few of the most common concerns you might be experiencing as the big day draws near.
1. “I’ll pass out in the delivery room.”
Maybe the sight of blood makes you queasy. Maybe you can’t stand the thought of powerlessness when your wife is in tremendous pain. Whatever the reason, many men report worrying that they’ll throw up or faint when their wife is in labor. The truth is that most men don’t become nauseated or lightheaded during labor. If you’re still worried, talk with other dads about what the birth experience was like for them and how they felt.
2. “I’ll drop the baby.”
Many new fathers have an irrational fear that they’ll drop or accidentally injure their babies. It makes sense—newborns are tiny and fragile and men don’t often have experience caring for infants. But once you hold your little one for the first time, you’ll realize two things: 1) a baby is much easier to hold than you think, and 2) you can be more careful and gentle than you ever thought possible when that tiny baby is suddenly your tiny baby.
The most important thing to remember is to always support the baby’s head and neck. The head comprises much of a baby’s weight, which means as long as the head and neck are secure, your risk of hurting or dropping the baby is very small. If you’re still concerned, it doesn’t hurt to practice. Look for opportunities to hold a friend’s, neighbor’s or co-worker’s newborn.
3. “I won’t feel that special bond.”
It’s normal to fear you and baby won’t have a personal connection, especially if you don’t feel a personal connection now. During pregnancy, the dad doesn’t get to experience as much closeness with his child as the mom does having the baby inside her. But how you feel now isn’t necessarily an indication of how you’ll feel after the birth. It’s often said that a woman becomes a mother the moment she finds out she’s pregnant, but a man only becomes a father when he holds his newborn for the first time. Be patient—the feelings will come.
4. “I won’t know how to get the baby to stop crying.”
Babies cry. This is an unavoidable fact. Fortunately, humans have had thousands of years to figure out why babies cry and document methods to soothe them. Age-old wisdom tells us babies usually cry because they are hungry, need to burp, need a diaper change, are too hot or cold, or have an upset tummy. Go through the checklist of common causes and you should be able to stop your baby’s crying. If all else fails, soothing techniques, such as swaddling, shushing and rocking can help.
5. “I’m not dad material.”
There a million and one reasons to worry about parenthood. Questioning your ability to provide for your child’s physical, financial, emotional and disciplinary needs can seem overwhelming. The best advice for any dad-to-be is to take one day at a time. You can’t anticipate every possible situation or have all the answers. Learning to be flexible and enjoying the moment is essential to making it through whatever challenges may come.
For information about classes available for expectant parents, including Boot Camp for New Dads, click here.
This article was reviewed by Sharon Johns, R.N., L.C.C.E., F.A.C.C.E., perinatal support services, St.Vincent Women’s Hospital.