For the next post in our Child(ish) Dad series, we’re talking to the Expectant Dad. A lot can happen in 9 months! Read about one soon-to-be father’s experience.
Age of Child: Expecting this summer
How do you feel about being a dad in a few months?
At this point, we are counting weeks: it could be 3 weeks or 10. Given that this is our first child, I’m experiencing quite a range of emotions. The strongest of these is excitement. People say the second you see your child for the first time everything changes. My wife and I are about to bring a life into this world who I am going to love in a way that I can’t begin to comprehend. I can’t wait to experience that. I’m excited to see the many ways this new addition changes our lives and our relationship.
That feeling of excitement also comes with anticipation, anxiety and uncertainty. I feel like I’m at the starting block of a marathon waiting for the gun to fire. I’ve never run a marathon before and I have no idea if I am prepared for what comes next. That anxiety is significantly less because I have the best running partner I could ever ask for in my wife. No matter what is on the trail ahead, I know together we will face it like champions.
Would you like to talk about your pregnancy journey?
To create life is no small endeavor; there is always the possibility for great joy and danger.
We tried for over a year before we got the good news, and we wanted a baby for longer than that. Various complications kept it from being an option until the past couple of years.
When we set out to have a child, we worked at it like a really fun job that we got more serious about as time went on. We were a month away from setting an appointment with fertility specialists when we finally got the positive test. When I tell you we were ecstatic, I don’t think that fully covers how happy we were. We allowed ourselves to revel in it for a moment, but we knew we still had a long way to go. Our celebration was incrementally bigger for every checkpoint along the way and we always try to be focused on getting to the next one.
As a father, you don’t have much control over the danger aspects of a pregnancy. You find there is a list of things that can harm the mother, some of which you can do nothing to prevent. You worry about the psychological impact should a miscarriage occur. Though the possibility is small, I could lose my wife in the process of gaining our child. That is a possibility that I have no plan for and I know would break me but I also know I would have to go on and be strong for our daughter.
I already feel love for our child, of course, but I still know that until she is safely at home with us, there are still so many things that could go wrong. Even though I’m optimistic and everything is going smoothly according to the doctors, I’m still praying to God that there are not any issues. It might sound morbid but, until we can hold her in our arms, there is still that fear that we might not get to live out all the plans we are making.
Again, I hope and pray there are no issues and, I swear I’m really optimistic, but these are the things that come into your head along the way as an expecting father. I have this drive to protect them both that is so strong, but so much about pregnancy is out of my hands, so I just look for what I can do. I make great effort to ensure my wife is happy, comfortable, well fed, calm, loved and supported.
Given your psychology background, how would you like to approach child development?
Between my wife and I, we respectively have degrees in sociology with a focus on early childhood development and psychology. We’re planning to focus on things that will promote emotional and psychological stability in our child. If there is one thing I have learned from my studies it is that all minds are different. What might work for one child may not may not necessarily work for another.
We are all born with certain predispositions to psychological pathologies that may never present unless triggered by trauma. Our goal is to watch for early warning signs and address any traumatic experiences to prevent anything from escalating into a full-blown condition. The specifics of our “plans” are not all set in stone. We will have an agile parenting style that will adapt to fit our daughter’s specific needs.
How has your childhood influenced your plan on being a father?
This is a big question. Everyone brings aspects of how they were raised into parenthood consciously or unconsciously, good and bad. You have to be deliberate about what you pass on to the next generation. I try to analyze what worked and what didn’t, because we have to realize our parents were mostly making it up as they went, based on their experiences. This answer could go on for a while.
Something I want to pass on is that I never felt a shortage of love as a child. I got an “l love you” multiple times a day and paired with every goodbye. I never felt my parents were distant in any way and that is what I want for our child.
A lesson I learned was to be careful with what I promise and always back up words with action. Unfulfilled promises can be harmful to trust in any relationship, but especially between a parent and child. I intend to always be honest and realistic with her and only promise what I know I can deliver.
As a child of divorce, there are obviously things from my childhood that I will be actively working to keep out of hers. For example, we will do our best to not fight in front of her, but discuss things calmly to model healthy behaviors and expectations for her eventual relationships.
There are some things that she could inherit from me that I would want to handle a bit differently as well. As a child, I tested as having a considerably high IQ. I also had ADHD and dyslexia. I was told how smart I was so I attributed most of my accomplishments to my IQ and my failures to my disorders. I really hope I don’t pass on these conditions to her, but I will make sure to instill any strong coping methods and learning structures that she needs to succeed; that I didn’t have when I was growing up. We will make sure that we focus our praise on how success comes from hard work, not just intelligence. We would say, “You did a great job on that, you must have worked hard on it,” instead of the “You did a great job on that, you are so smart”. Studies have shown having an effort-based foundation creates better work ethic and self confidence throughout their lives.
[Read the article: https://www.parentingscience.com/praise-and-intelligence.html]
What are you looking forward to in being a father?
Honestly, I’m looking forward to all of it. Being a father is a full-time job with difficulties and rewards, and I’m just ready to do it all. All the milestones will be worth looking forward to, but if I had to pick something, I’m looking forward to hearing her forming complete thoughts and getting to know her personality. I just can’t wait to see who she is and how she grows and learns.
What advice do you have for future fathers when supporting your wife during pregnancy?
If she needs it, just go get it. Whatever it is, go get it. If she might need help, offer because she might not know to ask. If she gets upset or overly emotional, don’t overreact, stay calm and do everything you can to put her at ease.
Also realize you may not be able to help in that moment and she might just need a minute to herself. Be a steady, stable, and reliable presence that she can count on when she needs you. Be informed on what she is going through, physically and mentally, so that you know how to support her. Make her life as easy as you possibly can. Take as much off her task list as she’ll let you, so she can be well-rested and happy. Read what she reads so she doesn’t have to explain things for you to be on the same page.