From the moment you learn of your partner's pregnancy, you're thrust into a strange new world and encouraged to participate in the pregnancy and birth process. Yet, you may feel awkward about sharing your fears and insecurities. That's only natural. Here are seven common fears faced by fathers-to-be:
The biggest fear men face is the one most deeply hardwired into our culture: Will I be able to protect and provide for my family? In most families when the first child arrives, there's this sudden if temporary shift from two incomes for two people to one income for three. And that's a tough burden to carry in today's world. The father has to be strong in ways he hadn't counted on before. He has to provide support not just financially but also emotionally: His wife will need his help, she'll be undergoing dramatic emotional shifts, and he has to be ready for her to lean on him.
More than 80 percent of the fathers I come across in my practice say they were worried they wouldn't be able to perform when their wife was in labor. They were afraid of passing out, throwing up, or getting queasy in the presence of all those bodily fluids. Such fears may be based on cartoons and sitcoms and our culture's way of making fun of men, but two things became clear: The men all expected it — and it almost never happens. In follow-up interviews, it turned out only one out of 600 men fainted, and that was in August in Fresno (California), and the air conditioning had gone out and two of the nurses had to leave the room, too.If you really can't tolerate blood, step out of the delivery room. Don't ignore your fears — work through them, talk to other fathers who've been there. Typically, the first thing fathers say when they come out of the delivery room is "The baby and my wife are fine; it's a girl." And the second thing they say is "I didn't get queasy — I came through it okay."
About half the new and expectant dads I interviewed eventually came around to admitting they had fleeting thoughts that they weren't really the baby's father. But if you ask them whether they suspect that their wife had an affair, they're insulted and hurt. On a logical level, it's a disconnect, but on an emotional level something else is going on. He's dwelling on his own inadequacies: "It's too monumental, too godlike, being part of the creation of life. Someone bigger than me must have done it."One of the fathers I encountered was this interesting guy with bright red hair, freckles, and a crooked smile. His baby had bright red hair, freckles, and a crooked smile. And he said with a straight face, "I wonder if my wife was unfaithful." But he went on: "It just seemed — I don't know — this was too good, too miraculous to happen to me."
When you're a part of the beginning of a life, you can't avoid thinking about the end of life. Thoughts about your own mortality can loom large: You're not the youngest generation anymore, your replacement has arrived, and if everything works out right, you'll die before your child dies. For a lot of young men who go around thinking they're immortal or invincible, that's a big change. One of my clients was a world-class race car driver, and he gave it up. He told me, "I don't have the right to die anymore."
Fear for your spouse's or child's health
Childbirth is such a nerve-racking experience. Scary things can happen to the person you love most in the whole world. You might lose the baby; you might lose your wife and have to bring the baby up alone. It really wasn't long ago that giving birth was fraught with danger: When my grandparents had children in the early 1920s, the main cause of death in women under 50 was childbirth. Today, if the birth goes well and the baby's fine, you'll still find most parents secretly counting the newborns fingers and toes.
Men often fear that their wife will love the baby more than anyone on earth — and exclude them from that intimate relationship. It's a very real fear of being replaced. In so many households, after the birth Mom becomes the gatekeeper, giving her husband access to the baby only when she sees fit.I remember being at a Fourth of July fireworks show where a mother was carrying a newborn and the dad went over to give the baby a kiss and she slapped his hand and said, "You'll wake him." The dad just crumpled and walked away. What he should have said then was, "I'd like to hold him now, and if he wakes up I'll take care of it." He needs to make it clear that this is his child, too, and they're partners in raising him. He needs to spend time alone with his baby and kick Mom out of the house some days. Otherwise, I can see him spending all his time on the golf course because there's no place for him in the house.Each parent brings different strengths to the partnership. The child usually relies on the mother for security, comfort, and warmth. The child looks to the father for his sense of freedom and separation and sense of the world. Of course, those qualities can come from either parent, but when all these strengths work hand in hand, it's fabulous.
Fears of "women's medicine"
Men are not used to the ob-gyn establishment. It's foreign, it's cold, it's something we don't understand well. Even as observers, many men feel embarrassed and inhibited around stirrups and gynecological exams. Hospital examining rooms and delivery rooms are not made comfortable for a father. Men are usually fairly ignorant about a woman's reproductive system — it's what happens "down there." And so when men encounter all this for the first time, they get clobbered with it. Being prepared — making decisions together about the kind of care you want for your partner and baby — helps tremendously. Having a birth plan, with a set role for you, also helps to make clear what's ahead in the process.Jerrold Lee Shapiro, a licensed clinical psychologist, is the author of Becoming a Father (Springer), The Measure of a Man (Berkley), and When Men Are Pregnant (Delta). He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.
Though I have my fears and anxieties about this stuff I tend to forget that Dez might be feeling some of the fears and wonders about it all as well! I need to keep that in mind when I am having my freak out moments or worried about if I think she is kicking enough and if she is healthy. Dez is possibly feeling the same way or feeling a few other fears then I even think about! This was a good reminder to me that just because I am carrying Ava and will give birth to her He is going though the same thing. And that my fears are not any more important than his! He plays it a lot more calm then I do so I will have to look close to see if he is struggling with a fear or worry about it all! I just need to keep in mind that this is not smooth sailing for him at all!
WE are so very excited but it does come with a lot of fears for new parents and I am sure that it still does for people who have children already! There are just things like...
I want to see Ava on an ultrasound every week and hear her heart beat all the time! But that is not a great financial way to do things! Plus the doctor monitors all of that and We have a wonderful doctor!!!! Its just me wanting to make sure I am doing everything right and not missing anything!!!
Hope everyone has a wonderful day!!!
6 hours ago