My wife Jessica and I have decided that we are going to engage an exciting, albeit expensive, new adventure — Operation Little Feet. And, being the INTJ that I am — “INTJs live in the world of strategic planning” — I immediately turned my mind to planning for the pre-emptive invasion of this cute little blood-sucking body snatcher.
Where did I go first to source vital information? From the Ancient Wisdom of Crowds found on Facebook.
- How do/did you arrange taking care of their newborns?
- Did the wife stay at home? How many weeks after birth?
- Did the husband stay at home? How may weeks after birth?
- Does someone else help? How may times/month? Who?
81 comments later, I noticed several disconcerting trends:
- Only 4 comments were by men, all of which were fathers except me. Now, nearly half of my Facebook friends are males — why weren’t they more engaged with these questions?
- While it was reported that women took 3 weeks to 3 months “off” after birth, the fathers rarely took more than 1 week. There seemed to be some less-than-veiled resentment that the fathers weren’t more involved during this period, too.
- My question posing was called “adorable” and “cute”. Why wasn’t it considered necessary or expected?
I spoke to my wife about this, and she purchased the book The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for the Father-To-Be. From the book cover:
This indispensable book explores the emotional, financial, and even physical changes the father-to-be may experience during his partner’s pregnancy. Written in an easy-to-absorb format and filled with sound advice and practical tips for men on such topics as, how to make sense of your conflicting emotions, how pregnancy affects your sex life, and how to start a college fund.
While I’m only one quarter into the book, my eyes are now wide-open. Our culture expects (encourages?) that a father be unengaged during their partner’s pregnancy by not including them in it. I myself never really considered the role of a father outside of being a sperm donor prior to the birth, financier during the formative years, and a role model after. Yet, as a life-long committed contrarian, that means I *must* swim against that shockingly cold current. Here’s what I’ve discovered.
How A Father Can Help with a Successful Pregnancy
- Help your partner eat the proper food during pregnancy. While I knew a pregnant mother should avoid cigarettes (including second hand smoke!) and alcohol, equally important is a diet. There are foods that should be eaten during pregnancy, and foods that should be avoided during pregnancy.
- Exercise together during pregnancy. Not only is exercise important for the health of the baby & mother-to-be, it also provides the opportunity for bonding time together between partners.
- Expect a “sympathetic pregnancy”. While not formally recognized as a medical condition, studies have found that upwards of 65% of expecting fathers develop their own pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, hormonal fluctuations, back pain, cramps, irritability, and even cravings. Called the Couvade syndrome, the symptoms begin to appear in men during the third month of their partner’s pregnancy.
- Don’t let your pregnant partner clean the house. It’s unclear whether or not chemicals used in cleaning supplies will negatively effect the baby, but that may be because not enough research has been done. Regardless, at the very least having your partner avoid cleaning agents will help reduce their “morning sickness” nausea, which isn’t limited to just morning hours.
- Have sex after the pregnancy. There is some interesting research that has found that the earlier your partner has exposure to your sperm, the less likely they will experience pre-eclampsia. Another study found that even oral sex reduces pre-eclampsia. The studies indicate that regular exposure before and during pregnancy helps the partner’s immune system become accustomed to her partner’s sperm.
- Expect the partner to gain fat. It’s not a matter of if, but rather how much — it depends on their BMI going into the pregnancy. This weight gain should be encouraged.
- Make your partner feel physically attractive. A lot of (most) potential fathers already have a tankard of a beer belly, yet they still fool themselves into believing that they are physically attractive to their partners. Surely they can also make their partner’s feel attractive with their temporary home-brew tankard.
Fathers: what were other ways you were able to be helpful during your partner’s pregnancy?