The moment a woman realises that she is pregnant, she lives in the trepidation of the impending miseries that tag along with motherhood: morning sickness, nausea, weight gain, labour and more. In a way, there is little that men have to worry about considering that they have spared these problems, though emotional effects of becoming a father must not be underestimated.
It is not only the expectant mother who has to face all fears and anxieties of pregnancy. A man will put up a brave front and a happy face upon hearing the news of pregnancy but internally, he is willing to be as strong through the 9 months as the wife is and he will express nothing that will make the wife think. “Should I go further with this?”. According to Armin Brott and Jennifer Ash, authors of The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-to-be, an expectant father will keep his anxieties to himself. It is only natural for a man to feel so as there are many aspects which he would need to take care of since he is starting a family. So, all you expectant mothers out there understand his insecurities and are supportive.
A man’s biggest fear is his doubt on his ability to safeguard and support his family. This thought is deep rooted and actually primitive in nature where protection and sustenance were the primary motive of life. Such thoughts are likely to sprout in the expectant father’s mind, especially if he is the sole bread earner in the family. Even if the woman is working, she would not be fit to work by the end of the second trimester. A man may be quelled by the thought of his failure to run the family, especially when the household income reduces by one person’s salary or where one person’s salary has to now support three or more family members. While a man may drown in such thoughts of impending financial burden, in reality, the burden is not put entirely on the man’s shoulders, but shared mutually by the couple, which thereby makes the foundation even more strong.
Pregnancy and childbirth can kick in the basic fear all human beings have: the fear of death. A man’s mortality fears can be of his own death, his loved one’s death or even the death of the newborn. Seeing a new life being born, a man feels the need to be there to see the baby grow in front of him. From here stems the fear of his death. Labour and delivery can make his nerves raw and pray for the safety of his spouse and child. The fear of loneliness constantly hangs over an expectant father’s head who wants to live to spend time with his family and see it grow.
During the later months of pregnancy, the sex life of expectant couples dips drastically. It further fuels a man’s fear of his relationship status and the future of his sex life. After the baby is born, a man sees the immense attachment and devotion of the mother towards her newborn. He fears that he has been replaced. Believe it or not, men may feel insecure with the newborn around as they (husbands) might feel that they are no longer the centre of attraction in their wives' world! His fears about his sex life stems from the fact that a new mother shows no or reduced interest in sex during pregnancy and after childbirth. These fears are of course, unfounded as a mother instinctively needs to care for the vulnerable newborn who is helpless and needs to be attended to. This leaves very little time for the mother to spend time with the father of the baby. Sex life takes a beating during and after pregnancy, but so is only for some time as the mother's body undergoes a lot of stress and strain and needs to recover. According to a study done by psychologist Alan Siegel in Berkeley, California, men dream about having sex with their wife, other women, prostitutes and sometimes, other men. According to Siegel, that a man has an overt concern for his wife and the unborn child is good for the woman and the child, but it can as well threaten the man’s masculinity and such dreams are likely to give him reassurance.
According to a research paper titled The Case of Expectant Fathers: Negotiating the Changing Role of Males in a 'Female' World, “Roles are no longer clearly defined according to gender but are determined by the partners themselves. In this manner, fatherhood has undergone a positive transformation and continues to be reconstructed as the man's role within the family is constantly changing. Many fathers are increasingly becoming involved in domestic and childrearing tasks, taking more responsibility and spending more time organising and planning their children's daily activities, as well as becoming more involved and included in the lives of their infants. As such, the role of the father has shifted from being regarded solely as a protector and provider to playing a more active role in basic childcare activities”.
An expectant father is clueless about pregnancy and about the role of being a father. There is a constant fear and doubt regarding his ability to be a good parent and sailing smoothly through the pregnancy term. There is a fear of performance during all the stages of pregnancy as well as during delivery. A man fears that he should not come out to be an incompetent and unsupportive partner in the various stages of pregnancy and labour. He fears the changing roles which he needs to play during the stages of pregnancy and whether he would be able to play them well to his, his partner’s and his family’s satisfaction. There might also be a hidden fear of not being the real father of the child. Although, this may sound shocking, it is not as literal as it seems, it’s more in the emotional level where a man feels that conception and childbirth is something so magical that it can’t be him that is responsible for creating life.
Men are insecure and clueless about women’s health problems, reproductive health issues and pregnancy. The complete idea of the transforming ‘nine months’ is foreign to them. The visits to the obstetrician and the innumerable tests may seem shocking and strange to a man. What he does not understand, he is thus scared of and pregnancy is most of it. Medical terms or medical jargons such as placenta, uterus, amniotic sac or water bag make him scurry for the pregnancy dictionary! The solution is to be prepared: take time out to read on pregnancy, go with your spouse to follow-ups at the doctor’s clinic and discuss with your spouse what you do not understand.
Fatherhood means additional responsibility which translates into lesser time for yourself. Men fear they will lose their freedom after a baby is born but, you must realise that it is only for the time being. Being awake for most part of the night and attending to your baby’s needs while you are sharing the baby’s responsibilities with your spouse may seem daunting, but it is only temporary. Soon the baby will grow up and would not require as much attention which will mean more time for yourself and for your wife.
Every man, no matter how strong upfront, is likely to have second thoughts about his wife’s pregnancy unless the couple has been trying for months to have a baby. Even though the wife is pregnant and has her own health problems to worry about, men must keep communicating their feelings as doing so will ease the stress.
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