15 Shocks Every New Dad Should Prepare For…

Fatherhood is a journey that lasts a life time. Like most excursions it’ll throw up plenty of surprises along the way and just to keep you on your toes Mother Nature ensures those shocks start early on - like before your baby is even born. Here’s our checklist of the ones you should watch for - and some expert insight into how best to deal with them. Now, hold on tight….
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Fatherhood is a journey that lasts a life time. Like most excursions it’ll throw up plenty of surprises along the way and just to keep you on your toes Mother Nature ensures those shocks start early on - like before your baby is even born. Here’s our checklist of the ones you should watch for - and some expert insight into how best to deal with them. Now, hold on tight….

<1> SHOCK: THE NEWS - YOU’RE NOT CELEBRATING

Not every chap pops champagne corks when he hears the news - even when the pregnancy is planned for. “Anxieties erupt in fathers-to-be,” explains Dr Richard Woolfson, child psychologist. “They can be practical ones like ‘How can we afford this?’ through to feelings of self-doubt; ‘Am I capable of raising a kid?’

TACTIC: TELL HER “She’ll be just as anxious and if you phrase it ‘I’m overjoyed - but I’m also worried about X, Y and Z' - you’ll find it lot easier to share your concerns,” says Woolfson. Talk to your dad-mates too - but above all be open with the mother of your child.

<2> SHOCK: SEX - YOU’LL BE BEGGING HER TO STOP!

“Whether it’s her first or second trimester, many women experience increased sexual urges, at levels exceeding pre-pregnancy,” explains Dr Yvonne K Fulbright relationship expert and author of Your Orgasmic Pregnancy. “During the second trimester in particular, many feel hot to trot for reasons far beyond their control.”

TACTIC: SWOT UP “Educate yourself about sex during pregnancy,” says Fulbright. “Unless her doctor says otherwise, she's good to go and in many cases she’s rearing to, given the engorgement of blood to her genitals and hormones.” Just let her lead the way.

<3> SHOCK: LIFE - IT WILL CHANGE

“The sooner an expectant dad realises that life cannot continue in the same way as before - the easier things will be for him and his new family,” explains Jo Lyons, Director/co-founder of Talking Talent - a firm that coaches companies on paternity issues. “The long hours, partying and weekend golf trips must be reigned in.”

TACTIC: BREAK A DEAL Agree a time with your partner each week when you’ll have a beer or two with the boys or keep up with the 5-a-side morning football. “Maintain separate interests throughout the pregnancy,” says Lyons. Just be sure to communicate each other's needs and be flexible.

<4> SHOCK: YOUR EYES - THEY’LL TAKE ON A NEW SHADE OF GREEN

“During the pregnancy so much focus is placed upon the baby that every conversation seems to revolve around it,” explains Dr Pat Spungin, psychologist with raisingkids.co.uk “It can leave some parents feeling left out or resentful.”

TACTIC: SKIN UP “Nurture a relationship with your baby before it’s born,” suggests Armin Brott, author of New Dad. Talk to the bump, give it a name even if you’ve not decided on the real one yet, keep a pic of the scan in your wallet - anything to stop yourself seeing you baby as simply a wedge between you and your wife. “When it’s born do things that involve skin-to-skin contact such as bathing, cuddling, playing, putting him or her to bed, and changing nappies,” adds Brott.

<5> SHOCK: YOUR RELATIONSHIP - CAN FALL APART

A baby can make many couples feel complete - but the strain of pregnancy on both of you can also open up old wounds or deep-lying issues about the relationship and the commitment to it.

TACTIC: CALL A TRUCE. “Address the problems you’re having and accept 100% responsibility for 50% of your relationship,” says Dr Graeme Russell, author of First-Time Father. “Make suggestions as to what needs to change to make things better for you both and look for opportunities to share positive experiences - like going out together - while making time to discuss those problems.”

<6> SHOCK: YOUR WORK - CAN CLASH WITH YOUR CHILD

“In many ways it can be harder for men to gain ‘permission’ from line managers and colleagues to work more flexibly,” explains Jo Lyons. “It can be tough if you’re working in a male-dominated environment or pressured organisation culture to ask to leave early in order to help out at home.”

TACTIC: HEAD TO HR Talk to your firm’s HR people, your line manager and ideally get advice from any fathers in your firm at the earliest opportunity. Find out what you’re entitled to and discuss whether working from home is a possibility at times.

<7> SHOCK: YOUR BABY - IT WON’T COME CHEAP

Even before it is born, baby costs pile up quicker than soiled nappies. Parents are typically spending around £1,560 on their child - pre-birth - and one in five have moved house to make room for the new nipper, so adding around £5000 in moving fees to the tab.

TACTIC: CUT COSTS Sign-up to accessory websites and investigate Tax Credits. “If both of you are heading back to work after your child is born then check out the little known ‘Childcare Voucher' scheme too,” says Martin Lewis of moneysavingexpert.com. It can save you £1,000s on nursery fees or child minder costs every year. “Most big employers, such as Lloyds, Barclays and Sony offer the schemes - many NHS Trusts and Ministry of Defence departments do too.”

<8> SHOCK: HER PLAN - MAY NOT GO TO PLAN

It’s not so much a plan, more a list of wishes your partner would like observed during the birth. She’ll want you to know it since she’ll definitely have her hands full once labour kicks in - but don’t be surprised if not everything follows the schedule she’s laid down.

TACTIC: LEARN THE DRILL “Four out of five husbands or partners attend the birth these days,” says Catherine Parker-Littler, Midwifery Director at midwivesonline.com. “It’s vital that you understand your partner’s requests but are also negotiable to change and input from the attendant midwife - don’t be too rigid about sticking to that plan, especially if your partner or the baby could get stressed.”

<9> SHOCK: HER SIZE - SHE’LL GET BIGGER, YOU’LL BECOME INVISIBLE

As reaches the final stages of the pregnancy concerned friends, relatives and complete strangers you meet in the street will start conversing with your wife - even touching her bump - uninvited in what feels like some kind of prehistoric act of group nurturing. You’ll be ignored - but that’s no reason to sit back and enjoy the silence.

TACTIC: GET TO CLASS Specialists, GP and ante-natal classes are much more aware of the needs and concerns of fathers so don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help from these folk. “Visit the online support network ‘NCT E Dads’ if you can’t get along to the ante-natal groups of if you want to discuss matters more,” says Belinda Phipps, NCT Chief Executive.

<10> SHOCK: HER BELLY - YOU COULD BE FEELING KICKS TOO

Some men take to pregnancy like Doting Dads-to-be. Others become Denial Dads - avoiding the issue as much as possible. And some, well, some get Couvade syndrome. That’s where morning sickness, cramps and back pain are felt by blokes whose partners were pregnant. In a study of 282 expectant dads carried out by St George's University, London, researchers discovered than in extreme cases, men with these ‘phantom’ pregnancy symptoms even developed swollen stomachs.

TACTIC: CHILL OUT Look into the facts of pregnancy and birth - how safe it is these days and how to find out how little you really have to worry about. “The Couvade symptoms, which often happen early in pregnancy, may be a sign of impending anxiety - the beginning of a pregnancy is an uncertain time for all,” suggests Dr Harriet Gross, senior lecturer in the Department of Human Sciences at Loughborough University.

<11> SHOCK: THE PREGNANCY - IS OVER
One in four pregnancies in the UK ends in miscarriage, most commonly before the 14th week. “Everyone’s experience will be different and highly individual,” explains Ruth Bender Atik, National Director of The Miscarriage Association. “The person who is most often forgotten in a family bereaved by a miscarriage is the father.”

TACTIC: TAKE CONTROL “Try to express your feelings to someone with whom you feel comfortable,” says Bender Atik. Also talk to the GP or specialist. “You may not be able to get all the answers you would like, but clear information can restore some feeling of control,” says Bender Atik. And give it time. “Dealing with pregnancy loss is a process and there is no set timetable for getting through it. Don’t be surprised if feelings resurface at specific times - a particularly significant date can be the day your baby was due to be born.”

<12> SHOCK: HOME ALONE - YOU, HER AND A BABY…

Most hospitals will want your wife and child out the door at the soonest opportunity - often within a few hours of the birth. After nine months of seemingly continued medical attention from midwives, GPs and nurses this can unnerve you both.

TACTIC:GET HANDS-ON “It’s a leap of faith,” says Dr Woolfson. “You need to take comfort in the fact that you’re not the first parents to do this, you will get through it and to enjoy the moment if you can. That little life is dependent on you. To boost your confidence get involved in nappies, feeding, bathing and comforting as soon as you can.”

<13> SHOCK: BISCUITS - YOU’LL RUN OUT OF THEM…

…Also the coffee and tea will take a hammering as your home turns into a theme park with your new child as the major attraction.

TACTIC: RULE THE ROOST “Set down specific times when you and wife want visitors to come and make the visitors aware that this could all change in a moment if your partner is feeling too tired,” says Catherine Parker-Littler. “Fathers can play a vital role in handling many of the post-birth chores but should also make time to spend with their baby too.”

<14> SHOCK: FATHERHOOD - IT CAN BE A DOWNER…

Not only do the daddy blues exist, they can have long-term psychological effects on children too, a study by the University of Bristol found. The babies of depressed men are twice as likely to suffer from behavioural problems in later years as those whose fathers are not depressed.

TACTIC: GET ON THE PHONE Symptoms of post-natal depression in dads vary from anxiety and loss of appetite to feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope. Your first port of call should be your GP. Open up and let him or her know how you’re feeling. If you can’t get an appointment today call the Fathers Matter - Men's postnatal depression helpline: 01268 556328.

<15> SHOCK: YOU COULD BE A DAD AGAIN… BEFORE YOU KNOW IT

Some women can be ‘super-fertile’ after the birth of their child - seemingly able to conceive another simply with a vigorous handshake. Of course it’ll take more than that but don’t let your eagerness to get back into a regular sex life jeopardise the plans for a quiet life too.

TACTIC: TAKE COVER “If your partner feels ok to have sex again - and for some women it can be many months after the birth before they are up to it - then discuss what birth control you want to take,” says Parker-Littler.

For more of Rob Kemp's parenting advice, pick up a copy of his excellent new book The Expectant Dads Survival Guide