The Fear and Anxiety of the Dad-to-Be

No one reading this needs an explanation of how men and women are different. It’s generally accepted that men, for the most part, are logical fixers and women are, overall, emotional nurturers. Men like to see things from an empirical point of view, cut to the chase, and get to the root of the problem and fix it. Women like to talk it out and be heard and validated and make sure everyone else is happy first. Effective communication and understanding these differences make for successful relationships. No surprise there, right?

During a pregnancy, women experience the spectrum of changes, from up and down emotions to up and down physical wellbeing. It’s not easy growing a baby. Obviously I don’t know from personal experience, but I have witnessed it first hand. The growing baby and uterus shove organs up and back, energy decreases, nausea and the feeling to pee increase, hormones run wild, and tears flow intermittently while watching The Voice.

The spectrum of changes during pregnancy for the man is essentially nonexistent. Some men get excited about a new addition on its way, some are fearful about being an adequate father and provider. Others don’t really feel like anything different is taking place, and won’t feel like anything different is happening until that baby has entered the world. I have experienced all of the above, but I can identify with the last one the most. Simply put, a man doesn’t experience a change in hormones like his woman does, no increase in belly and breast size like his woman, and no tears during The Voice… In fact, what’s The Voice? Change the channel to ESPN, will ya!

However, there is one thing that men do experience that many of us tend to not discuss: Fear and anxiety.

Fear??? But this is Birth Without Fear! And anxiety??? Like the kind you need help for?

Let me clarify.

A pregnant mom-to-be is very focused on how her pregnancy will go, and especially how the labor and birth will go. The woman wants to know her baby will arrive safely. The baby and the health of the baby are the number one priority. And that’s exactly how it should be. You spend 10 months growing a fertilized egg into a full term baby that cries and eats and poops and sleeps, and you have no choice but to be invested in how that baby is doing. That’s what moms do.

But for the man? The number one priority is his woman. That’s the person he is attracted to, fell in love with, considers a best friend, enjoys seeing naked and having sex with, and the person he wants to have all to himself. When something is wrong with his woman, he’s jumping to her aid, doing whatever he can to make her feel more comfortable, essentially taking control of the situation and fixing it like he instinctually knows how to do.

But when it comes to labor and birth, the man is rendered helpless to aid the woman in giving birth to that baby. Sure he can give support and offer encouragement, even provide a hand that his woman will threaten to shatter during those transition contractions. But the man can’t take the pain away, can’t speed up the labor, or give birth to the baby himself. What if there’s a complication? What if things don’t go as planned? What if something happens to his woman? It is a helpless feeling to go from always being in control, ready and able to fix the problem to being a powerless bystander who can physically do nothing to affect the outcome of his woman birthing that baby. And that can be a hand-wringing, scary feeling.

unnamed-7But it’s okay. It doesn’t make us men any less capable or competent in supporting our ladies in birthing a new baby into the world. It just makes us human.

The trick, as I have learned, is supporting your woman during the ups and downs of pregnancy, during the uncertainty of labor, during the life-altering moments of the birth, and knowing that while you may not have the ability to affect the outcome of labor and birth, you can certainly control how much of a rock you can be for her during the most vulnerable, yet empowering moments of her life.

No, it’s not analyzing the problem and coming up with ideas on how to streamline a better solution. It’s not busting open the toolbox and looking for the appropriate tool to fix whatever is broken. In fact, it’s not even fixing something. It’s simply being there, being supportive, being her positive emotional strength when she feels she has none left. Yes, it is different than what we’re used to. Yes, it might be a foreign concept. And yes, that’s exactly what your role, as a man, is during that baby’s journey into the big, bright, cold world.

And that’s a logical fact that you can control.

Photo Credit: Leilani Rogers, Photographer

One Comment

  • Emma

    Thank you. I’m 16 weeks pregnant with our first child, and am really struggling with my connection to my partner right now. I feel left and scared that I am doing all this alone. After reading your post, I shared it with him, and we talked. Apparently he’s feeling a lot like you suggested, with a problem but no way to fix it. This helps me understand where he is a lot more. Thank you.

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