Congratulations! You’re going to be a father! Your partner is the pregnant one in the relationship, but your life is changing too, and you want to know what to expect now that Baby-to-be is on the way. Here are some things that you may not know about the impending arrival. Some of these facts can be quite surprising—to you and the new mom, too!
Linea Negra: Have you noticed a dark line running from the top of Mom’s tummy down the center of her stomach to the pubic bone? This natural darkening is caused by hormones and fades after birth.
Breast Changes: Your wife’s body is wild with hormones, and the breasts are affected too. She will probably experience an increasing cup size (you’ve likely noticed this if it’s happened!), nipple spreading, and darkening with bumps and large blue veins across the breasts. Don’t be alarmed if you see colostrum, an early form of breast milk, leaking from the breasts even before the baby is born.
The Pregnant Belly: The abdomen of a pregnant woman is actually quite hard—sometimes it may seem like your mate has swallowed a basketball. By her ninth month, that belly will be her own TV table, perfect for resting that bowl of ice cream. Yet the taut belly housing your child will become jiggly just after birth. Thankfully this squishy belly will eventually snap back as the mom’s body regains a non-pregnant shape.
Sexual Activity: Yes, you can have sex during pregnancy. No, you will not dent the baby’s head. Your sex life will change though, no matter what, as you consider the other person in the room. (It could even change for the better, as physical changes can cause heightened sexual arousal for some women.)
Be sensitive to your partner’s other physical changes as well, such as nausea, fatigue and a changing body image, which may curb the sexual desire of the mom or the dad. Discuss any fears you may have with your wife’s doctor, who will also tell you when sex is not OK.
Couvade or “Sympathetic Pregnancy”: A man experiencing couvade mimics the same physical symptoms as his pregnant wife, such as weight gain, food cravings, and nosebleeds. According to Armin Brott, author of The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year , between 25 and 90 percent of dads-to-be in this country experience couvade syndrome (from the French, “to hatch”). Don’t fret, guys! These very real symptoms usually disappear, amazingly, as soon as the baby is born.
Mucous Plug: Yep, it’s a plug all right, and it seals the opening to the uterus. If your wife loses this, it could be as little as one hour or as much as two weeks before that baby car seat is filled with an 8-pound wonder.
Water Breaking: Get the towels ready! Some women leak, others gush.
Labor Pains: Your wife may not tolerate labor very well. Even a soft-spoken mate may utter or yell things that surprise you—so if she claims, “This is all your fault,” or swears a blue streak at you, don’t take it personally: it’s the pain speaking!
It may be difficult for you to watch a loved one endure intense pain. Your spouse is being monitored, but you are not. Know when you’re in trouble and ask for help if you need it.
Cesarean Birth: Be prepared and informed about Cesarean births. Even a woman with a textbook pregnancy can find herself having an emergency C-section, so don’t tune out to the Cesarean lesson in childbirth class!
If your wife’s labor winds up with surgery, bear in mind that most women feel extreme disappointment and depression about not being able to deliver vaginally. Your spouse will need emotional support and extra recovery time. Let her know how proud of her you are and what a great job she did carrying that baby.
Episiotomy or Vaginal Tear: One of these may happen when your baby is in the home stretch of delivery. This cut or tear occurs in the perineum to accommodate the baby’s head just before birth. Again, should this occur, your mate will need extra recovery time.
Don’t Stand There if You Don’t Want to Get Messy: The fluids that have been protecting your precious babe can become a wonderful mosaic on your shirt if you’re not careful. So be warned, and wear a gown or something you don’t mind having stained during delivery. Here’s how one dad, John, relays his experience: “When the head popped out, what followed was a big spray of blood and amniotic fluid, and it coated the front of my new shirt. For the rest of the day I was on cloud nine and showing off my blood-spattered shirt to anyone I saw. This included the girl at the corner store, where I stopped on my way home. I thought it was like a new age christening ritual—splatter the dad.”
You don’t want to stand there? Discuss a birth plan with your partner before you enter the birthing room. She may want no one else but you cutting the cord!
Alien Baby: Traveling down the birth canal can be a rough process, and if your newborn has a tough go of it, he may resemble a Conehead from Saturday Night Live for a short while. His tiny face will be scrunched up and he’ll have the cheesy coating called the vernix on him that protected him in the amniotic sac, as well as excess body hair called lanugo. There may also be some interesting birthmarks, pimples, and lesions on your little cherub. Fear not! Almost all of these signatures of birth are temporary.
The Afterbirth: The placenta and fetal membranes are expelled from the uterus (and “delivered”) following the birth of the baby.
Meconium: This is the blackish, tarry substance that is your baby’s first bowel movement. Changing a diaper for the first time can be an experience in itself for new parents—don’t let the poop’s unusual appearance alarm you.
Sex after Birth: The general wait is six weeks for intercourse. Get out your calendar and count down the days if you must, but keep in mind that your wife’s body has been through a lot in the last year. Woo her with patience and understanding!
Breast Milk: Breast milk can spray up to 15 feet. You may find yourself in the line of fire when your wife says, “I wasn’t expecting that.”
You’re Not Top Dog: Newborns are incredibly demanding. Your wife now has someone depending on her for every need. Gone, for the time being, are some of your rituals as a couple. “I was surprised too, that my wife wasn’t my number one concern either,” says Todd. “Instantly, the family dynamic changed, as we knew it would. I know we’ll get back on track.”
Relishing the New Role: Most dads (and moms too) are pleasantly surprised at how loving their mates are to the new baby. You know that you’ll instantly fall in love with your baby, but you may find yourself falling in love with your mate all over again as you see her creating a new family bond.
Lack of Sleep and Forgetting to Eat: New moms and dads put sleeping and eating on the back burner while they answer every fuss and whimper of their newborn babe. But sooner or later, sleep deprivation will rear its ugly head and someone is going to growl. Be prepared: make frozen dinners, take turns sleeping and baby-minding, or call for help. Take care of yourselves. Chances are you haven’t seen this side of your spouse … unless you’ve been in boot camp together.
Well all fathers-to-be, here’s hoping you’re a little bit more informed for this new chapter in your life. As a new dad, Dave surprised his wife at what he said when his daughter was born. He opened up his wallet and said, “Here honey, take whatever you need.” Good old dad.