Men have a natural fear of babies and pregnant women. As a young man, I was uncomfortable around my friend’s children. I feared I would have the same apprehension for my own children. The good news is that you do not dread your own offspring. The only fear you have is that you will not be as good a father as you want to be, and that is a good fear. Pregnant women are another story; before I was married, I sat beside a pregnant woman on a long plane flight. This was the scariest flight of my life; there was something about her constant complaining, inability to get comfortable, frequent bathroom trips, and insatiable appetite, which made me uncomfortable. After fathering two children of my own I can say that I am more afraid than ever of pregnant women, but I have discovered a few guidelines to help other men on their journey to fatherhood.
Rule One: Sex is Sparse, Get Used to It
The sooner you embrace this rule the better it will be. The fun part for you is over you made a baby and now women have no more utility for sex. There may be some, but you cannot count on it or ask for it, you selfish bastard. Usually sex continues marginally the few months following conception then it dries up. If you get any, it can be awkward for you and unrewarding for her; remember that scene from Knocked Up. There are women out there who become very randy in the last trimester, take full advantage of that when you can. In the last month women just want to have the baby already, so tell her that sex can induce an early delivery. This is true, our doctor suggested it. However, don’t get used to this quantity either, it could be a long wait till your next roll in the hay after the birth. I suggest finding time to take care of your desires in private, remember High School. This is the sex that you should count on; don’t hound your swollen-footed pregnant wife for sex.
Rule Two: Absorb Her Hormonal Wrath
Be impervious but sympathetic to her emotional fusillade. Hormones from the baby will cause her to lash out at the one she loves most. I know a little about both sides of this imbalance of hormones. Once when I was on a heavy dose of prescription steroids, I got what is known as roid-rage, and the person who I hated most was my wife who I adore. The lesson is that she does not really hate you, or everything you do or don’t do, she just naturally lashes out at the one she loves the most. In an odd way, her mood swings show her true affection for you. That being said, don’t try to explain this to her at 3:00 AM when she is in tears because you haven’t painted the baby’s room yet, and all you care about is yourself. You know this, and that is what’s important. Next, you must act as her punching bag while she works out these hormonal and emotional imbalances. Keep telling yourself that the lovely woman you knocked up is in there and she will return some day. Oh, and get that baby’s room painted, get all the furniture ready, keep it clean and ready to move in to no matter when the due date is. This is important because she is nesting, and for most women, a baby’s room is never ready enough, but you can at least try to stay ahead of her wrath.
Key phrases: Yes Dear, I was going to do that first thing in to morning, I was worried about that too, Yes Dear, I know you’re upset, I know what I did was wrong, I’ll never do it again, this is what I am going to do to make it better, I know it was stupid, I should have never listened to Dick’s advice
Rule Three: It’s Time to Change
Men hate change. There is nothing I wanted more than to be teenager forever, but that’s impossible (James Dean, Charlie Sheen). Know that your life is not over, it’s just different, there will still be time to have friends, see movies, and go out to dinner, but like sex these are going to be fewer and far between (see rule one). Some things are just going to vanish completely, playing video games, beers after work, late-night movie marathons. Accept that your home life, your marriage, and the rest of your life is changing. Change is good; I do not lament any changes I made, mostly they were things I always wanted to change but lacked motivation, quit smoking, drinking less, eating better, and spending less money. I suggest thinking of a fictional character that you want to emulate and ask yourself: Would Atticus Finch go out for a few beers Friday after work or would he go straight home to have dinner with his family? Would Bill Cosby play four hours of Star Wars the Old Republic or play peek-a-boo until those very words lose all meaning to him? Would that gay dad from The Brady Bunch stay up all-night watching The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition or go to sleep early and wake up with the baby letting his wife sleep in?
Here are a few fathers you want to avoid becoming: William H. Macy’s character from Shameless, Tony Soprano, Darth Vader, and my father.
Rule Four: Support Her
Every woman spends the lion’s share of her time dreaming of and reminiscing about having children. This is their moment to do what they destined to do. Imagine if you were to live out one of your fantasies, winning the Super Bowl, Headlining a Rock Concert, or fucking a Victoria’s Secret Model (page 67). The point is that this is her moment, she is the star; support her no matter how crazy, irrational, and downright mean she is gets. Do not go to sleep when you are waiting in the hospital for 12 hours and the kid still isn’t out yet. Your wife will never forgive you, also do not let you mother find out about this, she will be very disappointed in you. Do not make fun of her weight, foot size, and breast enlargement. Don’t get caught looking at other women. Now you can still have fun with her, by cracking a joke about her craving from Dairy Queens Double-Fudge-Cookie-Dough Blizzard with half the amount of cookie cough and 50% more fudge, provided you are heading out the door get her one. There are also the dreaded solidarity sacrifices; there is no rule that says you have to give up, caffeine, alcohol, smoking, or jumping on trampolines. However, if she asked you to, I suggest you make the effort, or at the very least do not do any in front of her.
Rule Five: Real Men Take Care of the Baby
Raising a baby is a team sport. There is no getting around it you are going to have to take care of the baby. This is not the 18 century, today men do twice as much child rearing as their fathers did and half as much as their wives expect. I suggest perfecting a skill that sets you apart from your partner. If you can use this as leverage to get out of doing things you don’t want to, i.e. diaper changing. I am the Jedi Master of swaddling babies. A nurse in the hospital taught me how to wrap a baby like a burrito. I also excel at putting babies to sleep and cleaning poop out of the tub. (Oh yes, babies like to poop in tubs.) Knowing what your strengths and weakness are will help you work better as a team. However, this does not mean you absolutely get off diaper duty, in a good team each member can step up in the others absence. Do you want the first time you change a diaper to be in the middle of a crowded Mall or the day your wife is sick and you have to wake her up to ask whether to go front to back or back to front? Or, what if the baby spikes a high fever and you need to go to the hospital, but wait you never put the baby in the car seat. Like anything, practice is the key to confidence. Learning the ropes when things are calm will give you poise in emergences.
That’s it. Really wasn’t that hard looking back on it. Hey, if I can do it and Brad Pitt can do it, anyone can do it.
As an added bonus, here is a list of things pregnant women can’t get enough of:
pillows, blankets, foot rubs, peanut butter, baby books, romantic comedies staring Katherine Hegel, talking to her mother, belittling you, infant sized baby clothes that the little tike will only fit into the first week of its life, lower back rubs, pillows, scented candles, yelling at you, her favorite candy, Dairy Queen Blizzards, pillows.
If you have, additional advice for would-be fathers please leaves us a comment.