23 Things New Dads Should Know Before The Baby Arrives
December 03, 2019
Congratulations! Your partner has just informed you that you are going to be a dad. Welcome to pregnancy and all of the ups and downs that come with it!
For some dads, this time can be overwhelming, confusing, and sometimes just plain frustrating. We want to help you out by sharing some tips for new dads during pregnancy. Consider these tips the “warm-up” to the big game and these tips can help you score a win.
Pregnancy is divided into three trimesters. The first trimester will run about 12 weeks and is the time when you will typically find out about the pregnancy. During this first 12 weeks, there are some changes you will notice in your partner and some new things you will be expected to be a part of. Here are some of those options.
Contrary to popular belief, morning sickness is not just sickness in the morning. Your partner may be sick or nauseous for most or all of the day depending on her body. Sadly, there isn’t much you can do to help her. There are a few things you can try though. Here’s our shortlist:
Be compassionate - For some women morning sickness can feel like the equivalent of a long-term stomach flu. She may be miserable and unhappy for most of this part of the process. Lead with compassion and you will be able to help her feel cared for and also avoid making things more difficult for her.
Don’t push her to eat - When you see your pregnant partner getting sick often it can be tempting to remind her to eat and worry that the baby or she is not getting the nutrients they need. Instead of pushing her to eat because you are worried, ask what she can tolerate and bring her that. This may mean bringing in crackers, soup broth, or something that you wouldn’t consider a meal.
Note the triggers - During this first trimester, your partner will have a heightened sense of smell. Because of this, you will want to make sure that you are finding out what her triggers are. She may have loved chicken before pregnancy but now the smell of it will make her sick. This is completely normal. Removing these triggers can help her to have an easier time and get you through the process.
*Pro tip - Espresso beans can get rid of any smell. So before your make your own cold brew at home, make sure you save some extra for her. Get her a small bag of espresso beans she can sniff if she encounters a smell that is making her uncomfortable.
Not all dads go to every doctor’s appointment but your partner may want you at this one. It can be an overwhelming experience but it is actually not as invasive as you may believe. For many pregnancies, the first appointment is more of a formality than anything else. Here are a few things to remember on appointment numero uno:
It will be a basic appointment - On your first appointment, you probably won’t hear a heartbeat, go for an ultrasound, or do any of the things people often connect with pregnancy. Instead, this appointment will include a lot of paperwork, some labs, and a confirmation of the pregnancy by the doctor. Some will have lab work but many won’t.
Take notes - One of the ways you can help your partner at this first appointment is to take notes. A lot of information will be covered and she might get overwhelmed. By taking notes of some of the dietary restrictions, appointment goals, and other information you can move from sitting by idly to helping your partner out. You can also bring along a folder to put all of the paperwork she will be provided in.
Follow-up appointments - There will be a monthly appointment for the first trimester. Many of these appointments will be a check on mom’s overall health including labs, weight checks, and basic questions about her overall health. The best way you can help her with this part of the process is to have a list of questions she wanted to ask. If she forgets to ask a question she was concerned about, you can then offer her her list and let her feel more in control of her care.
The First Ultrasound
The first ultrasound typically happens in the first trimester of pregnancy. This will not be the ultrasound where you learn the gender of the baby or see the baby waving at you. Instead, this will be the appointment where they are confirming the pregnancy and checking to see how far into the pregnancy your partner is. Here are a few things you can expect from that first ultrasound.
You MAY hear the heartbeat - Depending on where your partner is in pregnancy you may hear the heartbeat for the first time at this ultrasound. For many fathers, this is a game-changing moment as it is the first time the pregnancy feels real and connectable to him. Ask the ultrasound tech if the heartbeat is something you are allowed to record a clip of on your phone. You may want to listen to it again after you leave the room.
You probably won’t know what you are looking at - Earlier in pregnancy, the ultrasounds can feel like a guessing game. If your partner is comfortable with you asking questions, wait on the tech to get the measurements they need and then ask what you are looking at. A skilled tech will be able to show you exactly what you should be seeing.
Be supportive - The first ultrasound can be scary for some moms as there are risks involved with pregnancy. During this ultrasound, your partner may be on edge. Know that this is because she has probably read about or heard stories about moms who went for the first ultrasound to find that there was no heartbeat or that there was an issue. Stand by her side and support her through this until you are able to see what your situation is.
The Second Trimester
For many moms, the second trimester is when they get a burst of energy and start to feel a bit better. This is also when the morning sickness tends to leave and the cravings start to arrive. Many people will say that the second trimester is the easiest. There are still a few things you can expect during the second trimester.
Emotional Roller coasters
Pregnancy may send your partner on an emotional roller coaster...and you have a VIP pass ride the roller coaster first! She could be angry, crying, and laughing all within a 10-minute time span. This is not because pregnancy has made her go crazy. Instead, she has hormones that are adjusting to this process and trying to level out. You may even see her laugh and cry at the same time. Here are some tips you can use to support her during this time:
Know when to take a break - If your partner is dealing with emotions due to pregnancy sometimes she may get angry and yell over things you believe are trivial. It may seem trivial to you but it may be incredibly important to her. Instead of fighting, take some time to step away from the situation, find your calm, and come back to her. Make sure to communicate that you are stepping away to calm down so she knows you aren’t walking away for good.
Bring on the tissues - Your partner may have been the toughest person ever made. However, pregnancy hormones can bring on the waterworks over the smallest things. Watching TV, going to the store, or seeing something sentimental may start the tears. Bring tissues and support her through the tears. You don’t have to understand why the commercial made her cry. Just don’t make her feel small because it did.
Fear and anxiety - For some moms, this is the point when she starts to get scared about the delivery or about being a mom in general. There are a few things you can do to ease her mind. Start by offering your support and reminding her that she isn’t doing this alone. Another thing that can bring a lot of peace is buying a pack of diapers at each paycheck. It may seem small but seeing you prepare for the baby can bring her a great deal of peace as it shows the child’s needs will be met and that you are seeing these needs.
Finding out the gender
The second trimester is typically the time when you can find out the gender of the baby if you choose to. It’s important to have this conversation before you ever head to that appointment. Some moms want to know while others would prefer to wait until the birth of the baby to find out. If you choose to find out, you will probably find this out between 18-24 weeks into the pregnancy.
The ultrasound - While this is the ultrasound that will show you the gender of the baby, it is also the ultrasound that the doctor will use to check on many of the anatomical parts of the baby. This means you will be able to see hands, feet, and more that you might be able to recognize. Don’t be afraid to ask if there is something you see and don’t understand. However, all medical questions will be answered by the doctor and not by the ultrasound tech. Remember to ask for a disc or print out of the sonogram. Not all places will provide this but many will.
The announcement - You may make it out of this with a simple “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl.” Or, you may not. Gender reveals and announcements have become a huge trend. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to be part of a party or a special photo to announce the gender of the baby. With many of these, it is better to just roll with it and make your partner happy than to fight it. This season of life will go fast and this is a simple way to make her smile.
Preparing for the baby
At this point in the pregnancy, many moms will start to worry about buying things they need and start to think about the nursery. This could mean trips to stores for baby registries and planning a nursery. Your role in this will most likely be more in the implementation of room design or in walking through many stores to look at baby things you won’t understand. Know that this is a natural part of her pregnancy process.
Registering at stores - One of the favorite parts of pregnancy for many new parents is the baby registry. The second the store hands them the scanning gun and tells them to look up everything they want and add it to a list, they move faster than they have the entire pregnancy. Don’t be surprised if she spends hours in the store adding things you think are trivial to the list. Keep in mind that you are not actually buying everything she scans. Let her scan knowing that you can always edit the list later when she realizes she doesn’t need an avocado baby chair.
*Pro Tip - Add gift cards and diapers to your registry. You will need more diapers than you think and gift cards let you pick necessities.
Research discounts and promotions - While baby registries can be stressful, there are many stores that will offer free gifts, gift cards, or discounts for registering with them. This is a great way to save on items later in the pregnancy. Look at the different stores and find the discounts that will help you to save in the long run. Sites like Amazon’s Baby Registry will send you a welcome gift and give you a discount on your baby registry order.
Start baby-proofing and nursery preparations - This is a good time to start installing plug covers, getting window cords up, and adding child safety locks to sensitive cabinets. While your baby will not be mobile right away, it happens faster than you think. Doing this preparation now will help you to be less stressed when the baby is mobile. This is also a good time to start any projects that will need to be done for the nursery. Whether you are putting together a crib or redoing an entire room, this is the time to invest your energy in these projects.
The Third Trimester
Welcome to the end of the road. Things are going to speed up at this point. This will be the slowest and quickest part of the entire process for you. It will be slow as you will be waiting for a baby and realize due dates are just suggestions. It will move fast because you will have so much to do and finish before the baby comes.
Fatigue, Hormones, and Contractions attack.
During the final stretch of pregnancy, your partner will become a great deal more tired. She will also deal with more hormone fluctuations. Add to this cramping and contractions that will increase leading up to the big day and you may see a different woman. The answer to this is honestly to be supportive and roll with the punches.
During this season, you will probably be expected to attend at least one baby shower. Be ready to play silly games, help troubleshoot issues, and carry copious amounts of baby stuff to the car. You will also be tasked with smiling and being excited over things you won’t even understand. How many onesies does one baby really need? The answer, way more than you think.
The Final Touches
In the third trimester your partner’s nesting instinct will kick in as she realizes the baby will be here soon. Be prepared to buy anything that didn’t come to you at the baby shower or as a gift/hand-me-down. This is also the time you will be tasked with building furniture, finishing the nursery, and learning how to put up a playpen. (That last one isn’t as easy as you think.) Stepping up to help with these projects will bring her a great deal of peace.
Your partner will start to pack her hospital bag but this is also a great time for you to focus on packing your hospital bag if you plan to stay with her. Most of the process will accommodate mom while dad is more of an onlooker. Having a bag filled with things you need will help you to be the support person she needs. Here are a few things you should pack in your bag.
Change of clothes - Labor can take a while and after the baby is born your partner can spend two to three days in the hospital Bring a change of clothes so that you are prepared for this.
Snacks - Most moms can’t eat during labor but you will get hungry at some point. Bring snacks that are easy to get to but won’t disturb the mom as she’s unable to eat. Options could enjoy jerky, trail mix, or water bottles.
Cash - You may have to pay for food to be brought up to the room or for coffee in a nearby vending area. Having cash on hand will help you to cover these needs.
Camera, Memory Cards, and Chargers - Your partner will probably want many pictures of the new baby. Seriously, I know moms who buy new portable hard drives for it. Make sure to pack a camera, extra memory cards, and chargers you might need for your phone and camera.
Pillow and blanket - The hospital may provide a pillow and blanket to you to sleep in a chair or pull out couch. However, the chances are high that it won’t be comfortable. Pack your own to avoid being uncomfortable.
Earphones or music device - There may be a great deal of downtime during the labor process. If mom falls asleep you may want headphones to watch a show on your phone or listen to music. You can also bring an item like a Google Home or Alexa for music in the room during the labor if the mom would like music.
Something to read - As mentioned before, labor can stall or move slowly. Having something to read can give you something to do if she falls asleep or doesn’t need your help in that moment. Having a book or magazine can give you something to do without being overly preoccupied in case you are needed again.
Toiletries - Labor can last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. You may want to freshen up during the process. Bring your own toiletries so that you can brush your teeth or get cleaned up a bit.
Medication - If you are on any medications make sure to include those in your bag in case labor takes longer than you might plan for. Bring along any over the counter medications that you might need for a headache or aches and pains. You may not have a chance to leave and pick these up during the labor.
Contact List - The list of people who will want to be contacted after the baby safely arrives may be long. In order to avoid missing someone and hurting feelings, bring a contact list. This will help you to reach out to everyone you need to without worrying about missing someone. *Pro Tip - Set a contact person for during the labor who is responsible for providing information to everyone else. It will help you to focus on your partner and know that those you want update are still updated. It’s a lot easier to update one person than it is to update many people
Her birth plan - While things may not go exactly the way she planned, she may need you to advocate for her needs while she is in labor. Having a print out of what she has planned and hopes for will help you to make educated decisions if she can’t. Know that this plan may not always work the way it is written but it is a good outline of her wishes for you. There’s a lot of things to think about for your hospital bag. Make sure you check this Ultimate Hospital Bag Checklist for Mom and Baby before you leave.
Preparing the car
The only other thing you will need to do before delivery is to prepare the car. There are a few things you can do to help make sure things are ready.
Start by getting the car seat installed properly. If you are worried about doing this the right way, stop at a local fire station or police station and ask someone to help you put it in the correct way. Many first responders are happy to help you with this. If you are worried they won’t be available, call before heading over.
Make sure the gas tank is full. The last thing you will have time to do when your partner is in labor is to stop for gas. During the last few weeks of her pregnancy, do your best to keep gas in the car so that this won’t be a concern when she is in labor.
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