Fatherhood is a rewarding and challenging experience all at once. There will be days where you will doubt every decision you make, and there will be other days where you simply take a moment to drink in the beauty and wonder that is your child and the family you have created. Fatherhood will be unlike anything you have experienced before. Naturally, preparing yourself for this change in your life is nothing short of nerve-wracking.
The good news is you have approximately nine months to get ready.
How can I prepare myself for fatherhood practically?
When you become a father for the first time, you will find yourself doing things that you never had to worry about before, like changing diapers a million times a day. There are ways to prepare for this before your baby arrives:
Begin stocking up on the essentials: diapers, onesies, socks, bibs, wipes, pacifiers and bottles. You can never have too much.
Prepare your diaper-changing station so that you are armed with all of your tools when the baby arrives. Practice changing diapers, wiping and applying diaper rash cream. Similarly, practice swaddling as much as you can.
Research car seat and stroller options, and be sure to check safety ratings and whether there are any recalls. Practice installing the car seat in your car, and double-check that everything has been buckled and the seat is secure.
If you are working or plan to return to work after your baby is born, familiarize yourself with your company’s leave policy. You may qualify for parental leave, or you may find yourself having to take PTO. Work with your manager and HR early on to determine the specifics of your leave.
And communicate with your spouse! It’s likely she’ll have many practical things that need to be completed before the baby comes which you can help check off the list.
How can I mentally prepare myself for fatherhood?
Let’s get this out of the way: there is no such thing as the perfect parent. It’s important to set expectations at the outset before your child arrives so that you aren’t setting yourself up for disappointment.
Know that being scared, nervous, or anxious is totally normal and reasonable. It is possible to be both excited for your future family and scared for the changes that await you.
Phone a friend, whether it’s your dad, brother, friend or another father figure in your life. Experienced dads have seen it all and are more than happy to share their advice.
Accept that your sleep schedule will change drastically once the baby is born, and identify potential efficiencies in your routine. If you know you’ll be too tired to do dishes or pick up around the house, prepare some freezer meals and tidy up what you can now. You will feel more at ease knowing that, while you may be getting less sleep, you’ll have one less thing to worry about when running on a few hours.
Read up on safe sleep practices for the baby. It’s easy to make a quick decision on sleeping arrangements when both of you are tired, but being prepared with safety knowledge is in the best interest of both baby and parent.
You probably have never been covered in another person’s bodily fluids. You will no longer be able to say that in a few short months. The more you mentally prepare for the possibility, the less shocking it will be when it actually happens.
It’s also helpful to let go of expectations. You can’t expect a newborn to behave in any way other than the way a newborn behaves. So in order to be more at peace, prepare yourself to mentally ride the waves of fatherhood as they come.
How can I support my partner as we both prepare for parenthood?
As a father, you may not be able to take away your partner’s cravings, back pain or the general discomforts that can accompany pregnancy, but you are able to be present and provide support.
Attend birthing classes with your partner. They will feel supported, and it will give you both an idea of what to expect on the big day. As a bonus, you will meet other parents-to-be who will understand what you are going through.
Attend every doctor’s appointment and ultrasound if you are able. Seeing each sonogram and hearing positive updates from the doctor are special experiences that should be shared with your partner. This is also a great opportunity to ask the doctor any questions you might have about how the pregnancy is going, whether certain symptoms are normal and what to expect in the days following your baby’s birth.
Make sure to always have a supply of the things that make pregnancy easier for your partner, whether that is body pillows, antacid tabs or snacks.
As your baby’s due date nears, help your spouse pack a go-bag for things that you all will need, including homecoming outfits, diapers, blankets, snacks, phone chargers, toiletries and medical records. You likely won’t need all of this, but it’s better to be over-prepared.
Work together on the birthing plan so that you are on the same page when the time comes.
Many of these tips still apply if you and your partner are adopting. The most important thing to remember is to be there for each other every single day so that you can begin parenthood on a solid foundation.
In need of more support?
Pyramid Online Counseling offers secure, confidential online counseling for dads-to-be experiencing anxiety in anticipation of the birth of their baby. Reach out today at 833-525-3077 to speak with a counselor and learn coping skills that will carry you through pregnancy, delivery and fatherhood.