I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The biggest fight Chris and I ever got into was in the stroller aisle at Babies R Us. We were registering when I was six months pregnant with Bean Man, and the poopy diaper hit the fan.
After YEARS of introspection, I finally figured out what happened on that god-forsaken shopping trip. In all my planning for the baby’s arrival, I hadn’t included Chris. It wasn’t that I intentionally left him out of the process, but I honestly didn’t think he’d be interested in themed nurseries or brands of bottles. He had never shown the slightest bit of interest in household things before, and so I (wrongfully) assumed he wouldn’t be interested in baby things either.
Well I was wrong, as Chris informed me in Aisle Four of Babies R Us.
Including new dads in the pregnancy is tricky for both the new dad and the new mom. For one thing, neither parent knows what their parenting roles will be yet, so it’s hard to take on the responsibilities with confidence or with real purpose. You just forge ahead hoping you’re doing it right, and that can make it hard to bring someone along on the journey with you.
I especially feel sorry for dads because at least with the moms, as lost as we might feel or as many questions as we might have, we are able to physically feel the presence of our little one inside of us, and I think there comes a certain confidence with that feeling.
But those dads? Man, they are really in the dark. With my second pregnancy, I was a little more prepared to include Chris in the process.
Here are a few things I did to make sure Chris knew he was just as much a part of the process as I was:
1. Read pregnancy books out loud – Now, some dads are all about the pregnancy books. They buy them and read them cover to cover. I love men like that, but unfortunately, I did not marry one of them. I bought all kinds of books for Chris during our first pregnancy, but they sat collecting dust on his nightstand. And I got my feelings hurt. And then I got mad. And then I questioned whether he wanted to be a father at all. All because of parenting books.
The second time around, I did something different. I read TO him. Not cover to cover, but the meat of each chapter. At night when we sat on the couch, him watching TV and me reading, I would periodically stop and share what I was reading with him. It was never in a condescending way, but more of a, “Hey, what do you think about this?” Chris really surprised me by loving this. Eventually, he got to the point where he would ask me if I hadn’t shared anything in a while, “What are you reading over there?”
2. Realize that men process things differently than women – Chris, like most men, is a visual person. He needs to see something in order to understand it and accept it — which was the bottom line of the baby registry fiasco. I had done all this preliminary online research about baby products, so when we went into the store I was looking for the exact products I had found online, while Chris wanted to try everything out in person. He started trying out all these other strollers and car seats and giving opinions about which was better, and I was all, “Hey! Back off my registry, yo!”
The second time around, I did very little online research before we bought a piece of baby equipment. Instead, Chris and I would go to the store by ourselves and try out all these different kinds of products. Chris got to physically see them and touch them, and I realized I liked being able to interact with products before I purchased them, too. After we had formed our top two or three choices, THEN I would go home and research to help us make the right choice.
3. Don’t assume – Fatherhood (even soon-to-be fatherhood) changes people. Chris and I had been together for ten years before we had Bean. I knew him better than I knew myself. But I had never known him before as a father, and so I had to throw my assumptions out the window when it came to parenting with him. I assumed he didn’t want to be involved in my pregnancy, and that was so far from the truth. Chris wanted to be involved, but he didn’t really know HOW to be involved.
I took his inaction and assumed it meant I could really just do my own thing, but really that inaction was because he didn’t know what to do. If your partner is one of those you suspect wants to be involved but doesn’t know how, then help them out. Give them a specific task. Ask them to research car seats or pediatricians. Ask them to choose the paint color for the nursery. Ask them to pack their overnight bag for the hospital stay. Don’t just assume they know what has to be done, and then don’t assume that they don’t want to do it. Help them be helpful.
Babies make us all newbies, but I think dads have it a little harder. So be mindful of them during your pregnancy. Include them, keep them involved, and talk with them about decisions that have to be made. They will be thankful you gave them direction and that they were able to become a dad long before the baby arrived. And, whatever you do, do NOT plan your registry without them. Heed my warning, friends, or find yourself in tears in Aisle Four of Babies R Us.