There’s a closely held secret that every boy has promised to keep from all the girls in the entire world. That is, little boys don’t spend summers high in their “Boys Only” tree forts practicing the art of fathering. In fact, it’s been well documented that boys have much bigger “neighborhood” problems on their minds during these years and these problems definitely don’t involve feeding or burping baby dolls.
Although most men know that the best thing to do when she breaks the news that she’s having a baby is to smile and hug, in his mind he’s already racing back to the tree fort for an emergency meeting.
Most evenings during the week you can find a TV show that exaggerates the mindlessness of young fathers and dramatizes the situations guys can find themselves in when their wives are pregnant. Besides garnering a few chuckles, these shows seem to project myths that only real experience will eventually erase. So what really is the best way to make formula? When do guys need to worry about changing diapers? And where is all this money going to come from? Here are a few things I have found that fathers can expect when they’re expecting a baby. And here’s a hint: this article has nothing to do with maternity clothes.
The Big News
Okay, so she broke the news to you. You can now raise your head from between your knees and breath normally. The first three words that usually go through a guy’s mind when he hears he’s having a baby are money, insurance, and money (but not necessarily in that order). So, the first thing to discuss is insurance since that will determine how much money your baby is going to cost. But remember one very important thing, you are not having the baby, she is! So when you start looking for ways to cut costs and save twenty-six cents on something you think she doesn‘t absolutely need, remember to put yourself in her shoes.
Insurance and No Insurance
Having a baby is expensive and things can add up fast even when you have good insurance. To a certain extent, your insurance policy will dictate the major factors of how and where you will have your baby. Your doctor will also have a say in where and how he would like to deliver your baby. So before you fall in love with an idea about how you’re going to bring Junior into this world, take a moment and make sure it’s covered. If you have insurance then the only number you need to concern yourself with is your maximum out-of-pocket amount.
Oops! No insurance. Young couples with no insurance are not uncommon. You will not be the first parents to pay for a baby out of your own pocket and you certainly won’t be the last. The thing you don’t want to do is panic. That will only add stress to your wife and make your experience feel more like bad news than good. You’re having a baby! Like the entire world before you, you will survive it.
Since most healthy babies cost between four and six thousand dollars you haven’t bitten off more than you can chew. Here are some things to consider. First of all, don’t try to hurry and get insurance and put yourself in a position to lie. Your baby and your wife need a good priesthood leader to help them through this event. If there is a way to legitimately get coverage then great, but no nonsense. The car in your driveway, the ring on her finger, and the degree on your wall all cost more than having a baby. Call your doctor and set up a payment plan starting right away. There’s a good chance you could pay for the whole thing before the baby even arrives. There are several options for you to look into, including state programs and financial aid. The baby is coming with or without all your worrying, so keep your head up and look for good ways to get through this.
The Big Small Decisions
There are a few big decisions you’ll both have to consider before you have your baby. Where you’ll have your baby is one of them. For most couples the hospital is the most common. Good hospitals can handle almost any situation and they have several qualified nurses and doctors available twenty-four hours a day. Unless it’s been your life-long dream to give birth in the family living room, go have your baby in a hospital.
If you really feel that you both want to try something else, there are two other choices: birthing centers and home births. A birthing center is a little bit hospital and a little bit home. It’s usually decorated to look more like a home, is staffed with nurse-midwives, and offers a more personal approach to the whole delivery. Birthing centers are prepared to deal with uncomplicated, low-risk pregnancies. You’ll find many mothers who loved their experience at a birthing center. If you’re interested in this option, do your research, see if one is in your area, and go check it out.
Another location possibility is right in the family home. The only reason this option still exists is because hospitals are simply not for everyone. For a long time, home birth was the only option. There are things that can go wrong and you may end up at the hospital anyway, but if you want to have the baby at home then make sure to check with your doctor, get a good book about home birth, and learn as much as you can.
Natural Vs. Medicated Delivery
First of all, every birth is natural. Somehow, the word “natural” got applied to only those deliveries that happen without the benefit or use of medical science. You would never walk into a dentist’s office and ask him to pull your tooth “naturally.” But, nevertheless, there are two valid choices when it comes to delivery: with or without medicinal assistance. The most important thing to remember is that your choice is personal and important.
Keep in mind that millions of happy babies are safely delivered both ways. The bottom line is this: you and your wife are going to make a thousand decisions throughout your parenthood experience. Don’t let others sway you into doing something you don’t really want to do. Make your good decisions and then go forward. It’s never fair for someone to make a woman feel guilty or less motherly because she chooses to use medical advances to help relieve pain or discomfort. Likewise, it’s never right to make a mother feel like she’s a fanatic because she chooses to give birth without medication. Become educated about your options and then feel confident in your decisions.
Support your wife and stand up for her decisions. She has a lot to go through and she needs your strength. As an expecting father, standing next to the woman you love while she’s in severe pain can be, well, painful, so you’ll both need to talk about this. There are risks involved in every part of childbirth—just coming to Earth is a risk. Starting now, you’ll have to decide which ones you’ll simply need to take. Talk with your doctor and keep a prayer in your heart.
Are You Going Crazy?
Now listen, there are going to be nights when you think she’s going crazy. Just remember: she’s not, you are (or so it will seem)! See, a funny thing happens to a guy when his wife gets pregnant. First of all, he goes color-blind. That’s why he doesn’t bring home the mini-sized lime flavored tortilla chips with the green and yellow label. Instead he brings home the ones with the blue label. This color mix-up may appear minor, but don’t be fooled. Your wife will undoubtedly remind you of how important these minor differences are.
Guys also lose their sense of smell. You won’t be able to smell the very obvious stench coming from “somewhere,” and although you crawl around on your hands and knees at two in the morning sniffing the floorboards and carpets, you just won’t be of any help in finding “that smell” (and neither will any of your friends when they come over to visit).
Last of all, guys become extremely insensitive. That’s why their wives suddenly break down and cry when their husbands selfishly grab a couple of Oreos and sit down on the couch for a few minutes after work. The truth is, you’re in for some funny changes, and it may be a few years before you can both laugh at it all.
Having a baby causes your wife to go through a lot of different stages. She’s not in complete control of most of those changes—not anymore than you are. Part of being a good father is being patient with her and helping her through those changes. And for crying out loud, think before you speak. She doesn’t need you reminding her that she’s acting a little different. Decide now to be understanding; that way, when the day comes that you have to buy all new pillows because the ones you’ve been sleeping on since you got married are suddenly making funny noises when she rolls over at night, you won’t think you’re losing your mind.
Stepping Up to the Plate
Being an expecting father brings a lot of personal experiences that will change your life forever. In some ways, you are your dad now. And like him, you’ll soon find yourself number three or four on your own list of priorities. These changes are part of the natural affection that comes from falling in love with your little children.
Remember how your roommates got mad at you when you started falling in love with your wife? You suddenly became “no fun.” You may also recall the single friends you had before you got married and how very few were still willing to hang around once you became a husband. Well, welcome to fatherhood. As a good dad your heart and mind need to go toward this new calling. Your perspective will start changing, and before you know it you will have become a doting father.
Babies can have a chilling effect on the social life and you need to let that happen. Your not-so-bright friends are going to appear really dim when they ask you to come to a late-night party two weeks after your baby is born. Those first months at home with your new little family are the moments that prepare you for heaven. This is where you should take the lead on slowing things down.
Remember, you’re one of three and you’re a family man now. You need to help your little family get to forever with you. As your child grows there will be times when you will want to get away and have some important alone time with your wife, but for now, just go slow. Help your wife by staying close, and for the first time in your life, take the advice your own dad has been hurling at you since you were small: ”settle down.”
Bringing Baby Home
If you ask most fathers, they will admit that one of the stand-out moments of having a baby was when the nurse walked him and his wife to the hospital doors and sent them home with their newborn. You may end up just standing in the parking lot for a while staring at each other. I’m sure that this is the highlight of the nurses’ day. They all probably hide just out of view and laugh as they watch you walk around the car and mumble words like “it’s okay…it’s okay.”
It is such a weird feeling. It is similar to that feeling you get when you’re finally coaxed by your friends to jump from a high place and you haven’t yet begun to fall, but it’s too late to turn back. You can expect to have a little nervousness about bringing your baby to your home. It is very normal to be a little overwhelmed when the sliding glass doors at the hospital close behind you.
Loving Your New Job
Being a new father can be one of the most rewarding times of your life. Seeing your young wife struggle to deliver the little child that you’ll instantly love adds a special element of bonding that no other experience can bring. Taking time to bathe, feed, and hold your new baby is a chore you’ll like so much that you may even insist on taking turns. But the one thing that is uniquely yours is the immeasurable role of being a father.
Your deeper voice, your strong arms, and your very presence will be sensed by your child from the moment he or she is born. Your stable home, your Church activity, and your priesthood will become, for a time, the iron rod your children will cling to. We have been taught that no success can compensate for failure in the home. It’s your new honored duty to help your little family be successful. Take the lead as a fun and cheerful dad. Guide your children as they grow and help them to see the value in being honest and friendly. Use these early years to create a wealth of good experiences and someday, when your children are grown, they’ll be happier just from the memories that they’ll hold.