How To Deal With First-Time Dad Nerves
"Being armed with information can help men to manage the stresses that arise during pregnancy."
Congratulations, you're going to be a dad!
Truthfully for many blokes, this welcome news can still be hugely overwhelming. When life becomes a crash course in parenting complete with prenatal classes and nursery decorating, many men can’t help but feel unprepared for the realities of pregnancy and childbirth.
Last year, social media dad Brad Kearns hilariously described the sheer terror he experienced when his wife went into labor. Brad also went on to explain that prenatal classes “didn’t teach me s*** all”, and cannot prepare most fathers for the reality of childbirth.
“I've always thought of myself as pretty cool under pressure. But the first time I got that call that my wife's waters had broken, something changed”, Brad wrote. “The excitement of almost being a dad went straight out the window because holy… a tiny human was about to come out of my wife”.
Whilst women have access to mother’s groups and dedicated resources during pregnancy, blokes are often less equipped. In fact, American researchers have previously revealed that childbirth classes increase anxieties for many men, and lead us to question how we can properly support our partners during labor.
“A few weeks earlier I had gone to those pre-birthing classes so I felt like I knew what was going on. Nope... No idea”, Brad recalled. “People come in, people leave, they say stuff like dilation and every now and then someone throws on a latex glove and goes under the hospital gown.”
According to Dr Ryan Harvey from House Call Doctor, men have historically been more reluctant to discuss their fears surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, and often leave these anxieties unaddressed. Similarly, international research has shown that blokes feel helpless or incompetent when a baby is on the way.
However, help is out there!
“One of the most stressful moments for new parents is leaving the security of a hospital to take their newborn home for the first time,” says Dr Harvey. “This is when new mums and dads realise they are the sole care giver of an infant, and many feel overwhelmed or alone.”
Fortunately, there are many options available for blokes seeking knowledge and education about pregnancy and child-rearing. Being armed with information can help men to manage the stresses that may arise during this time.
Connecting with other expectant dads can help blokes prepare for the realities of fatherhood. The internet is a marvelous thing, and there are many support groups and ‘dad blogs’ online to connect with. Check out Dad or Alive, The Daddy Files and How To Be A Dad for a start.
Dr Harvey also advises expectant fathers to speak with their GP about what to expect during the first few months of a newborn’s arrival. A good general practitioner can also help blokes address any health concerns they may have, before a newborn baby arrives.
You’re not alone, mate.
In 2016, the number of Australian dads working from home to care for their children doubled to 14%. This means there are over 39 000 stay-at-home dads in our country, and the number is only growing.
“It’s important that new parents understand they are never alone,” says Dr Harvey. “There is always support available – whether this means speaking openly with your partner, a trusted family member or counsellor.”
“Childbirth is actually amazing”, adds Brad Kearns. “If you know any men out there who are pretending not to be nervous. Tell them they should be very nervous… Or send them my way. I'm a pro now!”
About the Expert
Dr Ryan Harvey is an experienced general practitioner, who is highly experienced with pediatric care. Dr Harvey has provided medical care to children and families in remote overseas communities. He is currently the Deputy Clinical Director at House Call Doctor, Queensland’s largest after-hours GP service.