Belly Bonding Tips for First Time Dads

I confess: sometimes, I’m still blown away that we have a kid. I watch our son toddle around the room, and I’m amazed that he exists. I’m a parent!

I felt this way during pregnancy, too. As a soon-to-be first time dad, I had a hard time processing that my wife’s bump was hiding an actual human being. Although I was excited about our future, I also couldn’t believe it was happening. Between the nausea, the kicks, and constant hunger, my wife was constantly reminded that she was pregnant. I was busy with work and settling my family into a new house.

I imagine that a lot of new dads feel this way, too, but don’t want to admit it. But if it wasn’t for Caitlin’s giant belly, there were days that I might’ve completely forgotten I was a dad-to-be!

It was very important to me that I take time from my busy schedule to bond with my baby-on-the-way. Pregnancy goes by so quickly, and I wanted to stop and savor the moment with my wife and future son. It was in these quiet moments that I could truly process and appreciate what was happening to our family.

Here are four ways that I connected with Henry before he was born:

1) Massage: I’d rub lotion or oil into my hands and lightly massage my wife’s belly. She said it felt great, and I could feel Henry underneath my fingers. Sometimes, I’d even be able to identify body parts, like an arm or little butt! Henry liked the massage as much as his mom did; he’d often press up against my fingers.

2) Photo Diary: Caitlin and I took photos of her growing baby bump every week beginning at Week 10. We loved looking back through the images as we approached her due date.

 

3) Music: After I read that the baby could hear sounds while in utero, I began to play him music. When my wife was relaxing on the couch, I’d pull up my favorite songs on YouTube and put the speakers close to the bump.

4) Birth Classes: Caitlin wanted a drug-free childbirth, so we took 12 weeks of Bradley Method classes together. The weekly meetings were educational and great conversation starters. My wife and I had many talks on the drive home from class about our beliefs about parenting. The classes also made me more understanding of what Caitlin was going through with pregnancy, and I knew exactly how she wanted me to support her during delivery. It’s great to be as involved as possible during the pregnancy; it helped me feel connected to my little boy before he even arrived!

New Dad Prep! 10 Ways to Get Ready

Being married to an editor and writer at a parenting magazine meant I mostly took orders when it came to pregnancy. My wife Jen was ‘in the biz’ and knew exactly what to expect and how to get ready. But as her partner in baby making and a soon-to-be new dad, I definitely had a role to play. Here’s how I geared up for the birth of our daughter which began my journey to fatherhood.

Crack the books As a new dad-to-be; you have to read up on the topic -- at least a little bit. Don’t pass on the articles, books or blogs that come your way.

Play waiter She wants ice cream -- at 2 AM? You’re on it! For Jen, it was root beer floats with our first, and egg and cheese sandwiches with #2.

Rub down Her feet, her back, her shoulders -- you name it. There’s nothing better than a massage at the end of the day, so jump right in and do your best.

Catch some zzz’s Now’s your chance: Sleep late, nap during the day, and generally lie around. Frankly, fatherhood won’t allow for much rest for many years.

Dad the Builder Step up to the plate and find the screwdriver! It’s time to put together the crib, paint that bookcase and hang the mobile.

Head of the class Birthing, breastfeeding and the hospital tour -- be sure all of these classes and events on are your calendar. Arrive on time, pay attention, and ask questions if you don’t understand something -- questions are expected, you’re going to be a new dad!

Car talk This was the hardest part. I had trouble mounting the car seat correctly and had to visit several service stations to get it right. Go to http://www.seatcheck.org/ for an inspection location in your area.

Be honest If you’re scared of being a new dad, or worried about the pain your wife will feel -- talk about it. This is some of the best advice I got.

Town crier Yup -- that’s you. When the babe arrives, you’re in charge of Tweeting, emailing, calling and taking the pictures. Don’t forget to charge your phone and digital camera!

Diaper duty Change those Pampers diapers, mix up the bottles and take a turn burping and cuddling. It’s time for baby boot camp -- your journey has just begun.

The Reality of Being a New Dad

To say I was excited when my wife was pregnant with our first child, Morgan, would be a gross understatement. While this overwhelming sense of joy continued to grow along with her belly, I could never have prepared myself for the days and months ahead as a new dad. I imagined fatherhood as one thing, and turns out, my thoughts and emotions were pretty spot on -- times 100.

Expectations: What I Thought I Felt

During my wife’s pregnancy, I wasn’t nervous; just extremely excited. I looked forward to knowing there was someone who would come to understand they could turn to me for anything in life. The only nerves I had as a dad-to-be, were tied to ensuring my baby was a healthy one, and knowing how to respond in different situations. Now I like to think of myself as a smart guy and efficient problem solver, making unplanned decisions every minute of my workday. I constantly get thrown curveballs, and am able to use knowledge and reasoning to figure out the best solution. Why should a baby be much different?

I felt like I did everything new dads are told to do to prepare: read The Expectant Father, talked to other parents. They helped me understand my wife’s experience, -- physically and emotionally -- my own experience, and what was in store once the baby made her first appearance. I looked forward to all the firsts, and to share my favorite things with our child.

What didn’t make me jump for joy was the actual birth part, as I knew I had to be strong for my wife, but having a sensitive stomach, I felt queasy at the thought of watching this oozy miracle happen before my eyes.

 

Reality: What I Feel Now

When my wife was pushing out our child, all queasiness left the room. I couldn’t believe my eyes: I was witnessing our creation come into this world. The minute my wife held our child, I was pleasantly surprised at what a natural she is. All of her nerves went out the room and her maternal instincts kicked into high gear. From day one, my wife showed confidence, love, knowledge, and connection as a mother.

I, on the other hand, began questioning everything. I had difficulty advising my wife on decisions, solutions and actions. I simply didn’t know the answers (maybe Google would?) I was surprised by how much more cautious and nervous I felt, when in my head I thought I would always be a cool and collected new dad. Did she eat enough? She’s hungry again? Why is she crying? Why isn’t she crying!

Despite the worry, the overwhelming joy I thought I felt during my wife’s pregnancy was put to shame each time I looked at my baby. I felt extreme pride at Morgan’s firsts -- lifting her head during tummy time, smiling, playing with toys on her own. I couldn’t believe I felt excited and relieved at each poop, each burp, knowing everything was functioning properly. I felt happy when Morgan slept, knowing she was getting the rest she needed, and happy when she woke, knowing she wanted to eat (and was still breathing!)

Watching a baby experience and learn something new every day is fascinating. Hearing ‘dada’ for the first time and watching Morgan take her first steps as she walked into my arms created incomparable pride. I knew being a dad would be great. Yet there is no way your expectations of greatness are in line with how truly remarkable the experience is watching a helpless thing grow into an independent mover and shaker.

Understanding Ultrasounds

Most new moms-to-be can’t wait for the moment they first see their baby on an ultrasound screen. It’s likely you’ll leave your doctor’s appointment eager to discuss the fingers and toes you spotted on the screen or what position your baby was in with friends, family, and anyone who will listen. But before you go in for your first ultrasound, it’s helpful to know what to expect.

Ultrasound basics

During an exam, your health care provider or an ultrasound technician (also called a sonographer) moves a transducer -- a device that produces high frequency sound waves -- across your stomach to see inside your abdomen. This produces an image of the fetus, called a sonogram. The image can be saved, printed, and taken home as a memento of your new baby. Ultrasound techology is a safe way for health care providers to monitor the health and safety of your baby and can help determine the due date along with information such as your fetus’s age, gender, expected weight, and potential birth defects.

Safety first

You can feel confident going to your ultrasound exam knowing that the procedure is considered very safe. However, because the long-term effects of multiple ultrasounds aren’t fully known, it’s not recommended that you get an ultrasound for nonmedical reasons. For this reason, steer clear of places that give 3-D ultrasounds, which offer keepsake images but provide no medical benefit.

When to go

Ultrasounds can be performed any time during a pregnancy. However, it’s common to have one in the first trimester to determine your due date, and then another in the second trimester (between 18 and 20 weeks) to get a better look at your developing baby and determine the sex of your child. If your doctor wants to carefully monitor your pregnancy for any reason, you may need to come in for more ultrasounds during the third trimester. Finally, towards the end of your pregnancy, your health care provider may also do an ultrasound to determine the position of your baby.

What to expect

In order to get a good picture, it’s important to have a full bladder, so your doctor may ask you to drink a few glasses of water before coming in for your appointment. Otherwise, you don’t need to do anything to prepare for your ultrasound -- aside from getting excited to see your new baby!

If you have any questions about the ultrasound process or your baby's development, just ask. And enjoy poring over those incredible pictures of your new baby!

Baby by Surprise: Telling the Dad-to-Be

A baby was the furthest thing from our minds. We had just moved into a new apartment, and I was trying to get a promotion at work. We figured we’d have children one day, but not anytime soon.

We had a vacation planned shortly after the move. One day, when we were away,  I noticed my breasts were, well, huge! But I didn’t think much of it. That should have been my first clue.

A second clue came -- or didn’t come -- a few days later. I was supposed to get my period while we were away, but it never happened. “Don’t worry,” Ryan told me. “You’re just stressed out. It’ll come.”

I spent the next few weeks waiting for my period and searching online for explanations. I wasn’t even thinking about pregnancy. Unfortunately, the other possible causes made me more and more anxious and seemed much scarier than becoming a new mom. I finally scheduled an appointment with my doctor.

Ryan was sick the day of my appointment, so he couldn’t join me. I kept trying to reassure myself the whole time while traveling to the office, waiting in reception, and sitting in the doctor’s office after I peed in a cup. So, I was a little on edge when the nurse knocked on the door -- and even more on edge when dropped the supplies she was holding as she walked in.

As she picked up her instruments, she said, “Honey, you’re pregnant!”

“Excuse me?!”

“You’re very pregnant,” she repeated matter-of-factly.

I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was. I spent the trip home panicking about how this would change our lives, what it would mean for my promotion -- and what in the world Ryan would say about becoming a new dad.

As soon as I walked in the door, I blurted it out: “Ryan, I’m pregnant.” Now, he was both sick and stunned. He looked at me, said, “OK,” and went right back to bed.

It took him about a week to process the news. I tried to let him adjust to this change on his own time, but of course, I couldn’t help but watch him a little more closely. He spent a lot of time online researching pregnancy and fatherhood. And I could swear he developed a slight sweating issue.

As we both got used to the idea, we became more and more excited. “I always knew we would have children,” Ryan told me. “It’s just a lot earlier than we expected.”

We’ve had to make a lot of changes since our daughter, Ava, was born, including moving from that one-bedroom apartment to a house and giving up the weekends we used to have to ourselves. But Ava is our angel and has brought new meaning to our lives. We wouldn’t have it any other way!