The first thing that happens when you announce your girlfriend’s or your wife’s pregnancy is for people to go: “You have a girlfriend?” or “You have a wife?”
Or congratulate you.
The next thing they do is start telling you how it will go and what you should do. The most specific advice—nearly all of it useless—will come from your single friends, while those with children will just arch an eyebrow and say “Hmmm” when you mention your plans.
Never mind: Here’s everything you really need to know:
1. WORRY. WORRY. WORRY.
Your joy may fly as high as the kite but it will go as low as the sink with an equal measure of anxiety.
The medical industry seems intent on hedging its bets these days. Doctors will drone on about possible complications; your wife will undergo a battery of tests, particularly if she’s over 35; and your head will be buzzing with all you need to do (buy new tires, buy a new watch) and think about (When will I put up the nursery shelves? What are we going to call this thing?).
You’re a mess. What you’re thinking and feeling is not rational, but it is normal. It’s just that no man ever talks about it. Bonus tip: The only one to worry about is yourself, as you adjust to the unfamiliar role of supporting player. Get used to it.
But when that baby arrives, you’ll realize that:
A. You really are not the Center of the Universe.
B. Somebody is really more important than you.
C. It’s the greatest feeling you’ll ever have in your entire life.
2. YOU’LL BE DATING A REFRIGERATOR
Godzilla’s tantrums would be minor compared to your girlfriend’s or wife’s mood swings. To top it all, she’s going to get as big as a Japanese sumo wrestler, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Did I say big? I misspoke. HUGE!
Once this transformation begins, shut up about that 64-ounce porterhouse she just ordered.
Her body will change before and after the pregnancy. Get used to it. If it does get back to her supermodel figure, good; if not, great.
It will change in a nice way — better than you could have imagined.”
Bonus tip: The size of her breasts will astound and delight you, but don’t get too attached — they won’t be yours much longer.
3. READ. READ. READ.
If there was ever a time to give up your macho stubbornness, it’s now.
Look at some of the books she spends all night reading. What To Expect When Expecting shot to fame not because of the women but because of the men. And it’s one of the most recycled books on earth.
But learn the benefits of breastfeeding, both to her (it’s easier than formula feeding and reduces the risk of breast cancer) and to the baby (toughens up the immune system, and much more).
Bonus tip: If your girlfriend or wife plans to deliver the baby normally, go to the gym. Prepare to be a punching bag.
And if she asks for drugs, don’t argue. Be sure to get one for yourself, too.
4. IT DOES TAKE IT A VILLAGE. AND YOU NEED TO PAY THE VILLAGE PEOPLE.
That Old African saying that It Takes A Village To Raise A Child sounds so beautiful that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even wrote a book about it.
What they didn’t tell you is that you need to pay for the damn village people.
So open your wallet because you won’t be able to solve every problem yourself: you may have to hire one or more of a variety of helpful experts. Learn the following: A nanny takes care of the baby; a doula takes care of the mom; a lactation consultant takes care of the boobs, and OB-GYN takes care of her, well, you know what they take care of.
Bonus tip: Count your (nonfinancial) blessings. You may be spending more than ever, but you’ll be living with an embarrassment of intangible riches — and an array of neon-colored plastic toys that would astound the ancients.
You basically move your Happy Hours to Happy Meals and you will realize that what you used to spend your time and money on was generally worthless.
You’ll be living happily without fancy dinners, new clothes or weekends away. If you do it right with your girlfriend or your wife, home will become the best place on earth and it trumps all the TRAVEL CHANNELS any time.
5. WHO’S THE BOSS
Your way, her way, the books’ way, just get it done, son.
Repeat after me: She’s the boss. Your life has radically changed forever. You may struggle with your identity. Your sure-footed, decisive approach that’s served your career so well will not necessarily work at home. So try this: Defer to her. Yes, you’re holding it wrong—the baby, your head, the bottle.
How you handle and play with your baby may look rougher than your girlfriend’s or wife’s methods, but babies benefit from their parents’ dual styles.
Mothers are strokers, fathers are pokers. Babies learn early to distinguish between the two. Don’t worry: You won’t freak him out or break him.
Bonus tip: Start out slow. He may look too tiny to touch in the beginning, but in three weeks you should be burping and changing him like a pro. Some of the sights and sounds may even remind you of your college heyday.
6. BIG DADDY
Carve out a role for yourself by learning the skills that will make you a man among men.
We guys get frustrated when we can’t master a situation, and this is the only role where there isn’t mastery … only familiarity. There’s no way you can master the art of a poop, but you can get used to it.
Bonus tip: Your wife will have her doubts as a mom, too — particularly after a visit from her mother. Now you must listen to me very carefully when this happens. Pinch yourself if you need to, but do not, I repeat, do not laugh.We guys get frustrated when we can’t master a situation, and this is the only role where there isn’t mastery … only familiarity. There’s no way you can master the art of a poop, but you can get used to it.
Praise her excellent mommy skills instead if you want to get on her good side. Besides, if you were carrying all those fluctuating hormones, believe me, you’d beg like a girl.
7. BRINGING SEXY BACK
No matter how good you think you look in the mirror, believe me, it won’t work. But you’ll be in sync with your girlfriend or your wife who’s stressed, tired, and absorbed with the baby.
Bonus tip: Accept defeat early on and you’ll be better for it. There isn’t a rival for your girlfriend’s or wife’s affection in the house. You don’t even belong in the same sentence. You’re now the interloper wanting physical assurance of her love, but even if sex is out, sometimes quiet moments and verbal expressions can work wonders.