Finding out you’re going to be a father can be an emotional rollercoaster for men. Even when the pregnancy is planned, the reality of it can still feel overwhelming. Men can experience a wide range of feelings and reactions when their partner becomes pregnant.
Shock and disbelief
One of the most common initial reactions from men when finding out about a pregnancy is shock or disbelief. Even if you’ve been trying to conceive, seeing that positive pregnancy test or hearing the news from your partner can feel surreal. It takes time to absorb and process the life changing news. You may keep asking yourself “Is this really happening?” and need some time for it to feel real.
Some common thoughts men have during the initial shock phase:
- “I can’t believe this is really happening!”
- “This doesn’t feel real yet.”
- “Are you sure the test is accurate?”
Give yourself permission to feel shocked and in disbelief when you first find out. With some time the news will start to sink in.
Excitement and joy
After the initial shock wears off, most men start to feel excitement and joy about the pregnancy. Imagining their future child and becoming a father sparks happiness and pride. Men start to daydream about what their baby will look like, their personality, playing together, and watching them grow.
Common thoughts of excitement include:
- “I can’t wait to meet my baby!”
- “I’m so excited to be a dad!”
- “We’re going to be a family!”
Allow yourself to soak up all the excitement and joy during this period. Share your hopes and dreams about the baby with your partner.
Anxiety and worry
As the reality sets in, most men start to feel some anxiety about the responsibility of becoming a father. Caring for a newborn is a huge life change and financial commitment. Normal worries include:
- How will I balance work and family life?
- What if I’m not a good father?
- How will we afford daycare/diapers/baby expenses?
- Will the pregnancy and labor go smoothly?
Anxious thoughts and worries are very common for expectant dads. Keeping an open line of communication with your partner and doctor can provide reassurance. Remind yourself that you’ll learn parenting skills together.
Vulnerability and attachment
During the pregnancy, most men start to develop an attachment and bond to their unborn child. Feeling the baby move and seeing ultrasounds makes it more real. Many dads experience a deep sense of protectiveness and love long before birth.
You may also feel more vulnerable and protective of your partner as you support her through pregnancy symptoms and changes. Increased openness, intimacy and tenderness in the relationship is common.
Thoughts of attachment may include:
- “I already love this baby so much.”
- “I’ll do anything to take care of my family.”
- “I’ve never felt this emotionally open before.”
Bonding and attachment deepen after birth through caring for your newborn.
Expectant fathers often feel increased stress and pressure to provide for their growing family financially. Concerns about work and making enough money are common, especially with new baby expenses.
Many men also feel stressed and anxious about supporting their partner emotionally during pregnancy and taking on more household responsibilities. Finding the energy to manage extra tasks while working can be challenging.
Common thoughts from pregnancy stress may include:
- “How am I going to handle so many extra costs?”
- “I’m worried about handling everything at home and work.”
- “There’s so much to get done before the baby comes.”
Make time to manage your stress with exercise, relaxation techniques, delegating tasks, and asking your partner and loved ones for support.
Helplessness and exclusion
Some expectant fathers feel left out of the pregnancy experience or helpless to support their partner. Since it’s happening in the mother’s body, men can struggle to feel a real connection at times. Discomfort seeing physical changes and limitations in helping with symptoms can contribute to this.
Common thoughts of exclusion:
- “There’s nothing I can really do to make this easier on her.”
- “I wish I could share the experience and feel what’s going on.”
- “It doesn’t seem real to me. She’s going through all this without me.”
Communicate openly with your partner about feeling excluded or helpless so you can find ways to bond. Attend doctor visits, feel kicks, read to your belly, and provide emotional/physical support.
Men can experience depression during a partner’s pregnancy due to the huge life changes, stresses, exclusion feelings, and worries about the future. Up to 10% of expectant fathers deal with depression before or after birth.
Symptoms may include:
- Feeling hopeless, sad, irritable
- No interest in activities/hobbies
- Changes in appetite
- Trouble concentrating
If you notice possible depression symptoms, talk to your doctor. Getting help improves your quality of life and health of your partner and baby.
Fear of childbirth
Some men feel very fearful and anxious about the approaching labor and delivery, especially first-time dads. Not knowing what to expect or fearing there will be complications can be overwhelming.
Common childbirth related worries:
- “What if something goes wrong?”
- “I don’t know how to coach her through labor.”
- “I don’t like seeing her in severe pain.”
- “What if the baby isn’t healthy?”
Take childbirth education classes together to prepare. Talk with your doctor about what to expect and create a birth plan. Having a plan can give you a sense of control.
Overall, it’s normal for expectant dads to experience a wide variety of emotions from excitement to fear. Keep communicating your thoughts and feelings with your partner for support. Preparing yourself for fatherhood emotionally and practically can ease worries. When you hold your new baby for the first time, the stress and anxiety will wash away into awe, joy, and love.