Parenting Life

Six Things This Dad Underestimated About Pregnancy

My Wife’s Tiredness

I’m not talking about being tired caring for a newborn. Most parents know going in that a newborn means sleep deprivation and being tired in general. What I’m referring to here is how tired my wife was during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. She would often be COMPLETELY EXHAUSTED. It makes sense this happens when you stop to think about it (she is growing a person after all). But I did not know it would be at the level it was. Some women describe it as being the most tired they’ve ever felt. A lot of it has to do with hormonal changes. You can read more about First Trimester Fatigue here.

Picture of a woman lying on a bed sleeping.
Pregnancy can make women very tired, especially in the first trimester.

Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

My wife dealt with a lot of anxiety following the birth of our first child. I’m not sure it was exactly the baby blues or postpartum depression, but the point is the need to be aware of mom’s mental health following birth. Helpguide.org has a great article covering baby blues and postpartum depression. The article also includes a link to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which is a tool to self-evaluate your depression level.

My wife has talked to me about the anxiety she felt after our first child was born. Her anxiety stemmed mostly around thinking about how drastically life would change. She remembers thinking about how we’d need to put the baby down for nighttime sleep around 6:30-7:00. Before baby, we might be getting to the gym at that time and eating dinner as late as 8:00! For my wife, that was a big mental hurdle to navigate.

As the husband, I was very caught up in the daily grind of the newborn world at that time. I didn’t truly realize the anxiety my wife was dealing with during that period until much later on.

Picture of woman who looks a bit withdrawn.
Many women deal with sadness and/or depression after baby is born.

Breastfeeding

I feel like doctors and hospitals do a good job of educating moms-to-be on breastfeeding. Still, breastfeeding is one of those things that’s hard to understand until you go through it. I was not prepared for just how demanding and tough breastfeeding would be for my wife. (Honestly, I don’t think she did either).

While it’s difficult to fully understand breastfeeding until you experience it, it does pay to educate yourself. I highly suggest dads educate themselves in order to better support mom and sympathize with her. (For example, breastfeeding doesn’t just mean baby physically on the breast. It’s much more than that). There are so many resources out there. Don’t forget that lactation consultants can be invaluable, so seek one out if needed.

Picture of a mother breastfeeding.
There is a lot to breastfeeding. If you plan to breastfeed (and you should), educate yourself (dad too!) before baby arrives.

For perspective, my wife breastfeed for only a few months with our first son as it was really overwhelming. Learning from this experience and being better prepared the second time, she breastfed our second son for close to one year. What a difference!

Amazingness of Birth

For most people, having a child is truly one of their happiest moments in life. When we had our first son, I was at the point in my life where I was ready and very excited to have a kid. Becoming a father was a milestone that I couldn’t wait for. Still, I was blown away at just how amazing the actual birth experience was.

Even today, years later, my wife and I often reminisce about the events that day as we welcomed our little boy. (You can read my detailed post about our first son’s birth at A Dad’s Doula Story And Why You Should Consider One). The point is that the labor and delivery of both our sons was so amazing to witness. It’s one of those things where words really can’t describe it. I would urge dads to plan to be involved in the process as much as possible. Discuss with mom ahead of time so the two of you are on the same page.

Picture of a baby just after being born.
The labor and birth of a baby is truly one of the most amazing things in life.

How Common a Miscarriage Is

Maybe you already know the statistic. According to this Mayo Clinic article, it’s estimated that 10%-20% of known pregnancies result in miscarriage. The real percent of miscarriages is believed to be far higher since some happen without the woman even knowing she’s pregnant. I’m focusing specifically on known miscarriages here.

I feel like I once read or heard that 1 in 4 women who’ve given birth experience miscarriage. But, I wasn’t able to find any solid data on that when researching for this post. My wife and I certainly know many women who’ve had miscarriages including both of our mothers.

I honestly don’t remember if I knew the statistic on miscarriage before we had our first son. Even if I did, I didn’t think much about it. It’s one of those things that doesn’t hit home until it happens to you. We were fortunate and all went smoothly with our first son. Unfortunately, we did experience a miscarriage before our second son was born. That’s when the commonness of miscarriage was really driven home for me.

Picture showing a sentence saying, "Miscarriage is not a failure."
Know that a miscarriage is not a failure of the mom.

In the vast, vast majority of cases, there’s not anything that could have been done (but not surprisingly, moms often deal with guilt). I’m also not including miscarriage in this post to cause alarm. It’s simply to highlight an aspect and reality of pregnancy that I underestimated. If it does happen to you, please seek support as needed. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be anything formal. I remember just talking to my mom helped me. My wife also talked to her mom, which I know helped her as well, since as I mentioned above, both our mothers had miscarriages.

Food Restrictions

It seems you often hear about pregnancy cravings. There’s that stereotype of dad running out to get that food mom all of a sudden is craving. What my wife and I didn’t hear as much about was the opposite – food restrictions. Of course, we knew alcohol was a no-no and to limit caffeine. But we didn’t realize the extent of other food restrictions that exist for pregnancy.

Deli meats were a surprise for us. Deli meats are such a common staple in our society, but due to possible concerns with listeria, which is a bacteria, pregnant women are advised to avoid it. It is said that you can heat the deli meat to lessen the risk, so my wife did do that at times when she really wanted that turkey or ham sandwich.

Picture of a ham sandwich.
You’ll have to sacrifice those cold cut meats during pregnancy.

Sushi is another common food to avoid as well as large fish, which tend to have higher levels of mercury. Cheese lovers also have to take caution, as you need to make sure that the cheese is made with pasteurized milk. This also means milk needs to be pasteurized if you are drinking it during pregnancy. On top of all that, you try to give your baby healthy foods, so we were also paying more attention to natural foods and less processed ingredients. Being aware of these various food restrictions caught us off guard.

What Surprised You?

Was there an aspect of pregnancy that you feel you underestimated and it surprised you? Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Thanks!

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