High Anxiety and Expectant Fathers

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m a first time father-to-be, and the entire pregnancy has been going very well for me and my wife. But about two weeks ago, I started experiencing anxiety which was pretty severe at times. I got very scared about me or my wife getting ill or having an accident and dying. My mind went into total freefall mode and I started thinking about all the terrible consequences this would have. Is it normal for someone to experience some pretty heavy anxiety about these issues? I’m over it now, but I wonder whether other fathers-to-be go through the same thing. Also, do you have any advice on how I can keep calm (or at least try to!) for the last 10 weeks of the pregnancy?

A: What a fantastic question. The short answer is that what you describing is actually quite common. The difference between you and most other expectant fathers is that they keep their worries to themselves—and that just makes things worse.

Almost all fathers-to-be have some kind of anxiety (and I believe that those who claim they’re worry-free are simply not paying attention). The most common concerns are financial security, changes in the marital relationship, the impending lack of sex, the loss of free time and personal space, and, as you pointed out, fears of danger to the mom, the baby, or the dad himself.

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How being a new dad changes friendships

Dear Mr. Dad: My best friend just became the father. I used to spend three or four nights a week with them and he constantly called, texted, or e-mailed as well. Since the baby has been born it seems like he has begun systematically cutting me out of his life. Hardly any e-mails or texts, and I am only invited over once a week or so now. I have not talked to him about how I’m feeling but when we talk on the phone he acts like nothing has changed. I feel like I’m being very selfish but I really miss my buddy a lot. Is there anything I can do to get him back?

A: What you’re describing is pretty typical behavior for new parents, so don’t take his behavior personally. Chances are he’s not deliberately trying to cut you out and I’m sure he misses you too. There are a number of things going on. First of all, his primary focus is (as it should be) on taking care of his baby and his wife. Any spare time he’s got left he’d just as soon spend trying to catch up on the sleep he’s missing. Second, his natural inclination is going to be to spend more time with people who understand what he’s going through—and, since it sounds like you’re single with no children, you’re not on the short list. Sad but true. At least for now. Third, his wife may be jealous. If he spends time hanging with you, she deserves a break too, right? But with all the pressures of new motherhood, that’s not going to happen for a while. Bottom line: be patient. Your relationship with your buddy has changed—and may never be the same. But with time, you can use the foundation of the old one to start building a new one.