Expectant Fathers Lag Behind Moms in Pregnancy Acceptance

expectant mom+dad

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m very concerned about my husband. We’re just a month away from our due date and although he has been very involved and attentive throughout the pregnancy, in the last couple of weeks he’s becoming more and more withdrawn. He seems annoyed with me a lot, and when I try to get him to talk about his fears and anxieties as an expectant father, all he says is that he has them. That’s it. Will I ever get my old husband back again or am I going to be in this thing alone?

A: What you’re going through is pretty common. That doesn’t make it any easier, but sometimes it’s comforting to know that you’re not alone. It may also help you to know that there’s a very good chance that your husband will return to normal fairly soon after the baby arrives.

When I was doing research for my book, The Expectant Father, I made an interesting discovery. Dads-to-be are generally a trimester behind their pregnant partners. Here’s what I mean.
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The Effect of Expectant Father’s Mental Health on Their Children

There’s been a lot of research over the years showing that having a depressed mother increases the chance that a child—even an infant—will exhibit depressive symptoms. There’s also been a lot of research on the influence that a pregnant mom’s mood may have on the child after the birth. But until now, there has been precious little investigation of the influence of fathers’ mood on their children—before or after birth.

A study just published in the journal Pediatrics has identified a like between expectant dads’ mental health during their partner’s pregnancy and their children’s mental health as toddlers, specifically behavioral and emotional problems. Researchers in Norway studied 31,000 children and found that at 17 or 18 weeks gestation, 3 percent of the expectant fathers had “high levels of psychological distress.” And the higher the dad-to-be’s stress level, the greater his child’s risk of acting out at age three.

The study, “Paternal Mental Health and Socioemotional and Behavioral Development in Their Children,” appeared in the February, 2013 issue of Pediatrics.

The Daddy of Male Parenting Gurus — The Times of London profiles… me!

The Daddy of Male Parenting Gurus

Armin Brott is to fathers what Heidi Murkoff is to mothers – but it’s still women who buy his books

Do men read or need baby books? The unequivocal answer seems to be “yes”. But according to Armin Brott, America’s most successful male parenting guru, who has the greatest share of this burgeoning market, men don’t rush out and fill their book shelves in quite the same way as expectant mothers.

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Kickball czar Bruce Copeland is reading my book, The Expectant Father!

Kickball czar Bruce Copeland is reading my book, The Expectant Father!

The Pitch Questionnaire with kickball czar Bruce Copeland

Posted by Justin Kendall on Wed, Mar 7, 2012 at 6:23 AM

Bruce.jpg

Name: Bruce Copeland

Occupation: By day, I’m the director of business development at Vince & Associates Clinical Research. By night, I become general manager of MUSA Kansas City. How can you not want to be the commissioner of a kickball league?

Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa/Kansas City, Missouri

Current neighborhood: Merriam

Who or what is your sidekick? My little brother, Brahm. We’ve been matched up through Big Brothers Big Sisters for almost four years. We spend about three to four hours a week together checking out Kansas City, learning something new, or defending the world against a zombie takeover on Xbox 360.

What career would you choose in an alternate reality? Platypus handler at Taronga Zoo in Sydney

What was the last local restaurant you patronized? Grünauer

Where do you drink? During kickball season, I like to frequent the Brooksider. I’m also a big fan of Kennedy’s in Waldo and Kelly’s in Westport.

What’s your favorite charity? That’s tough. I’d have to say my three favorite charities would be the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and Camp Quality of Greater Kansas City.

What TV show do you make sure you watch? I don’t watch a great deal of TV, but I do enjoy Archer,The Daily Show and Modern Family.

Favorite place to spend your paycheck: Ireland. I’ll spend a little more when I go back.

What local phenomenon do you think is overrated? Pub crawls. I mean, it’s for a good cause, and I have been on them several times, but I think you get to a certain age where you just can’t take that much alcohol in one afternoon.

Where do you like to take out-of-town guests? JJ’s, Woodyard Bar-B-Que, Boulevard Brewery, Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue, Truman Library, the Liberty Memorial, the National World War I Museum, the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Finish this sentence: “Kansas City got it right when …” It focused on reviving the urban core. I’ve been in KC since 1999 and remember when it was a ghost town on the weekends. Its revival is a source of pride as other cities take note of our urban renewal and focus on our urban core in the areas of art, culture, retail, restaurants and residential living space.

“Kansas City screwed up when it …” Allowed “politics” to get into its politics. I can’t imagine how Kansas City moves forward with any kind of momentum with the way the City Council has conducted business.

“Kansas City needs …” To get accreditation back in its schools. Ingenuity and innovation grants and raises/rewards for teachers who go above and beyond (too many do with no recognition) should be instituted. We need to raise the bar by thinking outside the box. Selling it off to other school districts is not the answer.

“People might be surprised to know that I …” Was so good at fifth grade that they asked me to come back and enjoy it for a second year.

_____ take up a lot of space in my iTunes: Foo Fighters, Nat King Cole and the Beastie Boys

What movie do you watch at least once a year? The Quiet Man — something I’ve watched since I was a little boy back in Iowa. I like that movie so much, I actually visited the Village of Cong in 2010 where John Ford filmed it on the West Coast of Ireland back in 1952.

What local tradition do you take part in every year? Since being a candidate for Man of the Year in 2008, I support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at its Man & Woman of the Year Finale. I always walk away with things from the silent auction that I don’t need, but it’s all for a very good cause.

Celebrity you’d like to ride the Mamba with at Worlds of Fun: Something tells me I might have fun with Sofia Vergara.

Favorite person or thing to follow on Twitter: Seth MacFarlane

What subscription do you value most? The Economist and Time magazine

Last book you read: The Expectant Father by Armin Brott and Jennifer Ash. It’s been a big help.

Favorite day trip: Weston, Missouri. I love the Main Street shops and, of course, O’Malley’s!

What is your most embarrassing dating moment? Literally almost getting to third base on third base on a minor league baseball field in Iowa, but then getting ushered off the field by local law enforcement.

Describe a recent triumph: Watching the growth of Party Arty via the Young Friends of Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I served as vice chair of Party Arty in 2008, and the year following I was the chair. I spent nearly four years with YFA and stepped off in fall 2011 to embrace my new role as a father, but I will always feel like a proud parent watching it grow.

Sign up for MUSA kickball now at http://tiny.cc/xbsyj. Registration closes April 18.

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Is This Really the Beginning Or Just an Ending in Disguise?

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife is pregnant. She already has two children from two different dads, but this will be my first child. She seems to have feelings of regret about the whole thing even though we planned this pregnancy for a long time. How can I reassure her that we’re going to be fine and that she is the most important thing in my life right now?

A: In the first year after the birth of a baby, 90 percent of couples have a huge drop off in the quantity and quality of their communication. Half the time it’s permanent. That sad little statistic goes a long way toward explaining why the divorce rate among couples with small children is among the highest of all. Given that your wife has had two children with different fathers, it’s clear to her that having a baby isn’t enough to keep two people together. In fact, in her mind, having a baby may actually be the first step toward the end of a relationship.

Telling your wife that she’s the most important thing in your life is a good first step, but you can’t just say it once or twice and let it go. With the baggage it sounds like your wife may be dragging around, she’s going to need to hear those words on a regular basis. You also need to banish the phrase “right now”—as in “she is the most important thing in my life right now” from your vocabulary. Someone who’s as worried as your wife is will be asking herself, “Sure, I’m important to him now, but what about later?”

If you’ve ever taken a writing workshop you know about the importance of showing over telling. So get ready to start proving that you’re in it for the long haul. How? Well, it seems kind of trite, but some of the most basic approaches are the most successful. For example, calling her a few times a day just to tell her you love her, sending her flirty texts (or, if you’re feeling adventurous, sexts), leaving love notes in her purse or some other place where she’ll find them, bringing home flowers, and planning some getaways. You don’t actually have to go very far or for very long. If you Google “babymoon,” you’ll find a ton of resorts and hotels that have romantic, massage-filled, packages ranging from a long afternoon to a full weekend or longer, and from pretty reasonably priced to insanely expensive.

Okay, that takes care of showing your wife that you love her. But there’s still the issue of demonstrating that having a baby isn’t going to kill your marriage. This is another case of show it don’t tell it. And there are all sorts of ways to make your point. Start by doing some reading. My book, “The Expectant Father,” is a good place to start. If you’ve got friends or relatives with little kids, visit them often and try to get in some baby-holding time. The object is to show your wife that you’re interested in learning everything you can about what it takes be an involved dad. Next, get out your calendar and have her tell you when all her prenatal OB visits are. Then, try to make it to as many of them as you can. Just showing up will be a credibility booster. Bringing along a few questions for the doctor will boost your stock even more. Oh, and while you have your calendar out, schedule a childbirth prep class.

Coaching the (Childbirth) Coach

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife is pregnant and wants me to be her “labor coach” for the delivery. This is my first baby and I’m really nervous. What can I do to prepare?

A: Congratulations on your impending fatherhood! The very first thing to do is banish the word “coach” from your childbirth vocabulary. When things don’t go perfectly with an NBA or NFL team, the coach is the one who gets fired–sometimes right in the middle of a season. And someone else comes in to finish the job. Thinking of yourself as a coach puts way too much pressure on you. You’re the dad. You can’t be fired.

Next, learn about labor and delivery by attending childbirth classes with your wife, reading books like my The Expectant Father and The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year, and taking a tour of your hospital or birthing center. Then talk with your wife about what the ideal delivery scenario would look like. But resist the urge to create a written birth plan. Labor and delivery rarely go as planned, so lots of flexibility is essential. Here are a few discussion starters.

  • Many hospitals require constant monitoring (via a big belt and an IV), which could limit your wife’s mobility. Sometimes hospitals don’t let laboring women eat anything but ice. How does she feel about these policies?
  • In what circumstances would your wife want a C-Section, an episiotomy (an incision in the vagina to enlarge the opening), or assisted birth (forceps or vacuum extraction)?
  • Does your wife want an epidural (for pain) immediately or does she want an unmedicated delivery? If she wants to avoid medication, what other pain management techniques will she consider? How will you help her deal with the pain?
  • Who’s in the delivery room? Unless your wife specifically requests someone else, you should be the only non-medical professional there.
  • Atmosphere. Does she have a favorite song? Does she want loud, thumping music or a quiet setting with soft lighting?
  • Does she want to capture every minute of labor and delivery or wait until she’s had a chance to brush her hair before you start shooting?
  • Does she want to see the baby crown (when the head appears) using a mirror? Do you want to cut the cord?
  • After the birth, who gets to hold the baby first? Does your wife want to try breastfeeding right away? Do you want to bank your baby’s cord blood (check out cordblood.org)?
  • Pack a hospital bag for yourself, including a change of clothes, basic toiletries, a snack (for you, not her), and a swimsuit (she may end up laboring in a shower or tub and there’s no reason why you can’t be in there with her).
  • Unless there’s a clear medical emergency, don’t hesitate to ask what the nurse or doctor is doing and why. If something isn’t going the way you and your wife planned, speak up (she’ll probably be too exhausted).
  • Tell her how amazing she is. Labor and delivery are tough, and your support and encouragement will make a huge difference in her ability to cope.

Finally—and perhaps most importantly—trust your team. Stories about doctors pushing drugs and C-Sections may have been true a while ago, but not now. Unless you’re an MD or Labor & Delivery nurse, you’re probably not qualified to make medical decisions. If you can’t trust your OB to do (or suggest) what’s best for your wife, you really need to find someone else.