Help An Unhappy Dad To Be Become A Happy Dad To Be.
March 27, 2011 8:34 PM   Subscribe

My wife is pregnant and I'm not happy about it. Obviously that's a problem. Help me try to become happy about it.

I love my wife more than anything in the world and would do anything for her. When I proposed to her back in 2007 we discussed kids and starting a family and I said at that time that I definitely wasn't ready to have kids but that I imagined one day, after we were married, I would be. She agreed to wait until I was ready.

We got married in 2009 and then, about 19 months ago, we decided to start trying. I still wasn't sure I was ready but I'm in my early 30s and she's fast approaching 30 and since, as I said, I'd do anything for her I figured that we would just try and then see what happens. Plus, with her PCOS, we both knew it would take a little longer than most people to concieve. So we tried and tried and tried some more and nothing happened.

During these 19 months there were moments where I was genuinely excited at the prospect of having a baby. I liked the idea of how happy it would make my wife for her to have a baby, the idea of playing games with it and teaching it things. But now that she's actually pregnant, I'm not happy at all.

I've not been sleeping much since the announcement so I've had a lot of time to think about why I'm not excited. After much introspection, I realise only now that after almost two years of trying and nothing happening, I had started to lose interest in the idea of a baby and that I had actually started to think about the idea of never having kids. And that prospect actually appealed to me. My wife and I could save our money, maybe retire early, enjoy our lives and see the world. When we were trying, I didn't realise that while we were still trying, but I realise it now.

So that's the first reason I'm not happy. On top of that are a whole range of other factors that make me feel pretty bummed about this situation. They are;

1. Money. Although together we earn enough to get by and pay for a baby, I'm not in what you'd call a stable job. Infact, there's a small chance that I could lose my job within a few months of the baby being born, if not sooner. If this happens, it'd mean we'd have to live on welfare until I could get a new job. And we're in a mountain of debt; debt we're paying off but which a baby could possibly help increase. And although my wife has a stable job, she'd be on maternity leave, so all in all there's a chance that we might not exactly be in the best financial situation to be paying for all the baby expenses we'd need to pay for in the first few months of baby's life, let a lone the rest of its life.

2. What Will Friends and Family Think About My Lack of Excitedness? My wife is already pretty upset that I'm not excited. So when we start telling friends and family, what will they say when they see I'm not excited? Most of our friends have kids and love kids so I can just see their dissaproving looks already. And my in-laws are judgemental enough. I can already hear the lectures telling me to straighten myself out for the good of the kid and my wife but even just the idea of being talked to like that just pisses me off. And I really don't want to get "instructions" on what I should be doing, ie; "you're changing the nappy wrong" or "you're holding it wrong" or something like that.

3. Since I'm Not Excited, Am I Capable of Loving The Baby? So the way I see it, I have nine months to get used to the idea of being a dad. And I think it's possible that I could just be in a momentary funk and that I really could get excited about this before the birth. But what I worry about, what really scares me is what happens if I don't get used to the idea? What happens if the baby arrives and all I feel is a sense of loathing and/or begruding acceptance that this baby is here, robbing me of my sleep (I LOVE sleep), my spare time, my chances of ever retiring early, my money, my time with friends and forcing me to change its soiled nappies. And what effect will this lack of a bond between my child and I have on my wife, who is guaranteed to love the child the second it pops out of her?

4. Am I Going To Mess This Kid Up? I think probably. I have an unconventional world view and for example, I'm already planning to make sure the kid knows Santa and the Easter Bunny arent real. I want to tell the kid when its young that swearing is OK in moderation, just dont do it at school. I'm also worried I'll accidentally drop the baby at some point. I'm worried that the baby will have a disability and that we'll have to deal with that for the rest of our lives and frankly, if it does have a disability, I'm not sure I could handle that at all.

5. Sex and Sleep. Almost everything I read says sex stops for months, sometimes years after a baby. Let's be clear about this; I love having sex with my wife. That's obviously part of the reason why I'm in this mess, but the idea that I might be required to be celibate for some time after the birth is... upsetting. But then, it may not matter as I've also read that sleep is virtually non-existent when you have a baby. So I may not have any interest in sex anyway. But I love sleep almost as much as I love sex so it's not really a win.

My wife and I have talked a lot about these fears and she says that they're natural. They probably are but that doesnt make me any less worried. In the end, what I've basically decided I need to do is just man up, accept responsibility (which I've done), accept that this is happening, that it will happen and put on a happy face for my wife. But the happy face part is proving more difficult than I ever imagined.

To try and get the happy face happening, I've read a lot of what people think are the positives of having a baby. People say hearing it laugh is great, that your life takes on a whole new meaning, that being called "daddy" is the greatest joy in the world, that going baby shopping is lots of fun and numerous other platitudes. None of it's working for me. In fact, some of it just plain freaks me out. Being called "daddy", for instance, just scares the shit out of me. And going shopping for baby stuff is something I really, really, really don't want to do. The idea of pushing a pram around in public is almost embarrassing.

Again, I'm not trying to shirk my responsibilities at all. I'm going to be a dad and I have to accept that and for the most part I have. I just want to find a way to really get behind it. To be happy! So how can I be? Tell me why my fears are nothing to be feared. Or alternatively, sell me on the positives of having a baby and why my fears won't matter because of all the positives.


Since I'm asking this question anonymously, let me say what kind of answers I'm not after, and why.

1. Please, no "get a divorce" answers. That's not going to happen as far as I'm concerned. I love my wife too much and that's why I'm asking this question - so I can be happy for her which, in turn, will make her happy - so a divorce is out of the question.

2. Please, no "get counselling" answers. My wife and I discussed this and I don't believe in therapy or counselling since in the end it's just paying for something you can do for free - talking. Also, in the end I know it's just going to be advice like "accept responsibility for what you've done" so I don't see what value there would be in paying to be told something I already know.

3. No abortion suggestions. I have nothing against abortion - I'm pro-choice and so is my wife. But I couldn't ask her to give up this chance at being a mother when it means so much to her. I'm not ready to be a dad but I will be one for her if it makes her happy, so getting an abortion is, for all intents and purposes, out of the question.

I just want answers that can tell me how to be happy about this situation that don't fall into the usual "a baby will change your life for the better" platitudes. Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (71 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Hang out with someone else's kids. You'll get to see the dark side (They're terrorized rage balls with no sense of control), but you'll also get to see why, after millions of years, we keep having them. They're incredible, smart, funny little people who love you to death and depend on you and for once in your crappy little life you are the center of something. You are a special snowflake. So, babysit a little.

Also, counseling. It's not "just talking". There is an enormous amount of power in talking to someone who is a step or two away from your situation and that power gets even stronger when it's someone designed to help you dig through your stuff. Really, really it's not "just talking".
posted by GilloD at 8:49 PM on March 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

I know you don't want platitudes, but I found this thread - "How can I get excited about having kids" - to be filled with really thought-provoking reflections on how becoming a parent changes you in ways both powerful and unexpected. This answers your #3; hopefully some of those posters will be along to address your other questions.

Best of luck - the very fact that you're concerned enough to write a question assures me that you'll be golden - and congratulations, whenever you're ready for that.
posted by estlin at 8:50 PM on March 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

In previous threads, many other initially-unthrilled dads have said that once the baby was born, things changed. Wait to meet the little one and see how you feel then.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:51 PM on March 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

All I can say is I could have written exactly that list three years ago, word for word.

And the first year, I have to be honest, completely sucked. I did not enjoy that first year at all.

Having come out the other side, though, I can promise you that
* you will love your kid.
* he will be much more difficult to screw up than you imagine possible.
* friends and family will indeed be full of constant and irritating advice and silent judgement. For a while. Then you get over it and realize they were just trying to help.

So that's out of the way.

I don't know, I never went through some magical Turning Into A Daddy moment of falling in love with my kid. He just, you know, after a while there's this new guy living in your house, and he's a pretty awesome guy is all. Kind of short and needy, but pretty awesome.

It's just about that complicated, really. You just go into it and do it and it mostly will turn out fine.
posted by ook at 8:53 PM on March 27, 2011 [13 favorites]

Let me try to give an answer in the spirit of your question. There will be pluses and minuses. But you said you don't want to hear about the pluses, so let's pretend it's all minuses. You know what happens to people who lose a arm? For a while they're pissed and upset about it. But pretty quickly they slide back to their previous level of contentment, because after all, they're the same person, with the same life, just with one fewer arm.

After you have this baby, you're the same person, just with a baby. If you're happy now, if your relationship works now, if you like yourself now, all these things are still going to be true for you-with-a-baby. Seriously. The changes are not as big as they seem.

And having a baby really is quite a bit better than losing an arm. I hope that isn't one of the platitudes you wanted us to avoid.
posted by escabeche at 8:59 PM on March 27, 2011 [33 favorites]

First of all, it's hard to get excited about something that isn't happening right away. I mean, are you excited about Christmas at this moment?

Second of all, it's hard to get excited about something that really isn't happening to you. Your belly isn't getting bigger, your boobs aren't getting bigger, you can't feel the baby moving around.

My husband wasn't excited at all about baby shopping. That was fun for me . . . not so much for him. Just chalk it up to a difference in what she likes to do and what you don't like to do. It doesn't mean anything. Just as long as someone buys some nappies and a t-shirt or two, you'll be good to go.

So, don't be worried about not being excited RIGHT NOW. Maybe you will be when the moment arrives and heck, maybe you won't be. That's ok.

Regarding money: Trust me on this: somehow you find the money to make it work. Yes, it may be tight, it may be rough, but you'll get through. Yes, the trips and things other than baby that you wanted to spend your money on may have to be put on hold, but maybe later on down the line you'll be able to do some really fun stuff with those few pennies you put away every once and again.

What will friends and family think about lack of excitedness - cross that bridge when you get there. You don't know that when the moment arrives that you won't be excited. Don't waste energy on this.

Are you capable of loving this kid if you're not excited - yes. excited does not equal love. You will love this kid even if you're not excited.

Are you going to mess this kid up - Absolutely. Join the club. I've got three kids and I'm sure they're messed up. My husband, as an infant, was accidentally dropped down the stairs. Lesson: it's hard to break a baby.

Sex and sleep - Probably no sex post-partum for 6 weeks. Then, if it's important to you and your wife, it will go back to normal. Sleep - I'm sorry but it will be hard for both of you. Sleep when you can. You know those in-laws that are judgmental? USE THEM. Let them take the baby every once in a while over night so you and your wife can get a good night sleep.

Best of luck!!
posted by Sassyfras at 9:01 PM on March 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ok, I'll take a shot. My qualifications are: father of two, and haven't bolted yet! Also, while I was never anti-kid, I pretty much just went with the flow when my wife wanted to start a family. I never felt ready, and never felt like my life was incomplete without children.

1. At least you both work. As the sole earner, I worry about money all the time. Having life insurance makes me feel slightly better, since at least one potential financial disaster is avoided. Just like pre-kids, you'll have enough money to get by, but always wish you had just a little bit more.

2. You will get a mix of reactions, probably including "What is wrong with you!? LOVE THIS MIRACLE !!1!". You'll get the most understanding from new fathers. Try to find some of them if you can.

3. If nothing else, you personally have a 10,000+ year family history of parents who loved their kids enough to keep them alive long enough to procreate. Genetics are on your side. You won't know if you can love your baby until he/she is born. Odds are, no matter what you feel now, you will cry (happy) that day.

4. Yes, and no. Every relationship between two people has positive and negative aspects. You will mess up at least one thing, but you'll get at least one thing slam-dunk right. And no matter how progressive or crazy you think your plans are, there are vast groups of parents out there that are out-crazying you today. Like telling their toddlers that not only is Santa Claus imaginary, but that he was made up by evil men at Coca Cola to make you buy more presents, and that's why you only get gloves and underwear for Christmas.

5. Everything you've read is true, and it sucks. But eventually things get back to normal.

Regarding the happy face, I will suggest that maybe you don't need to pretend you're thrilled right now. I could imagine that if your wife were to rank her anxieties right now, the top two might be:
1) she can't deliver this baby.
2) she will be left alone to raise this baby.
What would help her is to know that:
1) she will not be alone in the delivery room, and you will be her emotional rock to lean on.
2) you're going all the way with her.

So, without faking any emotions, you might give her security by really paying attention to whatever kind of birth preparation she wants to do (classes, books, etc.). This is a specific activity that you will be a part of and can learn about. You can also do some man nesting and start researching the gear. The good news is that there is a lot of baby gear out there, and it's a challenge to determine what's good, bad, unnecessary, etc.

Or you could ask her what things she is worried about. I don't think she will say "I'm mostly worried that you are not happy enough at this moment", but I do think she'll say something for which your actions and words (other than "I'm so happy right now") could be a mitigation.

Anyway, congratulations. You are about to go through the looking glass. You may find it's the best thing you ever did.
posted by hammurderer at 9:10 PM on March 27, 2011 [13 favorites]

Speaking from my own experience on these two things:

(1). Lying awake unable to sleep makes almost any problem seem worse than it really is - can be a tough downward spiral of feelings.

(2). Unlike all the potential bad stuff that can come along with becoming a dad, the really good parts - the joy, the pride, the move from "ME ME ME!" to us, him, them - are spontaneous, amazing and unleash all sorts of powerfully good emotions.

You will be fine!!
posted by Rain Man at 9:11 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, listen, what you are feeling is normal. This is a huge life change; it would be odd if you had no fears. You are going to be fine. The pregnancy and baby will be "real" for you wife from the start but it can take longer for the dad to settle down to the reality.

For a healthy baby, the disruption of sleep and sex are neither as bad nor as long-lasting as you seem to have heard. Lots of couples go through this and things get normal again after a while. But it's a new normal, with an extra person to love and bond over.

I don't know your in-laws, but I can tell you that every little thing my husband does for our baby, he is praised. My family, his family, complete strangers are floored every time he proves competent at diapering or rocking the baby to sleep. I think it's a generational difference. Today's genX and genY dads are involved in child-rearing in ways that surprise some folks. So don't worry that you'll be criticized. More likely, you'll have to protect your wife from unsolicited advice. Mothers take the brunt of the blame and criticism.

Bottom line: Give yourself a break! It will take some time to get excited or happy. There will be times after the birth you won't be totally on your game,either. You'll get there. Just reading about how you feel about your wife makes me willing to bet anything you'll feel the same for your child.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:13 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Now for your specific questions.

1. You put this first so perhaps it's the main driver of your feelings. It is a real problem. But fortunately for you it's also a socially acceptable reason for you to be ambivalent and worried.

2. You're doing a huge amount anticipating other people's feelings about your feelings. Actually, other people are primarily thinking about their own feelings. They can't tell you're ambivalent. If they can tell, they really don't care. In the unlikely event that someone can tell, and cares, and says something to you about it, just say you're worried about money.

3. Yes, you're capable of loving the baby. Even if you're sometimes pissed off at the baby. If those two things were incompatible we would basically never love anyone. Also, not to freak you out, but your wife is not guaranteed to be 100% non-ambivalently excited about the baby "the moment it pops out of her," either.

4. Nothing you say here sounds even remotely like things that would mess your baby up.

5. You'll handle it.

Finally: I don't think your job is to put on a "happy face." Maybe for the cousins. But not for your wife. She wants your support, and she wants your participation, and your ambivalent, confused, worried self is totally capable of giving her that without the "happy face."

And fine, I know you said no "a baby will change your life for the better" stuff, so let me put it this way -- I have no idea whether it will change your life for the better overall, but I do know that there's a lot on the positive side of the ledger. Stuff that's really fun, and not platitudinous, and is different for every dad.

For you it might be when your kid tells his whole class the truth about Santa.
posted by escabeche at 9:13 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

You know, sometimes the "fake it till you make it" thing really works. If you're accepting that you are going to have this baby, even if there's a ton of factors you're anxious or worried about, it may help to think, "I might as well enjoy it". You don't have to be all, well...fake, about it, but try to imitate your wife's excitement for a while and see if that works it's way into your own feelings.

Also, remember that a LOT of people have babies unexpectedly and in times with no money or preparation or whatever and they were also all "ugggh, what now". I think many of the people who seem happy with their surprise baby are completely terrified inside and just don't show it, so it's ok to be pretend happy for a while, if only to make it a more joyous occasion for your wife.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:17 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

2. What Will Friends and Family Think About My Lack of Excitedness? My wife is already pretty upset that I'm not excited. So when we start telling friends and family, what will they say when they see I'm not excited?

First, say things like, "It's just so huge, I'm still processing it," rather than "Yeah, not excited," when having a public discussion. Second, realize that fathers are often less excited than mothers, and it often doesn't become "real" for them until after the baby is born. Third, if you are honest about it with some of your close friends, you will be surprised when superdad-of-the-universe tells you, "Oh, yeah, I was totally freaked out and convinced my life was over!" SO SO COMMON. Also, part of the reason your wife is probably irate with you is that it's a scary, difficult time for the pregnant woman, and she needs someone reiterating to HER how awesome and exciting it is. (If you think society is hard on men who aren't excited, imagine what your wife gets if she ever professes to be less than ecstatic! I once got rebuked by a nurse because when she asked if I was excited, I said, "Yeah, we're looking forward to it," in a calm, conversational tone, instead of "OMGSOEXCITEDBESTTHINGEVER" or something. She actually told the doctor I might be having second thoughts because I didn't seem very excited. Crazypants.)

And I really don't want to get "instructions" on what I should be doing, ie; "you're changing the nappy wrong" or "you're holding it wrong" or something like that.

Welcome to a lifetime of drawing appropriate boundaries. It's good practice. Go to a baby bootcamp class so you know you're doing it right, listen to the nurses in the hospital who will help you out, read a book, whatever. And if someone says, "You're doing it wrong," you can say, "This is my child, thank you, I will figure it out." Or whatever. (But, yeah, my husband, too, mostly gets, "Wow, you know how to change a diaper! Good for you!")

4. Am I Going To Mess This Kid Up? I think probably.

There's no such thing as a parent who doesn't "mess their kid up," and many parents have unconventional world views. (And my mother dropped me, and I'm fineineineineineine ... no, really, I'm fine. She got stung by a bee.) 99% of whatever weirdness you inflict on your child will just be fond childhood memories or minor personality oddities that they carry forward into adulthood. (Also, a surprising number of parents are anti-imaginary-childhood-gift-bringing-entities.)

Or alternatively, sell me on the positives of having a baby and why my fears won't matter because of all the positives.

Here's a positive I think people don't mention enough: You have absolutely NO IDEA how much more your wife is going to love you when she sees you as a daddy. I thought I was madly in love with my husband before. That had NOTHING on how crazy about him I am now that I see what a fantastic dad he is. And you have NO IDEA how much that kid is going to love you ... my son said "Love daddy!" before "Love mommy!" because the world just revolves around daddy. He's not even two and everything daddy does, he wants to do. He tried to wear daddy's old bike helmet around all day today, and wants to read daddy's books just because they're daddy's. And likes to sit in daddy's spot on the couch. When I go to get him up from a nap, the first thing he wants to talk about is whether I have buttons on my shirt, and the second thing is where daddy is.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:18 PM on March 27, 2011 [16 favorites]

Apologies if this is a silly answer, but have you tried to stop focusing so much on your level of excitedness? I got exhausted just reading your question from how obsessed you are about how excited you aren't and how your friends and family may or may not be judging your feelings.

I don't have kids, and I'm still at the point where the thought of becoming a parent terrifies me. But I've gotten the impression from observing friends that once you start actually making solid preparations for the baby, that's when at least some form of excitement kicks in. It will probably still be terrifying and will definitely be exhausting, but once you start getting into the reality of it and adapting to that, it probably won't seem as bad as you think. Since you seem to expect your job to disappear within the year, would it be worthwhile to try to find a better one during this time?
posted by wondermouse at 9:21 PM on March 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Re: Point 4. Telling the kid there is no Santa Claus will not mess her or him up. Teaching the kid to swear appropriately will not mess him or her up. I know both of these things from direct experience. Really, unless you teach your kid that's its OK to use violence to get what they want, or that being a crack dealer is the only honorable profession or something, you're not going to mess up your kid because of your personal worldview. People mess up their kids by being abusive and/or neglectful, not by telling them the Tooth Fairy isn't real.

That said, you won't do everything right. No parent does. But that's OK; humanity marches on, and billions upon billions of kids have successfully overcome mediocre parenting to become perfectly fine people. The fact that you are thinking about what values you want to impart on your kid is a really good sign for you, actually. It means you care about him and are already thinking about what kind of a father you want to be. Good! Keep doing that.

And as for your fear of dropping the kid: babies are really hard to drop. Seriously. They fit right in the crook of your arm. If you can carry a bag of rice, you can carry a baby. Except the baby is easier, because she's warm and cuddly and cute as heck, and you are going to wish you could hold her all day.
posted by Commander Rachek at 9:27 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm already planning to make sure the kid knows Santa and the Easter Bunny arent real.

This won't screw your kid up. I'm so thankful my parents did exactly this. I like to think I'm a more trusting person because of it.
posted by the jam at 9:38 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Question No. 4? Good luck. My Dad tried this too. We were all supposed to be artists or novelists and god love him, he tried. We had all the arts supplies and instruments you could shake a stick at. My Mom works in design. We were allowed draw on (some of) the walls. What he ended up with was an engineer, two scientists and an accountant. He still quietly peeps up "you should write a book" once a year or so but for the most part the fights gone out of him. Personality wise you pretty much get what you get in kids so I wouldn't sweat this one. You will be amazed at how little you can influence their world view, not how much.
posted by fshgrl at 9:39 PM on March 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Right now during the pregnancy you're burdened with the weight of all the negative possibilities you can think of. You are imagining being sleep deprived AND sexless forever AND your baby is disabled AND you're gonna have to pretend to be Santa AND your kid will hate swearing AND resents you AND has a squished fontanelle cuz you dropped him OR her AND you're broke forever AND you'll look like an idiot if you push a pram AND everybody, all people you know, is thinking shit about you AND will lecture you AND your inlaws hate you AND your wife will love you less AND it'll ruin your marriage AND etc etc

Not that everything's gonna be sunshine and roses. But sometimes those of us who are good at imagining all possible negative scenarios (hey, it makes us good planners) forget that it's hardly ever all the negative scenarios all at once. Even if your worrywart brain is thinking ALL OF THEM WILL COME TRUE MY AMYGDALA TELLS ME SO, your common sense and past experience tells you that's not the case. Even a handful of real life crap situations to deal with can be handled easier and with more grace than all the infinite possible ones we wrestle only in our imagination.

Good luck!
posted by neda at 9:40 PM on March 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Also I fell down the stairs twice as a toddler and am fine. Neither baby-gate technology nor bungy cords could cope with with baby fshgrl's mad opening skillz.
posted by fshgrl at 9:41 PM on March 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

While people are giving you good advice to help you, there's honestly part of this that is where you have to suck it up and be there for your wife. You willingly tried for a baby, and now you're going to have one. Your wife will be going through a lot with the pregnancy and will need you to be there for her without constant doubts being brought up. Fake it til you make it, as others have said.
posted by elpea at 9:42 PM on March 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

Can you try to find happy father-kid scenarios to focus on? Maybe you'll teach your kid something cool you've learned about the world, or share your favorite art/music/movie/book. Maybe you really love making/eating a particular food. You get to introduce your kid to all the best stuff you know about and see the look on your kid's face as they discover the amazing taste of a crisp green apple/the amazing sound of a great drum solo/the amazing smell of mom's hair. Think about that - you're going to come home to a kid that loves your wife as much as you do. You'll be like, kid, isn't your mom pretty much the best person in the world? And your kid will completely agree. Then the two of you will conspire together to create a brilliant surprise for her. Breakfast in bed? Her favorite play acted out by the two of you? Loving your wife is something you and your kid will immediately have in common.

You can wait out the difficult part. There's going to be an adorable part after that.
posted by prefpara at 9:45 PM on March 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

My husband's hair turned grey as soon as I came out of the bathroom holding the positive pregnancy test. Seriously. Do you think he was "excited" about picking out baby clothes and talking about how to decorate the baby's room? Not particularly. I think he was worried about supporting a family, and very, very concerned about the future. If he obsessed about it to the extent you are, I am glad he didn't share that with me. Turns out he is a stellar dad. And you couldn't find a man happier to open his front door at the end of the day and catch the little three-year-old ball of energy hurling himself at him yelling "daddy daddy daddy daddy!!"

You are far from unique. Don't you think everyone worries about money and sex and no sleep and won't they mess up the kid and what if they don't love the baby? Mothers worry about these things too.
posted by pinky at 9:49 PM on March 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Different perspective, but maybe a bit of a reality check about the money wouldn't hurt. If you're in your 30s with a mountain of debt and this.close to having to go on welfare because of an unstable job and (likely) little savings, the likelihood of retiring early was very small even without this kid. Did you have an actual plan for that (a real financial plan) or was it just a nice thing to think about?

Babies don't have to be super expensive--I know lots of young, poor couples getting by on limited financial resources by not buying into the idea that they baby must have all new, all awesome things. Hand-me-down clothes, used (but safe) furniture, etc. can be had for far less than new stuff. Don't scrimp on safety things like a car seat, but most of the rest of the spending is at your discretion. Babies are not boats--they are not inevitably as expensive as some people would like to believe.
posted by BlooPen at 9:52 PM on March 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Look, for real. The kid is now coming - you can be upset, you can be worried, but at the end of the day you have to decide if you want to be responsible, and what that definition of responsible means. Do you need to be excited today? No. Are most guys excited at this point? Probably not. Will you become magically excited at some point during the pregnancy? I have no idea - It didn't happen for me. Yeah, I was into the whole having a kid thing, but it wasn't tangible until holy shit I'm holding my wife's leg while she gives birth and I can see my son's head from here! (your experience may differ - She said she needed me there and I manned up to help.)

Right now - this thing inside your wife is an intangible concept. The only terms you are thinking about it are in terms of financial concerns and changes to your routine. Guess what? Regardless of whether you had an infant or not, changes were coming - the job loss potential was real, and the solution to that was a scary situation. Here's where I'll turn this a 180: Congratulations for already showing you care about your child more than you know by being worried that the implications for them are such that you want better for them than that. Are kids a financial burden? Yes. Have we made sacrifices in our lifestyle because of kids? yes. Is it worth it? For me, yes.

My son was born in October 2008 - the month the financial crisis was evident. By December, I knew my company was making large changes. I remember going to my boss's boss and saying that I didn't care if they made me assistant toilet scrubber - that I was willing to do any job in the company if my job went up on the chopping block. By the end of February, my department was halved and reabsorbed into another. We spent the first year with me as the sole income of the family, and subsequent year with my wife only able to work part time. Financially - its been stressful - I won't lie. But if I based my entire life around the financial worries - which we've managed through pretty well - I'd have missed out on two years of awesome time with my son.

There is only one way you can mess up your kid: resent them and act on that resentment. Will you drop them? Maybe (that's a trip to the pediatrician). Will you accidentally stick a suction cup spinner against a semi-porous surface above their head and walk 3 feet away to watch it fall on them? Maybe (that's another trip to the pediatrician). Will you accidentally shut their finger in the changing/table dresser drawer while they flail in front of you? (good news - that's just a bag of frozen peas instead of another trip to the pediatrician) Will you accidentally dislocate your child's arm when they unexpectedly decide to go limp instead of walk with you? (yeah, that's definitely a trip to the pediatrician) Will you argue loudly with your wife in front of your child about something dumb? Yep. Sleep deprived, will you drive a half mile home from the store to discover you buckled them into the seat belt but didn't tighten it? Yep.

Will you find out that your kid is a blank slate and is completely innocent? Yep. Will that make you reconsider the whole Santa is mom and dad thing? Probably. Will you play dinosaur pirate tea party and opt to be late to work as a consequence? God I hope so. Will you reconsider what you say swear wise once you find out that your kid is an absolute sponge and doesn't filter locational rules because that's a much higher mental skill set? Maybe. Heck though - those aren't things that screw up your kid. Those are the moments where you are teaching your kid a values set. Holidays? For your family, honesty is more important than myth. Swears? private company allows for frank and honest discussion, publicly we acknowledge there are rules we have to play by. Those are the lessons you are being prepared to teach your kid. You don't get to set their personality, but you do get to help forge their moral compass.

Anyway, its 1:00AM. I've stayed up late enough worrying about my families stability and safety. Tonight we pre-drafted a will (the custody part should we both die). Tomorrow its official. It was enough to keep me awake for a little extra.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:53 PM on March 27, 2011 [30 favorites]

People rise to the challenges they are dealt. Lots of people are deeply ambivalent about parenting (and there's nothing unhealthy about ambivalence - it means you're going to be a thoughtful parent), and they take it as it comes and they discover what they find enjoyable about it as those things happen.

Also: get some sleep. Staying up all night fretting is fixing absolutely nothing and probably breaking some stuff. You've got about a year to get your game face on. Try to spend less time catastrophizing it and more time being open to what will be your own personal experience of becoming a parent.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:02 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Regarding the swearing: my four year old came home from preschool a few weeks ago and said, thoughtfully, "Mrs. Judy doesn't like it when I say goddammit."

It's OK to be worried. Please do try to support your wife and let her know you're in it for the long hall no matter what, because she's in a scary-as-hell time and she is literally depending on you. But what everyone else said about it not being tangible for guys is totally real; my best friend's husband, when I asked him at which point the idea of being a father became real, said "When the baby came out of her. I mean, up until then, she'd been changing shape, and various odd pieces of furniture had shown up, but whatever. But then all of a sudden they pulled a real live human being out of my wife, and there he was."

Go to the prenatals and the ultrasound appointment, if you can; it will help. Research fetal development timelines to help at least build a more concrete abstraction, if you know what I mean. Try to buy one thing for the baby all by yourself, a onesie or a teddy bear or something, but it's OK to want to do as little of the baby shopping as possible. My husband crammed it all into one day and then at the end turned to me and said "I want a fucking X-box now!!" so we went and got him an X-box.

It's OK to be scared; it's scary. The consequences are real and the good times seem vague. This doesn't make you a bad dad. My husband dropped our daughter when she was 4 months old; she was fine. My best friend's husband dropped their son head-first through a glass-topped coffee table when he was 6 months old; he was fine. They're hard to screw up, honestly. C+ is a passing grade. You'll do fine.
posted by KathrynT at 10:06 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't think hanging out with other's kids would do anything, I don't like children in general, but my own are pretty damn awesome.

It is always completely unrealistic to think you will just love/like your children the instant they are born. Might happen to some, but definitely not most. That grows on you with time, almost has to be earned, like trust.

Sex? Longest we went without it was 2 weeks. The Dr said 6 weeks, but we couldn't make it.

Sleep? oh man, that was hard. Eventually, I got trained to fall sleep faster (2hrs->40mins) and handle interrupted sleep better. (I did half the feeds). Hell, I'd change all the diapers/nappies in the world for proper sleep at one point :) 9month-year, they slept through the night 90% of the time, so once you've done your tour of duty, it goes back to normal, and you'll never understand how you 'wasted' your time before.

You'll have a new born kid, and you will be a new born parent. You both learn as you go along.
posted by lundman at 10:10 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, the Santa thing.. I played Santa every year like expected, but when the boy was 4 years old, he asked in "papa-santa" was coming this xmas, so he just figured it out himself, I never got a chance. Or maybe I'm a terrible actor. Either way.

I was also very open to whatever my Son wanted to do, no silly ideas that he would become this or that. So that I would never be disappointed. But somehow I had day-dreams about having conversations with my kid, about teaching him everything in the world. Only to find he had a speech delay, and don't like being taught things. (But rather pick them apart himself). So despite my best intentions, I managed to get gutted. Still, we fixed the speech thing, and it's rather fun to watch him figure things out. Bastard already knows many more kanji than me.
posted by lundman at 10:19 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was afraid of not being ready to have a baby. I was afraid of the money, etc. A baby will not bankrupt you. Oh, you'll spend on diapers and food but you'll manage. You do love your wife, you agreed to 'try', now it worked. Don't tell her your unhappy. Suck it up, there are far less things in this world than having a baby. Welcome it with open arms. Next time baby talk comes around do talk to your wife and figure something out beforehand. This one is already in the oven and there's no point in arguing, your wife needs support.

Babies have a way of making you love them - it's what they do. Evolution took care of that. That's why babies are cute.Don't worry, you'll grow attached to it just fine. Share your crazy world views with your child - or not, it doesn't matter. Your child will love you forever.

Your wife needs your support. Whatever anxieties you are going through are going to be worse for her. Sex doesn't stop, unless you stop it. Make sure your wife feels beautiful, loved and desired. She will go through crazy body changes not you. Don't pressure her, but make her feel loved.

Millions of people figure this out every year - you will to. Congratulations to both of you.
posted by neofite at 10:42 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

When a partner and I were talking about having kids, she commented, "People a lot stupider, poorer and more f'd up than us have done just fine."
posted by ambient2 at 10:55 PM on March 27, 2011 [16 favorites]

Theres a reason you hear more about the "negatives" of having a kid then the positives. Because right now if I say "lack of sleep" you'll know what I'm talking about. You've had that before. You have experienced it before.

But when I say "best hugs ever" you don't know what I'm talking about. You just don't. But you will. You love your wife. You're going to love that kid. Trust that.

I was once like you.

(sex is better too -- if someone tells you it isn't, they're doing it wrong. And years later? Bah.)
posted by ryecatcher at 11:04 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chill out! My mom dropped me when I was a baby. On my head. Onto concrete. IN FRONT OF HER MOM. When she tells this story, the big deal part isn't "I dropped you on your head, poor you!" the big deal part is "MY MOM SAW ME DROP YOU, POOR ME."

But my grandma totally forgot about this incident (your relatives will also forget about how you weren't super thrilled), and I turned out just fine (you don't need to pre-worry about whether or not your kid will be messed up... anecdotal evidence says babies bounce).
posted by equivocator at 11:05 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

: "And I really don't want to get "instructions" on what I should be doing, ie; "you're changing the nappy wrong" or "you're holding it wrong" or something like that."

You're fully within your rights as a parent to tell them to eff off, it's your kid, you don't need advice, and to mind their own business. (I would not use those exact words with the in-laws. But strangers? Oh hell yes.)

Also: This kid is probably going to look somewhat like you. That may get you more excited. You may think it's pretty neat.

Might have some funny stories to tell too. Like me, when I came home in the 3rd grade and said, "Mommy! I heard the F-word today! I won't say it! But it's F-A-R-T!"
posted by IndigoRain at 11:07 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh -- and you don't have to be excited right now. But you do have to fake it til it the day comes when you realize that you aren't...
posted by ryecatcher at 11:08 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

What were your parents like?

I've read your question 3 times and I still feel like I don't know where you are coming from, except to note that you seem exceptionally distanced from this process.

Do yourself a BIG favor and get as involved with your wife as possible as the pregnancy progresses. I mean every doctor's appointment, doing extra stuff for her just because - The Works.

And do some work thinking hard about what your own childhood was like. This is your chance to maybe do it better.

Start Now.
posted by jbenben at 11:14 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You know what? If you read AskMe much, you might notice something: Nobody ever says my father ruined my life because he didn't have a lot of money / used bad language / told me Santa Claus wasn't real / dropped me on my head.

I think my dad fit all that, except the Santa thing... and I'm sure he was a ball of utter screaming terror before I was born... 25 years old, going to school on the GI bill, no money... and I think he turned out to be the greatest dad in the universe. No. You know what people say about their dads that messed them up:

1) They abandoned me

2) They abused me

3) They ignored me

I can see just by reading your question that you will do none of those things. I think you're just fine, and probably in a better position than someone who thinks everything's going to be Disney-wonderful and lalala perfect.

And here's a weird thing to say, but bear with me: We have a dog. We knew when we got the dog, that we were making a commitment for maybe up to 15 years, and here's the wacky part, okay? -- It's a dog, yet I follow around behind her and pick up her poop. I clean up her puke, keep her parasite-free, and buy her toys when I can't afford a new coat for myself. If we have only chicken and potatoes, she gets the chicken and we eat the potatoes. I take her out if it's freezing or hot or pouring rain, whether I'm sick or depressed or busy. She sheds all over the house and costs money. Why on earth would a rational person choose to do this?... Why on earth would an otherwise somewhat selfish, self-centered, not terribly responsible person be happy and grateful to do this? It makes absolutely no sense.

And this is a dog. Now imagine a little bundle of life that's half your DNA, and half the DNA of the person you love most in the world. What do you think the odds are that you will simply feel resentment and regret? I'm going to take a leap and call it unlikely. Seriously, I'd be more worried about you if were like, whateves, a kid. Shouldn't be that big of a deal. All your worries and thoughts and concerns actually make me think you're going to be great. And happy, and loving. And I'm pretty sure I've never been wrong about anything, if that makes you feel more confident.
posted by taz at 11:32 PM on March 27, 2011 [34 favorites]

I think you are in the best place you could possibly be for insuring that you will become successful as a father and that is that you love your wife. Focus on that, on her joy, on her dreams, on her need for your support and her choice of you to be the father of her child. The most important thing and the thing that has always been the secret ingredient for men who turn out to be wonderful fathers is love for the woman who is the baby's mother. That's the baby's trump card.

You already say you can't see it changing, this love for your wife, but I have to tell you, it will change; it will expand and develop new dimensions and out of it a whole new world will be built. So just do what you know how to do. Love your wife and be there for her and take this journey with her. You'll figure it out together and that's the secret.
posted by Anitanola at 11:38 PM on March 27, 2011 [9 favorites]

One thing I noticed is that only half of your worries are first-tier worries (1,4,5), where you are worried about real things. The other worries (2,3) are derivative worries where you are actually worrying about your worrying. Stop worrying about how you're feeling. Emotions are transient. These are the ones with you now. Fine. Just accept it. Control what you do (support your wife, find someone besides her to help you process your worries), but accept that you can't control what you feel. Read some buddhist books or something and let your emotions be what they are. They'll change however they're going to change.

Also, how ironic is it that you're keeping yourself awake all night worrying about a potential future lack of sleep? :) Maybe when you're lying there awake, you can say to yourself "I should probably get some sleep now because who knows how much sleep I'll be getting come November." It's actually pretty common that worrying can negatively impact the very thing you're wanting to protect (e.g., being sleep deprived can impact work performance, so it is actively counterproductive to stay awake worrying about losing one's job). Sometimes thinking about this can help me snap out of worrying. If you're staying up late worrying about what the in laws think of you, you might remind yourself that it'll be easier to be cheerful around them if you're well-rested. On preview, I agree with taz as well. Best wishes to you.
posted by salvia at 11:45 PM on March 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I just want answers that can tell me how to be happy about this situation that don't fall into the usual "a baby will change your life for the better" platitudes.

I am pretty anti-baby. And even so, someone once managed to say something to me that made me feel like having a baby would be worthwhile. And now I will share it with you.

Do you like your wife? Do you think she is pretty much the most awesome person on earth? Do you like yourself? Think the world is better off for having you in it? Well imagine another person who combines those things you love about your wife and that you love about yourself. All that goodness in a single person!

You are going to meet that person. And they will love you back.
posted by lollusc at 12:19 AM on March 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

feel like I don't know where you are coming from, except to note that you seem exceptionally distanced from this process

I don't know that this is from the OP's upbringing. The vibe I got was of someone trying to act appropriately in a situation that was freaking him way the hell out. In the most stressful time of my life, I spent entire weekends in a frozen panic thinking "holy shit what am I going to do??" and mentally churning away, trying to find any way out. So the detachment could be more about how the OP reacts under stress (or how most of us do) and about the stress this situation is bringing him, than about his family.

posted by salvia at 12:51 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Babies are a lot cheaper than advertised. You can go crazy buying lots of baby stuff etc, but aside from healthcare, actual baby stuff that you *must* have is minimal and can often be gotten second-hand. You need a new car-seat, possibly bottles if your wife can't or chooses not to breastfeed, and then diapers which you can buy in bulk or organise a diaper service or washables. Just about everything else is up to you. There's a nice book Baby Bargains which lists ways to save money and varying reviews and usefulness of baby stuff. I found it very reassuring. The joke about the baby liking the box the toy comes in is utterly true - they want people and minimal stuff. You do not have to go into debt to make a baby happy.

The rest of it is not something that you can answer. Some people fall in love with their babies before they're born, sometimes it's several months later. The baby will not know you are faking love if you act lovingly when it is very little, so you are not going to screw the baby up by being a freaked out parent for the first few months as long as the baby's getting fed and cuddled.

Tell your wife that no matter how freaked out you are, you're not going to take off, you just need to be able to vent verbally and that she can do the same. My husband and I use crazy-talk with each other and the kids - we don't say stuff like "Oh, I'm going to Bob's house for the weekend, I can't stand the kids fighting" which is actually do-able and a realistic threat. Instead we say stuff like "I am going to buy a volcanic island and build a moat of pirahnas so that none of you will ever be able to bug me again, and yes, small child, I will feed you to the crocodiles, oh yes I will if you ask me to read that book one more time." Venting is a really good and helpful skill for parents - figure out what both you and your wife can do happily ahead of the baby and it will help. Some of my friends go for long walks, some blog about their baby problems, some pray. I plan my treehouse refuge in Bolivia.

Your wife may be freaked out by your venting because she thinks you are serious. She has grounds to as it's a major separation risk, and she'd be left with a newborn and heartbreak. Worry together, and reassure her and you that you're going to be around to break the news about Santa. I convinced my kids he was a vampire.
posted by viggorlijah at 2:20 AM on March 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

Yes it's scary having a baby. but you do get a little walking, talking ball of love that will love you unconditionally. I think that's pretty cool.
posted by quaisi at 4:00 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not having been in your situation, I don't have any weighty advice to offer, but for something light-hearted, I'd recommend listening to some of Animal Collective member Panda Bear's music. Most of his recent songs are about the simple joys of caring for his little daughter: providing for her, making sure she's got her shoes and coat and hat, wanting to put a bubble around her "like a force-field switch." The lyrics are so simple and beautiful that it almost makes me, a guy with sensibilities not unlike your own, want to have a kid of my own. You Can Count on Me, Daily Routine, My Girls.
posted by meadowlark lime at 4:05 AM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

First, congratulations on your upcoming child. That's great. I write as a man with two children and a third on the way.

1. Money.
It sucks. All I can say is, the need for money may focus your mind, career-wise.

2. What Will Friends and Family Think About...
Well, learn to put on a false smile and tell a few fibs. After birth, yes, you may find some irritating relative, on your side or hers, is ready with the advice. If I were you, I'd learn a party trick to perform in front of this person, maybe changing your child's nappy/diaper/pampers. Thing is, baby shit don't smell, for months, so it's easy as pie, and your mother-in-law will think you're heaven sent. By that, I don't mean you ain't going to be helping with the baby in all ways as a matter of course, just put on a show once or twice for the person in question. And beyond that, well, it's your kid, it's your household, you're the dad, you aren't beholden to anybody, you do it your way, and if push comes to shove you tell the person firmly politely to either keep quiet or stop visiting.

3. Since I'm Not Excited, Am I Capable of Loving The Baby?
You have to suck this up for a while too. I was kind of distraught through the pregnancy that brought my first child, I imagined all these doors closing never to re-open (sex, travel, nights out), I was even looking at women who smiled at me and thinking, Should I just run away with her? I'm sure you're not as bad as that. In my case the bonding with the baby came when we began to communicate, let's say between 6-12 months after it was born. Before that it can be hard to see the point of it all...) And the greatest thing is that you love your wife. Your child will be 50% you, 50% her; assuming you love yourself too, you're going to love it 100%.

4. Am I Going To Mess This Kid Up?
No you aren't. "I have an unconventional world view and for example, I'm already planning to make sure the kid knows Santa and the Easter Bunny arent real." As far as I can tell, all guys think they have an "unconventional world view", that they have some kind of unique take on things. Funny that. When my children were old enough to understand I explained to them in simple terms about evolution. That solves all kind of supernatural problems. Before that age, I wouldn't sweat it. In any case, since it's your child, it's going to be just as sceptical/skeptical as you are, naturally. My son told me Santa Claus didn't exist when I was still pretending. YMMV. "I want to tell the kid when its young that swearing is OK in moderation, just dont do it at school." OK, who's stopping you? Just OK it with your wife. "I'm also worried I'll accidentally drop the baby at some point." You won't. "I'm worried that the baby will have a disability and that we'll have to deal with that for the rest of our lives and frankly, if it does have a disability, I'm not sure I could handle that at all." That is an anxiety every parent-to-be has, nothing to be done. Cross that bridge when you come to it. In general, yes, the other side of the coin with children (joy being the one side) is anxiety: it doesn't ever go away, as far as I can tell.

5. Sex and Sleep.
Your sex life will be on hold. On the other hand, before that maybe you had months of sex with your beautiful *pregnant* wife. That doesn't happen all the time. Your sleep will be fucked, yes. Small price to pay, imo.

As for me, as I said above, I was full of grim apprehension about my first child and often just wanted to flee. But once it was, say, a year old, I wanted another one. Now I have a third coming, quite unexpectedly, and it's going to kill me financially and in many other ways, but I'm really really pleased. So, put a smile on your face and see it through to the other side, it's worth it.
posted by londongeezer at 4:06 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

It may be that you're most unhappy about not being to influence a situation, nor predict it. We normally try to avoid our being subject to stuff just happening, and a partner's pregnancy is just that.

First off, it happens fast. Do make an effort to enjoy the time as two, and this particular period of your life. It won't come back, for good as well as for "problematic", and you will miss parts of it afterwards.

Influence what you can: gather information and form opinions, specifically inform yourself
- about what you as a father can do during childbirth to avoid being the by-stander from the first moment on, and
- about parenting, education, basic development psychology, etc. It's all no rocket science, but it is really necessary to put a few bits in place in order to avoid floundering regarding the basics. Old-fashioned guilt-inducing methods, for example, can only be broken up if you're better informed about how a kid's mind works.
All this is really not at all about the truth of Santa and the Easter Bunny. Try remembering how your parents raised you, and identify where you would do it in the same way, and where differently, and why. If you're (as seems from in the Easter Bunny remark) considering alternatives to the traditional style of parenting, read up on it. Discuss these matters with your wife. One of the most problematic things about kids in the house is that they often don't allow for a touch-base with your partner, while action is running. You want to be sure of each other in the basic premises of your combined kid raising effort, before the carousel starts turning.
And you definitely want to develop a positive attitude. Kids are like parent's behavior mirrors, and that's where your specific messing-up danger lies, as things seem to stand now.

Postscript about your point 2: nobody benefits from your advertising your present lack of enthusiasm. You will have to deal with it, true, and that may involve talking abut it. But your friends and family really don't need to be involved in all the turns and twists of your sleepless nights. Believe me, it's better not to. People jump to conclusions...
posted by Namlit at 4:08 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You won't mess your mite up.

(FWIW we always made clear that the easter bunny and Santa were pretend at our house. My kids grew up well adjusted anyway. Just had to make sure they didn't contaminate my cousins' kids. Heh.)

You will be fine. Life transitions can be a real bear and this is the transition above all transitions. I felt a bit this way myself in my own first pregnancy. Having the actual baby did change that!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:18 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

you do get a little walking, talking ball of love that will love you unconditionally.

If you get one of these, you are really lucky. I always thought it was only dogs that loved you unconditionally! My son's happiness or unhappiness with me is usually based on what I will or will not allow him to do. Then again, he's three, and extremely stubborn.....just like I was. Just like my husband was. Whoops!

Oh, and about the being scared about dropping the baby thing - I drop stuff a lot. I worried years before I had a child that when or if I did, I would drop it. Trust me, I dropped the diaper bag on the ground every day when I was carrying the baby, a purse, a bag, groceries, etc. One day I held the door open so my little boy could run out of the house, and I realized HE'S NOT A BABY AND THE TIME PERIOD FOR ME DROPPING HIM HAS PASSED. I wanted to toss some confetti in the air.
posted by pinky at 5:28 AM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Well I'm going to go against the grain and say yeah, you really can mess your kid up. Not by telling him/her there's no Santa Claus, but by resenting him for keeping you from having the perfect, free life you envision for yourself.

My wife and I could save our money, maybe retire early, enjoy our lives and see the world.

Yet you were close to welfare and had a mountain of debt before he was even on the radar. That's ok, you can raise a kid that way, you can be happy that way, you can lead a meaningful life that way. But what it means is, this kid is not the reason your finances are tight or you're not yachting around the world or whatever. This kid is not at fault for anything that happens coincidentally or even as a result of his existence (changes to your sex life, sleep patterns, other routines, expectations, etc.). No matter how ambivalent you are (and most parents are ambivalent at one time or another), don't ever, ever, ever blame him for being born.
posted by headnsouth at 5:31 AM on March 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

Yeah, tell the kid all you want that santa doesn't exist. You may find they greet your insistence with the evidence of pressents that magically appear over night, the cookies that disappear, and any number of magical explanations that prove you wrong. Q.E.D.

If you are a glutton for knowing how wrong and uninformed you are about the world, teach your kid Q.E.D.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:39 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Barring therapy (I'm not going to tell you to get some, because you've taken it off the table.), get a copy of this book: And Baby Makes Three by John M Gottman PhD and Julie Schwartz Gottman PhD. I'm not pregnant yet, but I've already gotten a copy.

However, I do want to point out that you say: since in the end it's just paying for something you can do for free - talking.

One of my favorite sociologists, Deborah Tannen dispels this. In a nutshell, the ways you and your wife are talking aren't working (you're unhappy, and she's disappointed even though she knows these reservations you have are normal) a good therapist will help you and your wife find different, more effective ways of talking. If the therapist can't do that, it's either because they' aren't a good fit, or because you (and/or) your wife have decided not to change the ways you communicate.
posted by bilabial at 5:53 AM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

My brother and his then-new wife discovered, to their appalled astonishment, that she was already pregant at their wedding and they hadn't known it. He had already raised two kids; his youngest was 13 and he was more than ready to be done. She had never wanted children. They were 44 and 47 at the time. They lived an hour away from each other and, because of their jobs, hadn't yet worked out how they might combine their households. They had hoped for some time to figure out how to be married to each other. But blammo! Late-life surprise.

I am not privy to the decision-making process that led them to go ahead and have the baby, but my sister-in-law told me once that they were both so distressed about it that they couldn't even talk about it with each other until she was about 7 months pregnant. He went to her prenatal appointments with her, but outside of that they just didn't discuss it, they were that freaked out and unhappy. They finally both had a softening of their hearts during an ultrasound late in her pregnancy, and started to get cautiously excited.

I don't think things have become magically great. My nephew is almost two and they still maintain two households because of their job situation; my sister-in-law and the baby sometimes spend the week at her place and the weekends at my brother's; sometimes somebody does the hour+ commute. My parents, who live next door to my brother, babysit a *lot*. My sister-in-law still struggles to navigate changes in her life she didn't want. My brother tries not to think about how he'll be 60 when the baby is 13.

But, on the other hand, my nephew is awesome and we all dote on him. He is thriving, and while they don't enjoy the complications of their life, they enjoy him a lot. They take advantage of family to watch him overnight so they can have some of the new-married alone time they never got. My sister-in-law can't believe how much she loves the baby. They're adapting, with a mix of joy and frustration, and, while it's hard, it also seems OK.
posted by not that girl at 6:01 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's not that easy to tradition, on demand, between one identity and one stage of your life to the next. It's a gradual process and it takes time and it even extends after the baby is born, especially those first six weeks which are sort of like your time in the mouth of hell, at least that's how it was in our house.

Gradually the stuff you like about the new life exceeds the stuff you liked about the old one, because the old life is like a pair of pants you can't imagine wearing anymore.

In the meantime you rely on the terrific human rituals that exist to help us through these things, which is stuff like saying Thanks! brightly when people say congratulations.

In short, go ahead and be bummed, just don't make an overly big deal out of it or beat yourself up about it because it is pretty common and people generally don't admit to it all that readily, so it's under-reported.

I also recommend starting to develop a very dark sense of humor. That really worked well for us.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:07 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, if you can handle some NSFW language start watching some Luis CK comedy. You may not get it today, but you will get it.
Kids suck. Shitty kids. On feeding your kids. Naming your kid. Boys vs. girls.

But, most importantly if you only watch one clip, watch this one that is 100% safe for work and 100% on dealing with your exact fears:
On Father's Day.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:11 AM on March 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

If your wife happens to suffer from any flavor of Postpartum Depression, therapy will be extremely important.

Please, rethink your attitude now that therapy is "just talking." It may not be your cup of tea, but that attitude could be deadly for your wife and/or child.

A Qualitative Systematic review of barriers to seeking help for PPD I know you're not asking for this, and the article is behind a paywall. But academics are nice, they put the findings in the abstract, and I'll insert a salient bit here:
Of the 40 articles included in this qualitative systematic review, most studies focused on women's experiences of postpartum depression where help seeking emerged as a theme. A common help-seeking barrier was women's inability to disclose their feelings, which was often reinforced by family members and health professionals' reluctance to respond to the mothers' emotional and practical needs. The lack of knowledge about postpartum depression or the acceptance of myths was a significant help-seeking barrier and rendered mothers unable to recognize the symptoms of depression. Significant health service barriers were identified. Women preferred to have "talking therapies" with someone who was nonjudgmental rather than receive pharmacological interventions.
(emphaisis mine)

So. This follow up does not answer how to get excited now, but it does provide you with some insight into how your patterns of talking may affect your wife in the long term. If she discerns that discussing her excitement are "not ok" then the inner brain will make a leap that later, discussing her sadness, disappointment, and stress will also not be ok. ESPECIALLY if you decide now that your sadness, disappointment, and stress are not on the table for discussion in a healthy and effective way.

So. What I am saying, is yay to you for loving your wife so much that you are (by the nature and wording of your question, I can tell) committed to preventing and mitigating these problem for your wife. You will do everything in your power to help your wife be happy - you've basically said that. So I am begging you to expand your toolbox over these next 7 to 9 months.
posted by bilabial at 6:11 AM on March 28, 2011 [9 favorites]

And what effect will this lack of a bond between my child and I have on my wife, who is guaranteed to love the child the second it pops out of her?

I'm glad somebody brought up PPD as a counter to this. Your wife is going through a lot with pregnancy and then the birth. It's not "guaranteed" to be all sunshine and roses for her after the birth- many women go through complicated emotions on top of their physical recovery. Don't push all the work of caring for and loving your child on your wife under the assumption that it's all going to come naturally to her; that's an easy out for you, but it's not going to do your relationship with your wife any favors. Try to man up and let the baby be the only one needing babying.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:31 AM on March 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

How much do you know about the physical aspects of pregnancy and childbirth? How much do you know about the monumental challenge that your wife is currently facing? Don't get insulted by the question -- there is a lot about pregnancy and childbirth we just don't discuss in our society.

It may help you to read up on the subject. Read everything you can. Read until your eyes pop out, you start to sweat, goosebumps form, and you can feel to the very center of your bones how difficult this could be for your wife. Do this, so you can understand that childbirth isn't just sunflowers and roses.

Now, every pregnancy is different. Some women really do have pregnancies and births that are blissful reaffirmations of the beauty of human life... But, more often than not, children are born through sweat, blood, and shit. Realizing this, and all it entails, may help you.

In part, you seem to be reacting to the highly romanticized view of childbirth our culture supports. It's a miracle, we're told, a blessing, and a joy. Well, you're not feeling any miracle, you don't feel blessed, and there ain't no joy in your life. That's fine. You can reject this disturbingly romanticized view of childbirth. You can reject the societal pressures to view a pregnancy in a certain way, respond to it a certain way. You don't have to feel the way society says you should.

But, for god's sake, don't let that rejection of society's romanticized view of childbirth lead to you distancing yourself emotionally from your wife. Don't think that moving away, emotionally, from what society tells you you ought to feel must require you moving away, emotionally, from your wife. If you can't get excited about everything beautiful and wonderful and bird-chippingly, flower-bloomingly saccharine-sweet about childbirth, at least get supportive of the physically-dangerous, terrifying experience that your wife is facing.

Having a child is monumental. Being a father is hard. Your life will change. But, you can't do anything about that right now. Worrying about it will do you no good. What can do you good is thinking about the challenge your wife is facing, thinking about the struggle that is childbirth, and thinking about what you can do to support and help her.

I don't want to scare you. I'm sorry if what you read scares you. Childbirth is an extremely safe procedure in the so-called developed world. But so much of what you say in your question implies that childbirth is supposed to be this precious, blissful experience, when it is really, really not. Focusing on how not precious and blissful pregnancy and childbirth is may very well help you see how to fit your current emotions into a more useful conceptual framework.
posted by meese at 6:57 AM on March 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Almost everything I read says sex stops for months, sometimes years after a baby.

Judging from the way some people pop 'em out, this can't possibly be true.
posted by massysett at 6:58 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't have any major life advice about your situation, but I do know that its not uncommon.

I read a piece by Phillip Toledano (photographer) called the Reluctant Father.

You might find it interesting/useful also.
posted by Kronur at 7:02 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I never wanted children. I decided to "give in" to my wife because I knew it was something she wanted very badly, and I love her so much I would do anything for her. That might not be the best reason, but there it is. Our baby was born one month ago on Wednesday. Random list of my thoughts.

1) Most of the time the lack of sleep doesn't bother either of us for some reason. This is coming from two people who love to sleep. We are sleeping in people. When it does start to grate on one of us, the other takes over.

2) Watch the birth. Or as much of it as you can if you have a sensitive stomach. It was amazing. I understood the process in a clinical sense and I had watched videos for different classes, but it is completely different to witness it in a personal sense. One minute, it is just the two of you, the next minute the baby is there. I can't really describe what it is like. I almost cried when I saw her for the first time. Read number three to see why I mention it.

3) I find myself holding the baby and staring. I don't get it. I am not an emotional person at all. I don't get choked up over anything really. Yet I find I can hold her and just look for hours on end. If I go a few hours without seeing her, I find myself looking forward to the next time I can hold her. Weird.

4) My wife and I loved to have sex before she got pregnant. We had sex when she was pregnant. Now, we are both looking forward to have sex again. She is almost healed enough to start again. SOME people might not have regular sex again for months or years. That won't be us. It doesn't have to be you either, if you don't want it to be. Let me clear, it isn't just me, she can't wait either.

5) There are lots of ways to control the expense of it all. Hopefully you will get a few gifts from friends and family to help out. But over all, especially at first, it hasn't been so bad. I can't comment on what it will be like later. But to start, you really don't need much.

6) Pardon my language, but fuck your friends and family. Sure, they experience the baby on the periphery, but their life won't change much. Your life changes. Your wife's life changes. If it takes you a while to come to terms with that, so be it. It is a big change. I can't tell you how many nights I worried about this or that when she was pregnant. That is certainly OK.

7) Think about all of the people out there who have had children. I have met some people who didn't have any business procreating in my opinion and yet their children have come out fine. Even if you don't love your child at first, which I don't think will happen but I won't discount your feelings, you obviously have enough responsibility in you to worry about it. That says something right there, doesn't it?

If you think I can help in any other way, send me a message.
posted by Silvertree at 7:11 AM on March 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

And this book is on my reading list, although I want to have children one day (may be more relevant to motherhood):

The Monster Within: The Hidden Side of Motherhood

(Read This Book if the Idea of Having Kids Makes You Nervous - New Yorker Book Review)
posted by Kronur at 7:14 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

My youngest brother and sister were born 14 months apart. I try hard not to think about this issue most of the time, but for today, let me say: there is no reason you've given to assume you will have to wait a long time to resume intimacy with your wife.

Also: I have seen firsthand how bitterness and "you have wrecked my life" stuff from a parent messes up a child. Be worried, be fake, be responsible - do not be that guy. It's a much more serious risk than dropping the kid.

(Also: what do you plan to do if your kid is 17 and confused and can't seem to talk things out with the people in her life? Please rethink the therapy attitude now.)
posted by SMPA at 7:45 AM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I haven't read through all the comments but I know that one was "fake it till you make it" and really I think that's the best you can do right now and that is okay. What I would suggest to you is to stop focusing on the baby. Focus on your wife and the health of your relationship. No matter what happens after the baby gets here, the relationship between the two of you will be of primary importance. It's through that healthy partnership that you'll have a healthy family. Rededicate yourself to loving your wife. Yes, you both should start looking at your finances and plan. Get out pencil and paper and your bank statements and start setting up goals and knocking them back. Babies are relatively cheap the first year -- reach out to your network for hand-me-down baby items and set up that registry. You have time.

But, seriously, I can tell you are worried but it's probably impossible to reassure you here that things will turn out okay because no one knows you and what kind of anxiety you're capable of. I found reassurance during my pregnancy to be only marginally reassuring. I mean, really, my friends are nice people but how could they know that I'd be a good mom. They can't know that. Neither can any of my family. Really, the only one who can know that kind of thing is my husband. One of the most unexpected aspects of the pregnancy was our renewed focus on our relationship and our little family. It has continued after the birth and that has been just as magical as our little girl. I feel so lucky to have that and I want you to have that, too. Focus on your wife. Focus on your relationship.* Focus on getting your (financial, mental, actual) house in order. The rest of it will just have to come as it comes but if you have dedicated yourself to those things you will be prepared to handle whatever comes up to challenge you both.

* side effect: better odds of resuming a happy sex life.
posted by amanda at 9:07 AM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

1. Money. You may be in for some difficult financial times, but they're manageable. Babies don't need all the crap people buy; see the many thread on about this. My ex- left me and our 5 year old, and I had pretty tough financial sledding, but we still had what we needed, and had lots of good times.

2. What Will Friends and Family Think About My Lack of Excitedness? My wife is already pretty upset that I'm not excited.
Everybody will tell you how to do everything their way. Smile, listen, assess the advice, and be the best parent possible. Feel free to tell people you're worried about the expense, and cheerfully accept donations to the college fund. It's of more concern that your wife is worried. Be honest with her; you're worried about all sorts of issues.

3. Since I'm Not Excited, Am I Capable of Loving The Baby? Babies are really lovable. My now-ex- had what I hear is a very typical sensation of I have a daughter/son, OMG, It's So Awesome to become a Dad. The fact that you are worried about it is actually a good sign.

4. Am I Going To Mess This Kid Up? We're human, and the best of us are trying, every day, to learn and grow. You won't be a perfect parent, but you will clearly be a thoughtful parent, and a parent who is trying to get it right. I believe that's the right way to parent.

5. Sex and Sleep. Well, in my experience, sleep becomes a scarce commodity. I had a surgical birth, and had to wait at least 8 weeks to have sex. I was very happy to have sex again. Having a partner who changed diapers, got up at night, and was an active, involved Dad, made him pretty sexy. Nursing changes a mother's hormones, but sex with reduced chance of pregnancy (we still used birth control) was nice. Sorry about the sleep. Get the grandparents to help as much as possible. Be a team with your wife, and help each other as much as you can.

The one thing that would have made me have an abortion was knowing that the baby would have severe medical problems/mental retardation. There are some reliable indicators. Talk to your wife and your doctor. I'm totally impressed with the many people who chose to have a child knowing that child will need a lifetime of extra care, but I'd rather not make that choice.

Take the long view. 23 years from now, your kid may come to visit, and be awesome in ways that you hoped for, but couldn't predict or expect. That happened to me a short while ago. My son has grown past some pretty tough times, into a man I'm very, very proud of. I can't wait to see what comes next. I think you'll be a terrific Dad. Mazel tov.
posted by theora55 at 9:09 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

My ex's brother and wife made a promise to have sex EVERY day she was pregnant until birth and every day afterwards. When my ex and I split, their baby was 9 months and they had kept their promise. I imagine it depends on whether both feel comfortable with this, though. My brother-in-law did not feel comfortable having intercourse with my sister while she was pregnant.

Also, when my sister's "area" was healing, it didn't heal right and left a lot of scar tissue. This caused two years of no intercourse because it was too painful even after two surgeries and various gels.
I don't know how common that is though, but her doctor said it's not uncommon. hopefully that wont happen with your wife.

But in any case, a lot of men just get up and leave their pregnant wife because they don't want to deal with all the stuff you've listed.
My friend and her husband seemed like a "love story" and he practically BEGGED her to have a child even though she didn't really want to. About 5 months into her pregnancy, he started cheating on her and told her she was "different" now (no shit) and that he realized he didn't want a child. Then he left.

So, if you hang in there, that's 100% more than a lot of men these days.
posted by KogeLiz at 9:24 AM on March 28, 2011

2. Please, no "get counselling" answers. My wife and I discussed this and I don't believe in therapy or counselling since in the end it's just paying for something you can do for free - talking. Also, in the end I know it's just going to be advice like "accept responsibility for what you've done" so I don't see what value there would be in paying to be told something I already know.

Except you sorta thought you knew what you wanted and you turned out to be wrong. This is what therapy does for you--it helps you figure out the stuff you are hiding from yourself.

Put another way, why not try? Sure, it may cost some, but dismissing it out of hand as if you know all about it without personally understanding it makes zero sense.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:33 AM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

This isn't a direct answer to the question. I can't tell you how to be happy about having a kid. But I can tell you that I'm going through one of the toughest fatherhood experiences of anyone I know, with my 7-month-old, and there's this:

I'm able to bear a lot more tragedy, discomfort, and sacrifice than I would have thought, and keep going. I don't consider myself particularly emotionally bulwark-y or capable, and yet, though these first 7 months have brought sorrow after sorrow, I'm just digging in and soldiering on.

You're asking about happiness. Hopefully there will be a lot of that. But I propose that you may not require as much happiness as you currently think you do. You may see that as a depressing sentiment, but it's quite a compensation, really, since you've made it clear that you're in this for keeps, regardless.
posted by gurple at 10:48 AM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Money? I lost my job just a couple of months before our first child was born. I found another one, thank God, and worked for a full six ays before taking off a week for the new baby. (When I returned, some people didn't believe I had ever been there before.)

Enthusiasm? No one cares about you, they're talking to The Mother. (Sorry, but it's true.)

Loving the baby? You won't be able to help it...but you also won't be able to help wondering when while the little angel stop crying? and what's that smell? and what did we do before we had a baby to sit around and stare at?

Mess the kid up? Listen, bell curves mean that if you do a half-assed job, fully half the kids in America will be in worse condition. So forget the self-sabotage, think about the future, and do your best. (What else can one ask of a man than to try?)

No sex and no sleep. Well, maybe, but only one at a time. I took the opportunity of late-night feedings (and post-feeding rockings -- get a good rocking chair!) to catch up on movies on my laptop screen, and on some reading.

Listen: if you've ever had a job that involved a lot of physical labor with no possible short-cuts, then you know the feeling of "I will just work my way through this" a.k.a. "This, too, shall pass." The first few months will be like that: lots of diapers and fatigue.

But the baby is half you, and you will be half of the center of its universe for ever. So do the best you can, forgive yourself a lot, and bull through it. There's a reason we're not yet extinct!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:09 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Money: Do you really think you're the first-ever father-to-be with an imperfect job scenario? You will make it work, I assure you. Millions upon millions of poorer people than you have raised children to adulthood. Try not to sweat this.
Excitedness Quotient: Your wife's pregnant. She's going to be upset about a lot of things. This is just one of those. Other people will chalk an apparent lack of excitement up to lack of sleep. This is a great excuse for pretty much everything. Might as well start using it now.
Capability of Loving Your Offspring: Yes. You are. You'll see.
Messing the Kid Up: Almost certainly. How many adults do you know who have not one shred of baggage from their parents? Everyone--and I mean that literally--is 'messed up' in some way or other by their parents. Most of them are more grateful about their very existence than they are preoccupied by said messing up. You are putting way too much pressure on yourself here, dude. Exhale.
Sex: Remember what I said about lack of sleep? Yeah, you're going to be too exhausted to worry about this one, I promise. Plus, it's almost impossible to predict, so cross that bridge when you come to it.
posted by willpie at 12:13 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're worried and freaked and scared now.

Okay. Do that for a bit. It's fine. I don't know any new parent who didn't freak out once during any pregnancy for some reason. With the first child it's usually financial. With a second child, it's more emotional --- will I love this baby as much as I love my first child? Will first child feel he/she is getting enough attention when second child is here?

Regardless of your current (and valid) worries right now, they will be a distant memory in about three years. I had a major freak out about paying for daycare. I didn't know how we could possibly afford it, but the baby was coming. Either of us being a stay at home parent was not an option. After six months of writing daycare checks, it became routine. It's tight. It's not always easy, but it works. We write the check every month and no longer consider it a loss of income.

You won't screw your kid up. Your kid is going to think you hang the moon and the sun. For the first year the kid will be mostly attached to your wife, which makes sense. The child spent 9 months listening to her heartbeat. If your wife is intending to breastfeed, then there's the real issue of needing nourishment that you can provide in the form of a bottle but not in the form of the breast. And then sometime during that year, you'll be able to spend more one on one time with the baby without mom. And the baby will see that while your wife may be the sun, you hang the moon.

And you don't even have to do a THING for the child to feel that way. You just have to be you. However you are.

This sounds like it's really, really recent news for you, so it'll take some getting used to. I recommend making the process real for you to help. Go to the prenatal appointments. Learn what the baby is developing that week (heart, nervous system, lungs, fingers, ears?). One of the first things my husband said to my stomach when we learned about our second pregnancy was, "Hello, little one! You don't have ears yet!" I don't know why, but I found it incredibly sweet. Definitely, definitely go to the ultrasounds.

And bond with your wife and your new baby as much as you can. Touch your wife's stomach (assuming she's not adverse to that). Talk to your baby. My husband every night bends his mouth into my stomach and tells the baby something. With Toddler Zizzle it was, "Now, junior! Behave yourself!" Toddler Zizzle would go NUTS in utero whenever he heard his dad's voice. This baby seems to be no different, and what my husband says to this one is, "Get her! Get the mommy! You are safe in there! She can't do anything while you are in there! Kick her! Kick her good!" and the baby is usually willing to comply --- just started being able to feel the baby in the last week or so.

In other words, be a part of the pregnancy. Maybe when you feel your baby kicking through your wife's stomach, or maybe when your wife tells you the baby woke her up when you came to bed late, or maybe at birth, or maybe at the first smile, or the first giggle, or the first sneeze, or maybe the first steps, you'll find, simply, that you are a Dad. Just that. A Dad.

And what you're worried about right now --- you'll wonder why you ever were. It may take some time to get there, and it's different for every person when they do. But I'm convinced you will. Because you're worried now.
posted by zizzle at 12:38 PM on March 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm not a parent, so I can't speak specifically to this (though I completely understand---all your reasons are reasons I was/am on the ambivalent side of no kids), but you sound anxious and are likely prone to thinking yourself into a spiral of doubt.

Don't feed your anxiety with more negative thinking and know that you have a partner to help you through the whole thing.

It's hard to believe that your parents/her parents would let you guys scrape by when it's their grandchild. Families help each other and they'll help you, I'm sure, until you get back on your feet should the worst happen.

Your wife probably thought all of this through anyway, which is probably why she's not freaking out. So just tell yourself, if she's not freaking out, you have no need to freak out either.

You'll get through it. People get through terrible things. Focus on turning your mind off when you overworry or label those thoughts as worries, and put a pin in them. After the baby comes and if you have even worse feelings and can't sleep, go see a therapist. Though it sounds like you might benefit from seeing a psychiatrist just to get through all this. It's a lot of pressure.

BTW, I did want to add that you're already being a great father by being so committed to your wife and by loving her as much as you do. I think that will be a wonderful thing (in the age of Everybody Loves Raymond and other dysfunctional demonstrations of marital love and jokes about marriage being horrible and wives being awful bleech) for your child to witness. So long as you help take care of Mom, the kid will benefit physically and emotionally.
posted by anniecat at 3:28 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I decided, with kid #1, that there's a great reason for pregnancy to last 40 weeks, and it's not so that the baby can bake. It's so that the parents can get ready.

My son doesn't call his dad "Daddy," he made up his own name for him when he was about 18 mo old. You could be Pops. Or Da. Or Fred, if you want. The label really isn't important, the actions are.

Don't use a stroller -- wear one of those baby carriers and haul your kid around on your chest or back. The kids like it better than a stroller, anyhow.

Sleep and sex? Well, the quality and amount of both those things change, but they don't disappear altogether. Talk to your wife's OB about #2, and buy earplugs for nights when you must sleep through a baby crying. Just make sure you let your wife have some of those nights, too.

Be careful not to place the whole burden of being excited about/preparing for baby on your wife, or assume she's going to bond instantly with the baby. I had a difficult labor and delivery with kid #1, and when I talked to my brother a week later, he said "well, now you just can't imagine your life without him!" I said "Oh yes I can. I slept in that life." Which my brother didn't want to hear, he likes to rah rah parenthood. But you don't have to drink the kool-aid to be a good parent. As for shopping and prep, you could become the car seat expert, or buy a package of diapers every week or two during pregnancy to build up a stash. Babies really don't need much.

Show up at OB appointments. Pay attention. Read the week-by-week books. Take care of your wife, whom you love. The baby will work its way into that in time. For some people having kids is about having the baby. For others it's about love (your spouse, your marriage, your life) reflected in a child, who will love you back.
posted by hms71 at 10:13 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Not sure how helpful this book would be, but why not add some humor to your life, so at least you associate some laughter with your worried situation instead of just being worried.
posted by at 2:35 PM on March 30, 2011

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