Maria B. writes:
"I am pregnant for the first time. I am married to a great guy and am totally in love with him. I am ready to have a baby, and he's warming up and very supportive. It was my idea to start trying, and I got pregnant right away which was a little overwhelming. My concern comes here. My husband isn't yet excited as this is still abstract and he hasn't really been around babies a lot. It's early as well, I'm 16 weeks. I'm ok with this, he's ok with this. When I tell people I'm pregnant, they usually press me for details about how excited my husband is. He is not telling his friends/co-workers because it makes him uncomfortable. I feel a little bit lost about how I can best support him right now. We have had conversations so he knows I'm not pushing him to feel more than he does right now. But I feel like he needs me to do more. Any ideas?"
Well, I figured I'd check with my Roundtable of Dad Advisers, aka the guys I work with. I'd say these guys are about as diverse as a group of all-white, college-educated, middle class New Yorkers can be. Seriously, though, for the most part I'd say they're at least as involved as the average, and a few of them are incredibly hands-on.
To a man, they all said that there's basically no way a guy can conceptualize of a pregnancy or a baby being real until they hear or see the heartbeat, and it's probably not going to seem truly real until they see your belly growing or realize that the profile in the sonogram looks like a person's face and not just a blob.
I wanted to see if it was just Americans that felt that way, so I checked with a Canadian friend, who said that for him it was really when his wife's belly started getting huge. Before that it was intellectual, but the radical change in her body started to make it real for him.
It seems to me that people who expect a male partner to be really excited about things before there's anything tangible (for him) to be excited about have some unrealistic expectations. It's not that there's anything wrong or outlying about your husband. It's just that women tend to live in a baby-worshipping world in which we get excited even passing the pregnancy test aisle in the drugstore. So we forget that men are living in a parallel world in which they aren't thinking much about a baby until they see the whites of the baby's eyes. <insert your own poopsplosion joke here>
Let's also not forget that there are some men who just don't do that well with infants. (That certainly doesn't mean that they get off the hook for doing baby care. At the very least they need to be doing everything--cooking, laundry, cleaning--if the mother's the one doing all the feeding and night waking.) But some guys just don't seem to connect so much with kids in the baby stage as they do with toddlers and older kids. So even if your husband still doesn't seem that excited when the baby's six weeks old, it doesn't mean he won't eventually be completely smitten by the baby and end up being a wonderful dad. It may just be that he does his best work playing horsey or throwing balls or showing the kid how to code or teaching your adult child to mix a mean margarita. If it's OK for moms to do the baby stage without really liking it (and it is OK), then it's fine for dads. As long as they're completing the required tasks, they don't have to love it.
So I would say not to worry about it. If people ask you about how he's feeling, just make a joke like, "Oh, he says he won't believe it's real until the baby poops on his pants." Everyone will laugh and you can start talking about which breast pump you're going to buy, or whether you like the new Winnie the Pooh or the old one, and how you secretly hope someone gets you one of those butt cakes they always have on CakeWrecks.com for your shower even though you know they're frightening.
It will become real for him at some point. And if it doesn't, you can always get him a baby carrot jockey cake to try to scare it into him.
Confirmation or denial? Men? Women who talked about it with your partners (male or female)? And I'd be really interested in knowing what the experience is for female partners of pregnant women. How far along was your partner before you started feeling like it was real?