The 28 week itch: preparing to be a dad
While baby is edging ever closer to arrival, I was under the impression that I would have a few solid months left to get my head completely together before the chaos. Everyone tells you that your life will be turned upside-down, inside-out and give you a swift kick in the nuts for good measure as soon as baby is born. So, you would think that I could enjoy that little bit of time now to be, well, not a parent. Not so much.
Turns out the third trimester is not quite so easy. On top of the looming fears and anxieties I have about the fact a baby is on route to completely disrupt our lives, Jen is, quite frankly, a bit of a nightmare at the moment. When I am not ducking from her latest mood swings, I am putting my foot in it or making mistakes on things I didn’t even realise were a thing. Jen recently shared some unexpected challenges she didn’t expect at 28 weeks, so I thought I would also share my perspective of what’s been going on.
Losing ‘me time’ and learning not to be selfish
Due to her low lying placenta and doctors note signing her off pretty much any activity - including any bedroom action (don’t ask, I am doing a lot of gaming lately), Jen is understandably pretty much out for the count in a lot of life's daily aspects. This means that I have, again understandably, had to pick up quite a lot of the slack. While I knew free time would be a commodity in the future, I imagined I would at least have a little bit of downtime to enjoy some ‘me time’. Time I knew wouldn’t be possible once baby is born. Apparently that's not the case and the thought has been smacked right out of my head on plenty of occasions.
I knew Jen would struggle with pregnancy as much as any pregnant woman, what with confidence, body issues and hormones all flaring up. However, I naively didn’t consider or prepare for what that would mean for me, which means life has already changed - a lot. I'm now existing on a rotational 'to do list' of sleep, work, housework and ducking from the metaphorical (and occasionally literal) objects and objectives I’m getting thrown at me by an ever more fed up Jen.
Well, that’s not too bad you may say? Get over it other Mums will probably say and “Grow a pair and try growing a human” I know Jen would say.
Well yes, it’s doable. But when you’re a very isolated person like me, who usually struggles with anxiety, that free time - me time - can be the only thing that keeps you sane and gives you a chance to recharge your batteries. Not only that, when you’re running around after everyone on a flat battery, it makes it difficult to keep an eye on everything else. Until eventually, something’s got to give and I lose it. By that I mean I just get moody myself and forget that Jen is growing a human and just how big of a deal that is. In those tired and frustrating moments I think about me, I get selfish and I make a fuss. Because I am only human and well, let’s face it a man. We get stuff wrong sometimes… well a lot really. For example, when I’m tired and the Mrs yet again asks me to get her a drink because she doesn’t want to move or doesn’t help me carry the shopping in, saying ‘Yes dear, I know you’re pregnant.’ doesn’t tend to go down well.
So, what I have found out the hard way as we enter the third trimester, is that the worst thing that can give way at this point is the relationship with Jen. And I say the hard way, because wow can me and Jen throw a huge row at the moment. As two people who naturally do not like to back down in an argument, it has been a hell of a learning curve putting Jen’s emotions first and being understanding that she just can’t do much. Part of it is completely out of her control and part of it is just her being her. Learning to differentiate the two is the only way she will not tear me a new one (seriously, I’m actually scared for my life). However, while I’m trying to bat away the curve balls Jen throws, there’s also everything else going on in the background.
Juggling too many balls and mummy belly time
As always, there is a tonne of shit going on in the background. Ticking away until you’re completely up a certain creek elbows deep. The stress of daily work can be a frustration for a lot of people when you hate your job. I’m fortunate to not be swaying to that extreme but I cannot say I’m particularly close to the other. Limited prospects in my employment and this idea that A LOT more money than what I earn is required to give kiddo a fighting chance is, to be honest, fucking depressing.
As someone who has a reasonable education (as do half the U.K population these days) but not really any discernible skills (with the exception of, on a good day, my writing) with a lack of confidence thrown in for good measure. It’s easy to spiral and worry about being a good enough man to support your family.
Then of course, there is Roxie - doggo uno - who is still rather unwell. Even as I write this, she is at an emergency vet, racking up almost as many £ as anxious thoughts from myself that she will be ok. This has been another factor which has pushed myself and Jen further away from each other when we are both on the same team -having Roxie’s best interests at heart.
This with the usual day-to-day stresses of debts, other ill family members (I’m sure there will be more on that in the future) and emotional wellbeing, means it’s difficult to get on the baby train sometimes. For instance, Jen keeps grabbing my hand to hold her tummy and feel kicks, but honestly I just get frustrated when I can’t feel them. Then I switch off half way through and look at my phone or watch telly and suddenly I’m that bad guy. Apparently I have to stare at her belly for an hour until it moves. Who knew that was a thing? Seriously though. This has been the cause of a few arguments recently and it’s not that I don’t care and wouldn’t love to experience the kicks that Jen’s feeling. It’s that A: I don’t want to get it wrong and mistake a kick for a belly grumble and B: feeling a kick would make it very difficult for me to keep my head safely in the sand on the fact that baby is indeed real and my life will never be the same again.
3. Preparing to be a dad - let me look that up...
So, when you’re worried that baby is being bought into a world that you’re not prepared for, how can you prepare for a little one? This is one of the biggest issues at the moment - we are currently not prepared. Any spare money we currently have is going towards Roxie, meaning there is less and less time to buy for baby. Now while I know that babies only require a few bits and pieces to begin with, I do know that to make life easier, it’s important to have a few items more than just the essentials. Not to mention we only have a smart car, which isn’t ideal at all for bringing baby home.
It’s difficult to embrace a baby coming into the world when really not a lot has changed in the last few months. Other then Jen and her ever growing bump and increasing penchant for calling me a dick. The prep is not there so when you do try and enjoy the process of pregnancy, all it causes is panic.
Now Jen keeps reassuring me this will all come together before baby is born. But then I think managing baby being born on its own is a giant problem at the moment. I don’t drive and both our families live too far away to get here on a whim, getting Jen to the hospital is going to be tricky. Getting the baby home will be even harder - bringing us back to said smart car and my lack of driving licence. Upheaval of routine is one thing to worry about but when you don’t even have a clear birthing plan, every pregnancy mile stone is less exciting and more terrifying!
Growing a pair (as requested) and doing the best I can
No matter how much research you do, there isn’t as much about how Dad feels and why we struggle to connect so much with the experience early on. A few squabbles and honest conversations later though and I finally get it.
Becoming a parent doesn’t start with baby’s first breath in the big wide world or changing the first nappy. It starts with the pregnancy. And while it’s hard right now to see through the fears and anxiety of preparing for a baby, I am looking forward to that moment when I get to meet baby. Only then do I think for me it will really feel real.
In the meantime, I am going to make more of an effort to experience what I can with Jen. Maybe holding onto that belly a little bit longer, serving her willingly a little more and making sarcastic pregnancy jibes a little less.
The biggest advice I could give to expectants father’s not yet past the third trimester threshold or currently drowning in the same rough seas of a mum to be’s mood swings:
Just agree with her. Accept your wrong. Move on. It’s time to just do what she says and - despite the demeaning connotation - put that aside on this occasion and just grow a pair. Honestly you’ll thank me later.
To read Mum’s perspective, you can check out Jen’s blog First pregnancy challenges I didn’t expect (28 weeks).