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A Father's Role During Pregnancy
by Hogan Hilling

"Honey, I'm pregnant!"

Wow! I was now a father.

Once the euphoria wore off, however, I wondered, "Now what?" And, "What am I suppose to do for the next nine months?"

Just like my father, his father, his father's father and other fathers before him, I thought that my only role was that of the provider. I was under the impression that there wasn't much I could do because my wife, Tina, was the one carrying the baby. To just sit back and let nature takes it course. The only responsibilities I felt obligated to do were to accompany Tina to the doctor's appointments and Lamaze classes. I also thought that my role as a father didn't start until after the birth of our baby. But I was wrong.

My transition from being a husband to a father was not easy. Imagine that you are an actor and give a riveting performance that wins you an Oscar. The day after you receive the coveted award, a producer asks you to play a part in a movie. You think it is the lead part but it's not. Instead he wants you to play the role of the supporting actor. You turn it down knowing that another producer will come along and give you top billing. As a new father I didn't have that option. I had to take a back seat to Tina and the baby and accept my new role as the supporting actor whether I liked it or not.

At first playing the role of the supporter seemed demoralizing but I quickly discovered that it was just as important as bringing home a paycheck.

Here are some suggestions on how a father can play the supporting role during the pregnancy.

1. Nurture Your Wife. Make sure she is eating a good diet of healthy food. Make sure she gets plenty of rest. Make sure she is comfortable. Maybe offer her a pillow or to massage her feet. Take on more of the household duties like cooking, cleaning, mopping, dishes and laundry.

Use this time to hone your nurturing skills. This way after the baby arrives you'll be an expert at nurturing him/her. More importantly, it sends a powerful and comforting message to your wife that you will be capable of caring for the baby.

2. Build a Support Team. Ask for help and delegate duties to relatives, neighbors, and friends. More often than not, someone will ask you if you need help. When they do, say YES and give them a list of things to choose from like pre-cooking meals, tidying up the house, buying groceries, or washing laundry.

Use this time to start creating a support team for both you and your wife. Because after the baby is born you're going to need lots of help. By then your support team will already know what your needs are and what to do.

3. Be a Friendly Father. When you accompany your wife to the doctor's office and the Lamaze classes, ask questions and engage yourself in conversations with the doctor, the staff, and childbirth instructors.

Use this time to visit the birth center and familiarize yourself with the floor plan and become acquainted with the nursing staff. Remember the doctor and nurses are the people who you will be counting on during the delivery. So it will be a good thing to establish a friendly relationship with them. This will also send a comforting message to your wife that you are looking out for her and the baby.

4. Network With Other Dads. A great place to meet and network with other dads is during Lamaze classes. Some hospitals offer a program for dads. If they do, get involved. If one is not available, suggest that the hospital start one.

Use this time to wisely. Discuss your concerns, ask questions and brainstorm with other dads. You will soon discover that the best resource you have to become the best dad you can be is other dads.

If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, let me remind you that we, as dads, have the easy part.

Hogan Hilling is the author of The Man Who Would Be Dad, Capital Books $19.95 and the founder of Proud Dads, Inc. He has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC's Fathers and Sons Documentary, NBC's The Other Half and Unsung Heroes. His book was also featured on Dr. Laura Schlessinger's radio show as "Book of the Week." Hilling has also been a featured speaker at the Lamaze International Conference and the Northwest Area Childbirth Educators Forum. In 1995, Hilling received the California Courage to Care Award for helping to strengthen California families. He lives in Irvine, California with his wife, Tina, and three boys, Grant, 14, Wesley, 12, and Matthew, 9.

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