FEAR #1: WILL MY HUSBAND EMBRACE FATHERHOOD FROM THE START?
My husband is an incredible man, but he’s been known to compare newborns to aliens, and on numerous occasions has told me he thinks puppies smell better than babies. So while there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll love our child unconditionally, I worry about what those first few weeks or even months will be like for him. Will he immediately take to fatherhood? Or will he initially feel overwhelmed, confused, stressed, left out, or all of the above?
The expert take: Eager for some insight, I chatted with Perry Adler, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in Montreal, Canada. He noted it’s possible my husband may experience all or some of these emotions in the beginning. Adler says a lot of it depends on his expectations of what it means to be a man and a father.
The good news is we’re not defined by our pasts, meaning if a new dad didn’t have a positive relationship with his own father (which is true in my husband’s case), he can choose to think and behave differently. Adler says men can, just as easily, learn from their friends, literature, and other family members what it means to be a nurturing parent.
FEAR #2: AS A STAY-AT-HOME MUM, WILL I GET ANGRY WITH MY HUSBAND FOR NOT UNDERSTANDING WHAT I’M GOING THROUGH?
In our marriage, I will be the one staying home with our child. And although I’m excited for some serious mommy-baby bonding, I fear my husband won’t comprehend just how tough and tiring my new job title will be. Knowing myself, I’m concerned this lack of understanding will cause me to feel bitter and resentful towards him.
The expert take: Adler isn’t one to beat around the bush: “He won’t understand what you’re going through and you will feel bitter and resentful because that’s normal,” he explains.
To make things more complicated, my hormones will be in flux and I’ll be physically and emotionally drained, thanks to the fun combo of labor mixed with a lack of sleep. Adler says the best thing I can do for my relationship is to accept the fact that it’s nearly impossible for my spouse to grasp what I’m going through.
Instead of expecting him to understand, Adler says it's important to be vocal about how I’m feeling. And, get this—I should try to leave him alone with the baby as much as possible, so he can get a sense of how difficult taking care of a newborn can be. Now that’s something I can get on board with.
FEAR #3: WILL WE ROUTINELY FIGHT AND SNAP AT EACH OTHER WITH A NEW BABY IN OUR LIVES?
One cranky, sleep-deprived spouse is bad—but a sleep-deprived couple is just asking for trouble. Add that to the fact that, as new parents, our lives just changed in a major, irreversible way. Basically I picture a lot of snapping, with a side order of angry bickering.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m well aware no one's life with a new baby resembles an Instagram story. However, I do want to create as peaceful of a home environment as possible, for everyone's sake.
The expert take: In order to keep the snapping at bay, Adler advises that couples talk about the possibility of it happening, before the baby arrives. He recommends picking a code word to use during heated moments to serve as a reminder to slow down, take a deep breath, and re-evaluate whether you’re getting angry at one another for a legitimate reason or simply because you’re feeling overwhelmed. In the case of the latter scenario, Adler says it’s important to remember your significant other isn't snapping out of dislike or hate—your partner is just exhausted and/or stressed.
He also recommends that stay-at-home parents drastically limit expectations and commitments during the early months. Toss your to-do list out the window and be proud when your major accomplishments for the day include keeping your child alive, plus maybe getting one load of laundry done. This will help you to avoid feeling like a failure and becoming even more irritable.
FEAR NUMBER 4: WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO OUR SEX LIFE?
I’ve had friends warn me (as if their lives depended on it) to make sure my husband never stands at the “business end” of the hospital bed during the delivery. And despite what "end" my husband stands near while I labor, I'm pretty sure there will be plenty of other unsexy moments in our near future, too.
The expert take: Adler says it’s common for new parents to have diminished sex drives for the first couple months. And while doctors typically recommend waiting at least six weeks before having intercourse (so the mother can physically recover), it may take longer before a couple even wants to have sex due to sheer exhaustion.
That being said, I’m comforted by Adler's reassuring words: “If you could enjoy sex in the past you should be able to enjoy sex in the future.”
This article originally appeared on Women's Health