First off: congratulations, Dad! You’re embarking on an exciting, life-changing journey that can seem overwhelming or scary. In fact, you might be wondering if you’re ready for all the challenges that lie ahead. You might bristle at all the congratulations you’re receiving, because you’re pretty certain you’re going to screw something up. In fact, what you really want is for someone to sit you down and tell you everything you need to do, and everything you need to expect, so that you can be helpful rather than anxiously dithering for nine months.
Well, your wish has been granted. If you’re a first-time dad and you’re not sure what you’re doing, just keep reading. We’ve gathered all the best resources for new dads, so you can feel at ease when those congratulations come. Know that it’s going to be a lot of work, and that while your partner is doing the physical labor, it’s up to you to supplement her experience with emotional support—and lots of chores.
Ready? Take a deep breath, and start learning:
What to expect when SHE’S expecting
You know pregnancy lasts for about nine months. You know your partner’s due date. You’ve maybe heard stories about cravings, mood swings, and bodily changes. We’ve broken down the main events of each month of pregnancy, because knowing what to expect—and why—can ease a lot of stress and make you a better partner in these nine months:
She’ll probably find out she’s pregnant during this month, so now it’s time to make some lifestyle changes: stop drinking alcohol (you might want to do this with her), make sure she’s taking a prenatal vitamin (particularly folic acid), find a doctor you both like, and start thinking about your pregnancy and birth plans.
This month, your partner might start feeling some morning sickness. If that happens, stock up on saltine crackers and make sure she stays hydrated.
If she’s going to feel any nausea, the second month is when it’ll hit the hardest. Also, FYI, “morning sickness” isn’t the best term for it, since Mom can feel sick at any time, day or night. Just remember to learn what she can keep down and what she can’t—and remember that it’s really important that she continues to eat.
A woman’s body is really good at making sure the fetus gets enough nutrients, but if Mom isn’t eating properly, then she could be preventing the healthy development of the placenta and baby. That can lead to fatigue, even more nausea, and all sorts of emotional stress.
Make sure you’re working on your thinking about your birth plan, you’ve found a good doctor, and you’re researching things like Lamaze classes, a midwife, and important preventative procedures for the future like cord blood banking.
The bump’s getting bigger as Mom exits her first trimester. She’ll notice her breasts getting bigger and more sore as they prepare to lactate. Mom’s hormones will also start to fluctuate, meaning you might be facing a few mood swings.
What do I do during mood swings? Communication is key here! Remember to listen to your partner and try to understand what she needs during this time. She’s overwhelmed and confused, and chances are, she doesn’t actually want to hurt your feelings or make you upset. She just feels a lot of stuff, and doesn’t really know what to do about it. What you can do is take on tasks like grocery shopping, making appointments, or even just spending quality time with Mom, so that she can see evidence that you’re pulling your weight. And if she gets emotional, make sure to acknowledge her feelings and really listen.
By this point, Mom will probably be less nauseous—although she might be experiencing some heartburn and constipation. In addition, you might be noticing your wife has more of a glow to her. That’s because her blood volume is rapidly increasing to supply more oxygen to your baby. Make sure she’s taking a prenatal vitamin that contains iron so that she doesn’t feel dizzy or fatigued.
You’re halfway there! Your partner might start to feel the baby moving in the fifth month. This is a perfect time to start bonding with baby (even though, you probably have already). Increase the amount you take to baby and start playing prenatal music. Interacting with baby before they are born leads to a healthy brain development.
Pregnancy weeks 20 to 24 are when the baby fun really begins, now is the time to start picking a baby name and thinking about decorating his or her room.
With a few more months left to go, your partner might be feeling pretty exhausted. She’s carrying a heavy load, and on top of that, her breasts will be sore and might start to leak small amounts of milk. It’s your job to be extra caring while her body changes, and to pick up some more chores and tasks around the house.
The sixth month of pregnancy is the perfect time to go over your birth plan with your partner and make sure you’ve covered all the bases. Does she want a natural birth? Make sure her doctor and nurses know. Will you be in the room? Should you bring a camera? Who’s in charge of choosing a cord blood bank? When you take responsibility for a few key things, your partner will know that she can relax a little—and you’ll feel more in control.
If your partner is running to the toilet a lot, that might be because her expanded uterus is putting extra pressure on her bladder. She’ll probably be getting tired a lot more easily, and she may experience Braxton-Hicks contractions, which are a normal part of the body preparing for labor and delivery.
Pack your hospital bag in weeks 32 to 26 and make sure it’s ready to go when you need it. Mom might be extra forgetful, tired, and grouchy during the home stretch, so make sure to keep yourself breathing and take enough time for yourself so that you can be at your best when she needs you.
Make sure you’re reachable at all hours! Have your birth plan down, and know what you’re in charge of when you get to the hospital.
Good luck! Remember that this isn’t going to be perfect. You’ll mess up a few times, and no matter how much you plan, things will go awry. But that’s all part of being a parent! Above all, this is a time for you to listen and respond to your partner. And don’t forget to have fun!
 Pregnancy Symptoms in the Fourth Month. Planned Parenthood. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/pregnancy/pregnancy-month-by-month/what-happens-fourth-month-pregnancy
 Braxton Hicks Contractions. http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/braxton-hicks/