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What Dads Expect When They're Expecting

What Dad's Expect When Mom is Expecting

WebMD Feature

When Simon D'Arcy's wife, Sharon, got pregnant, so did he. He didn't have morning sickness, mood swings or a growing belly, but the transformation he faced was just as intense, and it took him the full nine months to prepare.

"The whole thing is so huge -- emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually. I don't think there's a larger identity change for a man, or for a woman, for that matter," says D'Arcy, a management consultant in Santa Barbara, Calif. "It just doesn't get the same attention because we're not the ones gaining 30 pounds and throwing up."

A new generation of fathers is being born. Gone are the legendary souls who paced hospital waiting rooms, cigars in hand, and -- heaven forbid -- changed a solitary diaper over the course of a weekend. Like D'Arcy, these dads want to be involved, not just with the birth, but afterward.

Breaking new ground isn't easy, of course. But there are plenty of dads like D'Arcy to prove it can be done. Becoming fathers in the new millennium means stretching beyond comfort zones, finding role models for support and encouragement, and not settling for those lingering myths about fatherhood.

Myth No. 1: Pregnancy Is Just a Chick Thing

When Christopher Mosio, a cinematographer in Santa Barbara, and his wife, Jennifer Louden, discovered they were pregnant, they were both excited and nervous. Yet he admits the pregnancy didn't present quite the same immediacy for him, especially in the beginning.

"It wasn't my body changing," Mosio says. "I could go off during the day and forget about it for a while, whereas Jennifer carried it around constantly." Louden is author of "The Pregnant Woman's Comfort Book."

Such differences in how men and women physically experience pregnancy can often lead to misunderstandings, experts say. They can also perpetuate the myth that pregnancy is mostly the woman's turf. Often it's not until men feel the baby kick, see a sonogram or witness other tangible signs that reality sets in, typically a trimester behind the woman.

"Women often perceive that men aren't as excited as they are because it takes longer for them to get connected since it's not in their bodies," says Deborah Issokson, a licensed psychologist in Boston who specializes in perinatal mental health. "So much of the pregnancy is kind of quiet until women start showing or the baby starts moving."

The truth is, men experience many of the same sorts of anticipation and worries as women, says Armin Brott, author of "The Expectant Father," "Throwaway Dads" and "The Single Father." Not only do studies show that some men experience physical symptoms, like nausea and mood swings, but they, too, worry about the kind of parents they'll be, how their personal and professional lives will change and whether they're up to the challenges.

Other worries, like how the household income will be affected by a new baby, are often more intense for men than women. Such was the case for Brott, who was adamant about reducing his work schedule when his first child, Tirzah, now 9, was born so that he could spend more time at home.

"My wife was working part-time already, and it became a real source of stress imagining how we were going to survive on two part-time incomes," Brott says. "But I didn't want to be the typical father who spends more time at work than at home. I just wasn't going to do that." When his employer balked at his request to continue his work as a labor relations negotiator three days a week, Brott quit and began a free-lance writing career.

What's even harder is that men often lack a support system (sometimes even keeping their wives in the dark) or role models in whom to confide about these concerns. Their isolation can be all the more strained when men are creating very different lives than the ones they grew up in or are part of as adults.

"It's embarrassing for guys to talk about how much they love their kids or the struggle they're having at work when they don't want to be there as much as they used to," Brott explains. "It's like asking for directions. It's saying 'I need help here,' or 'I have something I'm not able to handle 100% on my own.' "

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