47

I'm a 32-year-old man expecting my first child in September. I imagined having my first would come with all the joys of that experience.

My partner already has a son of 2, who I've taken as my own because of the absence of his biological father. She is experiencing the complete opposite emotions, this being her second child. She's withdrawn emotionally and doesn't have any excitement making my first time experience hard to really enjoy, because I want to have that joy along with her. Her pregnancy in general is way different in her words emotionally and physically.

Have any men dealt with this and is there anything that can be said to maybe bring that excitement out of her end or am I just along for the ride?

I find myself feeling extreme downs because this isn't how I imagined experiencing my first..

EDIT: Follow up -
I appreciate all of your input greatly. I didn't mean to make it sound selfish. I tend to my lady's every need from foot rubs to cleaning and cooking. We've discussed a lot of what you've all brought up over the course of the pregnancy. From how I'll treat her first born who, as I stated, I look upon as my own and that will never change. I'm still extremely excited to have my first and look forward to every adventure, good or bad. This has definitely given me new insight and I will continue pampering my lady and help the best way I can. My undying love for her and our little one and our new edition on the way holds no bounds. Be well my friends and thank you..

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    Welcome to SE Parenting. I don't think is this really a parenting question. What you are asking is more related to the emotional state of you and your partner. I know i was way more excited about my wife being pregnant than she was for our first. If you are worried about this difference in mental state talk to a professional. – Batavia May 9 '18 at 14:22
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    @Batavia I'd like to respectfully disagree. I think questions about relationships, vis-a-vis parenting, are entirely on topic here, and I don't think this is venturing into 'medical' territory particularly. Happy to discuss in Parenting Chat or Parenting Meta if you'd like, though! – Joe May 9 '18 at 17:35
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    A few quick questions: How far into the pregnancy is she? Is she experiencing strong physical side effects? And was the pregnancy planned? All of these factors might make a difference in what you can expect. – 1006a May 10 '18 at 2:08
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – anongoodnurse May 14 '18 at 15:08
  • You're not "expecting", you're not "pregnant". Your partner is. It's worth keeping that in mind. This really is all about her. Your role is to be supportive. – user1751825 Aug 7 '18 at 0:20

13 Answers 13

72

Pregnancy and how it affects the mother is an intense stew of physical and hormonal changes. Each child may come with a different "stew" recipe. Sounds like the father of her original child didn't stick around, so maybe there's some sub-conscious anxiety as this brings back memories and feelings that preceded that event/issue, as well. In any case, how she's feeling now may or may not have any carry over to how she feels once the child is born, so don't put too much weight into that.

You can't make her more cheerful or peppy about it. If she's struggling a bit more with the emotional side, all you can do is be there to offer whatever support she needs, and quite often that will mean doing nothing but listening or even being the receptacle for her fears, outbursts or frustration. Don't try to "fix." As pointed out in comments, this could be indicative of something more serious that would warrant professional/medical assistance. Certainly do a bit more research and try to get her to at least see a professional if it seems more serious than just feeling the burden of those changes, but, again, not in your scope of partner-powers to apply a fix, yourself.

This is a good introduction for you to parenting. If you look at how you are framing your question, you are excited, and you want your experience be even better by her joining you, emotionally.

Parenting is nothing, if not sacrificing your wants and even your viewpoint/perspective that focuses on you, for that of your child and family. To be a good father, you will need to learn to set aside your own desires for others, whether that be the unpleasant task of enforcing unpopular rules, giving up activities and social interactions to be a glorified transportation service, going to parent meetings for activities and organizations and, yourself, playing nice with other parents who may be maddeningly annoying.

Start off by being entirely supportive of her needs during this period. The experience will be life-changing and positive, even if it isn't all laughs and giggles now.

  • 14
    "If she's struggling a bit more with the emotional side, all you can do is be there to offer whatever support she needs." Not entirely true: if she is struggling with pre-partum depression, you can also encourage her to see a psychiatrist and get help. – NeutronStar May 10 '18 at 15:18
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    "You can't make her more cheerful or peppy about it" That is OK as the OP´s question is about her feelings but I think it would be a good advice to explore his too – Javier Vazquez May 11 '18 at 9:41
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    @Javi_Swift - I totally agree with what both you and Joshua say, my advice was more centered on resisting the urge to try and resolve it, or find a solution, himself, as a way of helping. I will edit to reflect the excellent comments. – PoloHoleSet May 11 '18 at 14:00
40

If there's one thing I'd communicate to a new parent-to-be, it's to completely clear out your expectations. Having expectations sets you up for disappointment, because nothing in parenting is like you expect it to be.

That's not to say there aren't amazing highs in parenting - every single day I feel very positive feelings as a result of being a parent. But those feelings are not the same as what I might have expected going in: they're the natural results of the process itself. They're not something I can plan for or expect: they just happen.

Start out expecting nothing - positive or negative. Ride the experience, rather than waiting for things that won't happen the way you expect, because you couldn't possibly expect them.

And as far as your wife: focus on what she needs right now. She's going through something that's entirely out of what you could possibly imagine, both in terms of emotions/hormones and in terms of the physical side of things. A second pregnancy is different, because she's been through it before - so she knows what's coming, making it both less good and less bad. What she needs now is a partner who is supportive and helpful, rather than one who's expecting her to be something she's not. Be that partner!

  • 1
    I didn't expect this type of response but very appreciated. I don't want to make it sound like im – BennyC85 May 9 '18 at 18:22
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    @BennyC85 - it's nothing that you can truly prepare for. Words and explanations are inadequate, which is the message most are trying to convey. Example - when people talk about how much one will love or bond with their children..... there really is no comparison or perspective that can truly explain it, as cliche as that might sound. – PoloHoleSet May 9 '18 at 19:04
  • I came to the same conclusion when my first child was born. My life is a lot better since I started to have less expectations and let the new things come as they are. – Javier Vazquez May 11 '18 at 9:11
27

My wife's second pregnancy was kind of the same situation. I'm super excited, but she finds it hard to get excited. There are a couple things that have been affecting her emotionally. As a father your experience will differ from hers, it's okay, but it's important to understand why your experience differs and to discuss how you can be the most supportive for your partner.

Excitement for a baby is more easily generated when you are naive of how difficult pregnancy, birth and the first few months of recovery and raising a child are. I don't mean this to scare you because pregnancy and birth is out of this world amazing, but for mom it's amazing with a twist. For her it can be "Amazing that I was able to survive that." And now she has a fear of doing pregnancy again. Then when she's pregnant, the pregnancy itself can become a daily reminder of what pain she will endure - again.

A second child can present a complicated dichotomy between feeling excited for your new child and feeling guilty because she is taking away time from her first, at least, that's the perception. It's not really the case, but a guilt like that does take joy out of the expectation of a second child.

Lastly, the last time your partner had a child, the dad left. There is nothing more soul crushing that having a fear that you're going to be left with another kid, to handle sleepless nights, dirty diapers, hungry mouths and desires for attention, love and affection on your own. As much as you may be fully committed to staying with your partner, she has already experienced abandonment and you are working against this.

What you need to do is communicate about everything, communicate and demonstrate to her your commitment. Show that you are willing to pick up responsibility where she inevitably can't because of the child she is carrying. Be a listening ear to all of her concerns, fears, and emotion regardless of how it makes you feel.

She may say "I regret this." Your response is not "How could you?" Rather: "Can you tell me more?" or "What can I do to help you?"

  • This exactly. From all I know, giving birth hurts a lot, and for all joy that the new child may bring, one isn't really expected to look forward the pain, especially if experienced once. – SK19 May 10 '18 at 2:35
  • I feel like this is the best response Ive read yet! It really helps put things into perspective. – ggiaquin16 May 10 '18 at 21:37
18

Your wife should consider getting tested for pre-partum depression (pregnancy blues). Being as emotionally withdrawn as you describe may be a sign of depression.

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    This lady's experience written about on the BBC website matches that suspicion. Stand-out quote: And if a new mother even breathes a whisper about feeling down, she should be taken deadly seriously - because this can be deadly. – Tom W May 10 '18 at 8:26
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    My wife had post-partum with both our children and pre-partum with our second. It's something to be taken seriously, and there is help she can get. Don't let it linger, look out for the signs and encourage her to talk to her doctor about it. It made a world of difference once she starting treatment for her depression. – user123 May 10 '18 at 12:15
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    The mother of someone very close to me committed suicide when that person was an infant, and attempted to take her baby with her. Don't panic, but do take this seriously. – mickeyf_supports_Monica May 10 '18 at 14:23
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    The base assumption that "pregnancy = happy" is a popular fallacy. People are capable of a complicated range of experiences & emotions, and pregnancy & child-rearing can evoke everything in that range. There's no shame in seeking a professional's advice and input on what is a perfectly normal emotional range. – MandisaW May 10 '18 at 16:06
12

I'm sincerely sorry that you're having trouble enjoying this experience, but that doesn't mean there's anything about your partner you get to fix. You don't get to try to "bring that excitement out of her end" because

  1. she does not have to perform excitement for you, and
  2. for whatever reason, that excitement may not be there to be brought out in the first place.

You can be as excited as you like: call your friends! Research cribs! Paint the nursery! Stare at your ultrasound pictures and weep tears of joy! This is all great, but you also have to accept that it's okay if she's not excited. You could suggest that she get screened for pre-partum depression if you think she's genuinely depressed---is she unhappier than she was pre-pregnancy? It's not really clear to me from your question whether her feelings are a problem for her, and whether you're measuring them against her usual feelings or against the feelings you want her to have.

Just not feeling as happy as you want her to is not a pathology, and if you're rubbing her feet with the goal of producing the emotional expression you want to receive, that's extremely off-putting. The last thing a pregnant woman needs is another person making demands on her.

Are you asking her how she feels, what she's thinking, and what she wants from you? That will probably change over time, so check back in regularly, and really try to focus on responding to her needs, rather than extracting the excitement you want.

(As a side note, if you truly considered your partner's son your own, you wouldn't be so excited about having your "first child," because you would be having your second. I'm not saying this is bad, but you should be aware/honest that you are, in fact, thinking of these children differently. That may be a cause of concern to your partner, or not, but it's worth considering.)

7

First let's start with a good old

DON'T PANIC

and mix in a

That's normal

Pregnancy is portrayed in the media and social circles as this awesome thing that happens where it hurts a lot after 9 months of all these happy feel good changes and picking out toys.

Well, it's not. Women go through so many temporary and permanent changes. It's more like 2 months of "Woo hooo" followed by 9 months of "This is the worst I have ever felt in my life." Some women have an "easy" time, some do not. But it should be mentioned that an "easy" time just means they're slightly less miserable about the situation.

I mean they get fat, bloated, crampy. It hurts to stand, walk, sit, lie down, fart, poop, pee, yawn, breath, or sneeze. Their private areas are essentially put on display for the entire population of their town to see. Everyone from neighbor to doctor will have something to say about their boobs and vagina at some point (as a soon-to-be dad, ready yourself for this one). Her sex life and choices are about to be public knowledge and are now somehow considered open for discussion and debate.

And to top it all off, emotionally, they're a basket case. And even when they're not, they're expected to be. So much so that, as they get fatter, people around them assume they get dumber and less independent. To add salt to the wound, at the end they actually do get dumber, and less independent. (Sorry, there are studies on this one, that show that near the end they lose a few IQ points as their bodies now have to care for two.)

There are many wonderful things about being a parent. Hell, even childbirth can be an amazing experience. But never forget, to her there are tons of downsides too. Society just doesn't talk about them.

What you can do

  • Be open with her about how you're feeling. You are excited. You are curious.
  • Do not try to get her excited. She will get there on her own.
  • Do not try to force your expectations onto her.
  • Recognise that the second time is different than the first. The first time she may not have known what was in store for her (for each woman it's different); this time she may think she does (usually each pregnancy can be different).
  • Do some long-term things. Buy a crib, or paint a room, or more importantly, make a purchase that shows that you will be there too. Buy a father-and-son bike for when you new unborn baby is 5. Seems silly but it's evidence that you will be there.
  • Try not to tell her how to feel, eat, or act. Keep in mind that as her partner it will be your job to remind her how to feel, eat, and act, when it comes time. But try to keep it to an absolute minimum. For example, You may have to step in and go "No we can't have spicy foods, the docs said to lay off the spicy foods, let's go get flavorless mush #4." But that's not a card you should play very often. You may also need to (and this is more common) step in to de-escalate some pregnancy crazies. I mean, if she is going batshit crazy yelling at the store clerk because they're out of banana yogurt, you will need to pop in and remind her that she also likes strawberry yogurt or that you will go to another store for her and get some. Again, not a card you want to play often. But some women's emotions do run amuck during pregnancy. As for feel, remember all her feelings are valid, they may just not be permanent. You may have to stop her from ending a friendship of 20 years because she is angry, but you should never tell her she isn't angry.
  • Create a "mom spot" which is a quiet, comfortable place for just her, where she can go and relax.
  • Create a "dad spot" which is a quiet place you can go to relax. Tensions could get high and a parental time-out works wonder. Especially when your emotions get high because you don't understand how handing her the blue towel means you're going to leave her, because she is having a girl, and there are no peaches in the kitchen.

Super Most Important

Spend time with her and the current child. After the birth, time will be a precious commodity that you WILL NOT HAVE FOR MONTHS. The first weeks and months are basically a zombie state in which you somehow survive by sheer force of will alone. The two-year-old will feel neglected and abandoned BECAUSE SHE WILL BE. You won't have the energy to read Three Little Pigs for the first few weeks. You will, and you need to, fall into a routine of "ok, everyone's alive, let's get some sleep". This will cause problems, but it's short-lived, and if you spend some time now explaining, and bonding, then it won't be so bad. Especially if you get your current child "to help" with the new child.

When to seek help

Now is as good a time as any. Mention it at her next prenatal exam. It may be nothing, it could be a sign of a serious issue or imbalance. It's probably nothing. You're excited because it's your first, she's not because she knows what to expect for the next 7-8 months. But if you're following the common practice here in the US, then you're gonna have tons of visits, so make sure to mention it. Make sure to keep it as "I feel" and not "She doesn't feel".

  • About the "now is as good a time as any", this is not true. Now is the best time, why wait for anxiety to breed and become worse. In case she needs therapy, she'd better have it yesterday than tomorrow. – Hans Janssen May 11 '18 at 13:45
  • "Do not try to get her excited. She will get there on her own" ... or maybe she won't, which is also fine. – MissMonicaE May 14 '18 at 18:10
  • Yes, she may never get excited. And yes that is fine. – coteyr May 14 '18 at 20:14
  • @Gellormth, and in the case that she is just not that into what she is going to have to go through, You may make her feel bad, that she is not excited. Some women do end up feeling guilty that there not excited enough. Asking at the next visit about your (his) feelings is a good way to sidestep that problem while letting a professional know. – coteyr May 14 '18 at 20:17
4

I have to say, I was NOT very excited to have either of my children - UP UNTIL THE MOMENT I FIRST HELD THEM IN MY ARMS, then the whole flood of loving emotions came to the fore. Thank goodness for hormones! (And I've never stopped loving them with all my heart even though they're both adults now.)

One other BIG factor comes to mind, however. You talk about your partner, but you don't mention whether she's your wife. I can tell you first hand that a pregnant woman needs certainty and predictability to feel at ease about having a child, let alone two children. Even though we women can be very self-contained and self-reliant, nothing makes us more vulnerable to the need for a permanent partnership than child rearing.

Marriage implies a seriousness and commitment that can overcome the natural rough times that arise in any relationship over time, and it certainly takes a long time and financial sacrifice to raise children. Realize that children also put great strain on couples' relationships, even the strongest marriages, because there are so many times that their needs have to come above your own. That's when that formal vow you make when you get married reminds you to just bear up and get through tough times, because there can be happiness again on the other side of temporary rough patches.

Children really do need two parents, because from experience I can tell you that sometimes one parent can have a harebrained idea that the other parent can reason with them about to modify actions. (Sometimes it's been me, sometimes my husband - but we'd talk it through and figure out what was best for our child.) Another consideration: if you're the parent or legal guardian of a child, your employment-based health insurance can cover the child into the future - and this is a very important aspect to formal parent status. So if you're not married, don't be surprised if she is worried about the future of your love and support for the many years she'll be raising that child. I'd argue that there should be enough love and certainty to result in marriage BEFORE the much bigger commitment is made to have children together.

3

If I were her I would be worried thinking about a different aspect, the love you have for the first child what would happen to that once you have your own son or daughter. Considering the first one is still two, the child by itself will feel insecure once the second one is born, and might throw different kind of tantrums/attention seeking actions which is very normal for any child of that age. I might be worried how you would deal with these things once the other one is born. I say if i were her, i will worry even more and may not show any sign of happiness, it's not due to the fact of pregnancy but because of my insecurity and the love I have for my first one,considering you are not the biological father how would you handle it.

Please sit with her and ask her if she is having apprehensions with the way you would treat the first one once the second child is born, said that it might take a lot of effort from your end treating both of them equally and taking a middle ground.

3

I'll add something as someone in a somewhat similar position, in that my wife and I are expecting our second child; the first one is 19 months old. And to be blunt, neither of us are excited, exactly. The thing is, with the first child, in addition to it being a completely new experience, it's something that you can focus on. For my first child, my wife put together a baby book of astounding complexity. We got a nursery ready ahead of time.

But with the second child, you just can't do that, because the first child isn't going to allow it (or you won't let yourself allow it). Your partner knows what the first child is taking out of her; it's probably everything she can give. And she knows what a new child demands now, in a much more visceral sense than you do. And until you've lived through it, you're not going to understand what the first six months are going to be like; you're both going to be constantly short on sleep to the point of hallucination, eating poorly, generally overwhelmed. But unlike with the first one, it's not going to be something you or she can focus on in the same way, because the first child isn't going away. I was the first child, and I've seen my younger brother's baby book. It makes a lot more sense to me now. My second child will be lucky if she has a room by the time she goes to kindergarten.

Even before your partner became pregnant with child number 2, she almost certainly felt she was failing the first child in all sorts of ways. And so now there's going to be a second child, who will be more demanding in some ways, has already taken her away from the first child, and who she won't be able to take care of in the same way she does the first. And in her case, the first child also either preceeded or followed the father of the first child leaving. I'm not saying there aren't other issues here, but the reaction she's having is entirely rational one. It's not that I'm not looking forward to meeting a second child, it's that I'm much more aware of what it actually means.

Don't expect her to have the same feelings you're having, and don't try to convince her to, either. All you can really do is show her, through actions, not words, that you're not going anywhere, and that you'll support her and both her children.

2

I think the other answers share the most important things but I would like to add that the OP's feelings are truly understandable and I think that we the fathers (and the society itself) tend to convince us to be "strong" and forget our feelings. When we ask for help usually are told to focus on our wife (don't misunderstand me, we MUST do it) and be the support of the family pregnancy and so on... but, in my humble opinion, it is good to express how you feel and share it with other persons who may have felt the same. In my case, my father and other friends, have helped me a lot in those periods. Don't overdo it trying to be a super hero (you will be one soon or late!) and let others help you.

PS: I know what you feel, bro...

1

I'm going to weigh in on just one aspect of this, since my experience of parenting is limited to helping raise my wife's child from her first marriage - I have no children of my own.

That said, there is one similarity, in that my wife and her first husband divorced within a couple of years of the birth of her daughter.

I can't tell you how I knew, call it male intuition or something, but I could tell from almost the instant we met that the one thing she needed was to be loved. It was like there was this huge hole in her heart that her ex had ripped out when they separated.

So as others have mentioned, I'm going to state again and emphasize it: love her. Be there for her. I don't know what works for you to let her know, so hug her, kiss her, hold her hand, take walks together, watch movies together, buy a rose for her just because she is the most special person in the world to you. Let her have her time alone if she needs it, do whatever it takes, but love her, and let her know that you do.

Because just like my wife, and for the same reasons, she needs that absolute assurance that you will never leave her.

-1

Pregnancy isn't necessarily a particularly exciting, fun experience for everyone. Her hormones are likely all over the place. She may be physically uncomfortable, and feeling kind of sick. She may be stressed and a bit scared about upcoming birth.

My advice. Just support her in whatever ways you can, and get off this idea that this is supposed to be exciting for you. You'll just be putting more stress and pressure on her, if she thinks she is supposed to be helping you enjoy her pregnancy.

I'm not entirely sure that "extreme excitement" is the best mindset to approach the birth of your first child. It's a wonderful experience, of course, but it is also very very tough. The hardest, most exhausting thing you're likely to ever experience. It's best not to go into it with unrealistic expectations.

-5

First, having a third children after two, it may be problematic for a woman in a neoliberal society. It is a unique society in the world history, because children are seen here as financial problems avoiding us to enjoy pleasures. In lesser suicidal cultures, children are seen as the gift of God, giving you a little part in the Creation.

Second, woman don't feel their maternal insticts while they are pregnant. They don't feel them even if after the birth. They feel the maternal insticts if they hold their baby in their hand.

Having children from different men can have also a problem for her, what she likely won't share with you. It is a rare constellation in all societies of the world, and never a positive thing.

Show her that you are happy and that you love her. Do every reasonable to help her to feel safety. And be patient. You are a lucky man.

  • 1
    Kindly keep your political screeds out of a earnest parenting question. – Shadur May 14 '18 at 8:04
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    This seems more a soapbox from which to deliver a diatribe than an answer. Please back up your claims with reputable sources or it will be removed. – anongoodnurse Jul 27 '18 at 14:33

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