Pregnancy is seen as mostly a woman's thing. Few women believe that their partner really understands what's involved. And the fact is, many of us dads-to-be don't. We talk about it. We show interest. We empathise (without going overboard). We even try to read about it, at least a little. But let's face it, our experience of having a baby is fairly removed from the real thing until we're face to face with nappy changing and sleep deprivation. No dad can possibly relate to the minute-by-minute, close-to-the-heart, kick-in-the-gut reality of carrying a baby to term. Face your fear
But we can participate. We can be there to listen to the first heartbeat, we can cut back on the beer or wine, we can pore over the naming books together, and more. Here are 10 ways you can be there, too.
If you feel a sense of unreality coupled with raw fear, you're only normal. Will you be a good dad? Will your baby be born with ten fingers and ten toes? Will labour go smoothly? Will you love your baby? You'd be odd if you weren't afraid. Our best solution for this natural by-product of humankind's greatest experience is to talk to your partner, your dad, your friends who are old hands at this parenting business. You can also find other dads-to-be in the same boat as you on our dad to dad bulletin board Pay attention
You can't be pregnant, but you can participate by being an active observer. Let your partner know you're enjoying seeing her pregnant body. Take pictures to record how her bump grows. Give her a back massage when she's tired. Feel the baby kick. Keep track of your baby's development -- no doubt you'll be amazed. Sign up for our weekly newsletters so you know just what is happening, and what needs doing.
Try to make it to some of your partner's many antenatal appointments. And don't miss the chance to get a glimpse of your baby during an ultrasound. If your partner has an amniocentesis or other procedure to test for genetic conditions, make sure you're there. And, of course, attend antenatal classes, and work through the breathing and relaxation exercises together. Get healthier, too
As your wife tries to improve her diet, give up alcohol and drink more fluids, you can support her by sharing these lifestyle changes. Eliminate bad-for-baby foods that might tempt her. Cut down or cut out alcohol yourself. Don't smoke. Treat yourselves to some healthy pastimes too -- a walk in the park, a swim or even surprise her with a stay at a spa with treatments for pregnant women. Love her changing body
Understand that, as your wife's pregnancy progresses, she may feel unattractive. Even if you think that she is, don't let on! Meanwhile, you may also find that your relationship takes a back seat for a while. What with hormone changes, back pain, morning sickness, and an understandable preoccupation with the stirrings of life, your sex life may be a little less exciting for a while. Read our feature on sex during pregnancy so you know what's safe, and what to expect. Pull your finger out
Your wife may be pretty demanding. Go with it. She's doing most of the hard work. The least you can do is to do the food shopping, send her flowers and indulge her late-night demands for cottage cheese and strawberry jam sandwiches. Memories the route to the hospital
This may seem obvious, but unless you're on a business trip when your partner's waters break, you'll be making that drive to the hospital for delivery. With your partner in the throes of labor on the back seat, you may not be in a fit state to navigate your way to the hospital. So do a dry run; make sure you know the route. And that you always have enough petrol in the car and that she can contact you no matter where you are or when she has to make that 'drop everything' call. Consider yourself a partner in labour
Find out what she wants you to do when she's in labour. Does she want you to rub her back, help her change positions, soothe her and massage her, feed her ice cubes and offer her drinks or help her make decisions about pain relief. If you're up for it, ask your midwife if you can cut the umbilical cord. Shop, talk and make lots of decisions
By the time your baby arrives, you and your partner will have bought baby clothes, prepared the nursery, bought and installed a car seat (hospitals won't let you drive baby home without one), settled on boy and girl options for your child's name; and determined whether to breast- or bottlefeed, and use cloth or disposable nappies. And you thought you had nothing to do... Prepare to be unprepared
The nine months of pregnancy rush by so fast (believe it or not), that the experience can be overwhelming. Enjoy it, savour it, and don't worry if you don't have everything ready by the time baby shows up. You have his whole life ahead of you.