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The Irishman's guide to surviving pregnancy

FATHER of three David Caren has the male view on what to expect when she's expecting.

Congratulations... now buckle up you're in for a bumpy ride!

First off, show an interest -- try to attend scans and antenatal classes, talk to friends and family who already have children about their experiences.

Help out more with the household chores and stock up on easy-to-prepare foods for the early days for when mother and baby come home.

Make some sacrifices of your own, quit smoking (as if this has to be said!) or eat more healthily.

Get in on the plan and familiarise yourself with the birth plan as your partner will look to you to convey certain instructions to the attending midwife.

Pregnancy can be a worrying period so try and make some time to sit down together and talk about any problems or anxieties that you both may be having. It is also important to maintain a relationship outside of baby land (especially after your baby is born), so take a night off from all the baby talk and catch a movie or grab a bite to eat.

Avoid any sort of conflict throughout the pregnancy, and as much as you would like to say it, an argument is not won with 'ah sure it's only your hormones talking'.

As the due date nears, plan the best route to the hospital, make sure that the car has a full tank.

The bump & grind... sex in pregnancy

So let's cut to the chase: when your partner is pregnant, your sex life WILL change. I would like to say for the better, but in the majority of cases you should expect to have a less active sex life during the pregnancy.

But it's not all doom and gloom, and out of a famine some fortunate expectant dads experience a feast, with a small percentage of expectant mums experiencing no change in sexual drive, and a few expectant mums saying they actually have an increased interest in sex during pregnancy -- you lucky...!

Expectant dads may also experience changes in their own libido throughout their partner's pregnancy.

Every new dad-to-be worries about sex and hurting the baby, but sex will NOT hurt the baby. In fact, in many cases, the motion of having sex will rock baby off to sleep. Rest assured your baby is safe within a cushioned amniotic-fluid-filled sac and unless you're having very rough sex (did you before?); you have almost no chance of injuring anyone -- but yourselves!

A lot of expectant dads feel closer to their partner during pregnancy than ever before and this closeness is often expressed in a physical way. For some, sex during pregnancy can be exciting (need I say bigger breasts), but for other men, well, it's literally services suspended for the duration, with some finding the physical change a turn-off.

Please be sensitive, after all, this is the mother of your unborn child.

The way in which you have sex will also change. You may have to try new positions, especially during the last few months of the pregnancy.

Keep in physical touch with each other and explore other options for non-sexual closeness, such as cuddling or massage.

Labour... sounds like work to me

Labour is the road travelled in order to reach the final destination. Now granted, the road can be short or long, hard on the feet or like a cushion of pillows (with the addition of pain relief, that is), and can branch off into different directions, especially at the beginning of the journey.

It is also true to say, as so many of us men do, 'my wife is going into labour'; for labour consists of various stages that pregnant women must go through before you both get to see your new baby in the flesh for the first-time.

However, every woman's labour is unique; in some cases their labour can last for hours, and in others, can last as far as the receptionist's desk or the back seat of the car.

As labour is very much a physical process, your partner will experience various emotions and may not be up for full-blown conversation, becoming less and less communicative as labour progresses.

It is important that you tell her that she is doing great, help her with her breathing techniques; believe me, it will do you the world of good also and most importantly be an ARSE -- Assist, Reassure, Support and Encourage.

We are family... but it doesn't smell of talc!

Surviving the trials and tribulations of early fatherhood is about accepting that as time moves on life will inevitably become a lot easier. Notwithstanding that adjustment, developing a manageable routine and ensuring that the channels of communication stay open with mum are all vital components during this testing period.

As a new dad you are also bound to make a few mistakes, be over-cautious (especially if it's your first baby), worry about the future and even harbour feelings that you are no longer the number one in your partner's eyes -- all of which are perfectly normal and which all dads go through at some point.

My advice to you is to settle in quickly, because it really won't be long until you're walking your little girl down the aisle or teaching your son how to shave!

The Irish Dad's Survival Guide to Pregnancy & Beyond, by David Caren, published by O'Brien Press, price €14.99.


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