Maybe it happened like this: You came home, kissed your wife, unlaced your boots, peeled your socks off of your blistered feet, washed the smell of mud and gunpowder out of your hair, changed into something comfortable and collapsed on the couch. She was staring at you, doe-eyed and dreamy. You wondered if you had something on your face. Then she said, “I’m pregnant.”
Or maybe it happened like this: She missed her period, started getting sick in the morning, and both of you broke into a cold sweat. Fifteen minutes later, there’s a little pink line on the test strip, and you’re frantically reading the back of the box trying to figure out if she’s knocked up.
We all learn of our impending progeny in different ways, but most men have a very common reaction: What do I do now? I’m going to have a baby? Am I ready for this? Am I dad material? Can we afford this right now?
You ask yourself all kinds of questions you probably should have asked a long time ago. But now it’s real.
Gentlemen, the first thing you’ve got to know how to do is take care of your pregnant wife. You can start preparing for fatherhood in a bit – for right now, husbandhood should be all you’re thinking about. Here are 7 things you absolutely must do to make sure you’re taking the best possible care of your wife as she incubates your little one for the next nine months.
- Get a book on pregnancy. I know. A lot of us military guys would rather have our gums scraped than sit down with a book, especially if we work in an MOS that requires a lot of reading or word processing. But this one will be worth it. There’s no TV show or YouTube video that can replace the sheer volume of knowledge you can get from a book. My recommendation is Glade Curtis’ Your Pregnancy Week by Week. The reason this book is good is that it’s geared toward women, so you’ll be able to pass on advice to your wife, and also get a peek into what she’s experiencing – which will help, because she’s going to need a lot of sympathy as the months go by.
- Get your s*** together. You know. Get your poop in a group. Take a hard look at your budget. If you don’t have a budget, the time has come, my friend. Can you pack a lunch instead of hitting Burger King or Subway every day? Are you sure you don’t have enough knives and guns in the collection for a little while? How often do you use that ATV you’re making monthly payments on? Also ask yourself what you have – or haven’t – been doing for your promotion track. Are you caught up on all of your Professional Military Education? Are you studying for promotion examinations? Are you performing well on your physical tests? If there’s anything you can do to raise your promotion score, make a plan to do it. You’ll enjoy the extra money – and the extra rank.
- Talk to your chain of command. Make sure your supervisors know that you’ve got a little one on the way. If they’re parents, they’ll understand that you need time in the middle of the day to go to doctor’s appointments with the wife, for ultrasounds and other pregnancy-specific visits. If they’re not parents, they’re probably terrified by the notion and will let you do whatever you need to do. Let me stress this last part – if you’re not in a position that’s critical to the immediate security of national interests, don’t let your bosses push you around. Take it as high as you can go if necessary. Your wife – and child – need you right now. The military will always get its pound of flesh from you. Make sure you prioritize your family.
- Make changes to your life, too. She shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of pregnancy – she’s doing enough by growing a living human being inside of her. If pregnancy makes her change her routines, change it with her. Get up earlier if she has to. Give up alcohol for the duration of the pregnancy. If you can, give up coffee, too (but if you’re anything like me, good luck. Just don’t drink it in front of her.)
- Be patient when she gets emotional. Imagine how terrified you would be if you were suddenly pregnant. Just because she’s female doesn’t mean she has instinctual knowledge of how to deal with it. She’s going to be learning as much as you do, and pregnancy is going to hurt her, stress her out, and piss her off. I don’t need to write you an academic paper on hormones to give you a heads up that she will, from time to time, be completely and utterly insane. Be patient. Hold her when she cries. Remember that sometimes she’s going through hell and a half, and what she needs from you more than anything is understanding.
- Help her sleep. If she’s well-rested, it will make her life easier, and keep the baby healthier. It will also help you out; if you think her mood swings are bad now, wait until you see what they look like when she’s had four hours of sleep in the last two nights. Also, let’s be honest: This is the last time for about two years that either one of you is going to be able to get regular sleep. Help her enjoy it while it lasts.
- Make sure she knows she’s loved. You shouldn’t have fallen out this habit, but tell her as often as you can how much you love her and how gorgeous you think she is. Help out more with every day chores when you can, and cook for her. If you don’t know how to cook, make macaroni and cheese or top ramen and toast. She’ll appreciate the thought. Last but not least: Make sure to make love to her - you won’t hurt the baby. (But be understanding about her wildly fluctuating sex drive.)