Dads' Quick Guide to Self Care Through All Four Trimesters of Pregnancy

What, Four? Yep, Four.

To quote a dad in my recent Birthing From Within class: "What, Four?" "Yep, four."

Yes, dads, not only do you get to support your partner through the three well-known trimesters in pregnancy, you now can look forward to the final "trimester," the Fourth Trimester. The Fourth Trimester is actually the first 3 months of baby's life, and the phrase was coined by Dr. Harvery Karp, renowned pediatrician and child development specialist and author of the best seller The Happiest Baby On The Block. The Fourth Trimester refers to that period of time when baby and mother are inseparable, as it was designed by nature, for the first three-ish months of baby's life. And yes, dads, there are ways you can offer immeasurable support to your newly growing family.

But this article is a little different than most you've read. This is an article about how you can support yourself, as the birthing father. Got that? What can you do, as the dad, to get YOUR needs met, in turn supporting your newly growing family? There are loads of articles geared towards the birthing mother, and rightly so. I adore working with women, as their doula, birth mentor and childbirth educator. But I'm also a firm believer in that if we can acknowledge and support dad's process and initiation into fatherhood, the entire family benefits. Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

The First Trimester

I've talked with many dads and want to offer you some perspective on some ways you might consider supporting yourself through the first trimester. This is generally known as weeks 1 through 12. You're just finding out that you're expecting, and your partner is probably feeling pretty awful (In fact, this article by states that a full 75% of pregnant mothers experience some sort of morning sickness!). That can be pretty intense for you, too, as the reality of the pregnancy starts to sink in. What can you do, as your entire world begins to shift?

1. Stay in. If you're used to going out with your partner, you might consider some other ways you can enjoy your time together. If she's feeling ill, she'll appreciate your willingness to not only stay home with her, but to come up with something creative to do, that includes her. Maybe you can still watch Monday Night Football but this time pop some popcorn at home instead of going out? Maybe you can turn your Friday night happy hour into a Friday Movie Night in? You get the picture. Think of ways YOU enjoy relaxing and figure out how to creatively include your pregnant partner. It's wonderful practice for when you have a newborn and your social life takes a drastic turn, yet again. With some creativity, everybody can win.

2. Go to the prenatal appointments. You've heard to do this as a way to support your partner. But allow me to reframe this, as a way to support yourself. Pregnancy can make dads feel out of their element, and dads report that it often feels like they are invisible at the prenatal appointments. What if your goal in attending the appointments wasn't to just support your partner, but to also support yourself? How would your questions change? How would you try to get to know your birth attendant on a more personal level?

3. Take your role seriously. What if you started to realize, quite early on, that you are a main player in this event, not someone with a bit part? Some new dads share that it can be very disorienting to spend their entire life in the role of "son" or "brother" or "friend", to be thrown into the role of "dad" without any formal training! Recognize yourself for the enormous role you play in this birth. You are now the dad, and your new family is counting on you. Begin to imagine yourself at the birth, supporting your partner, and begin to formulate opinions through research and asking questions. It's ok if you don't yet know what questions to ask just yet. Just begin to awaken that part of yourself that knows you deserve support and respect in this birth, and that you are entitled to your opinions and questions and ultimately, answers. A good starting point might be to read my blog post called Some Like It Hot. It walks you through why choosing your birth attendant is so important, and might shed some light for you about what questions to begin with.

The Second Trimester

During weeks 13-27 the pregnancy starts to get a little more "real" for dads-to-be. You can physically see your partner's belly growing and may have had the 20-week ultrasound where you can see your little nugget up close and personal. What do you need, as the birthing father?

1. Read books on birth. There are plenty of far too humorous books out there for dads-to-be. Seems like our culture likes to joke on becoming a new dad. But there are also a couple of gems, some quality reads that you don't want to pass up. They might prepare you as you begin to discover what your questions are. Your path and your discovery are quite different from your partner's. Embrace it. I'd suggest you check out The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin and Birthing From