Planned and Unplanned
The majority of pregnancies are unplanned. Even if they are planned, they are unplanned in the sense that you never know until you're pregnant that you are. They almost always come as a surprise to both Mom and Dad. Surprise may, in fact, be too mild a word. Both of you may feel at first like you have just been hit over the head with a baseball bat.
Conception is a simple yet mysterious process. Some couples may have been trying hard to have a baby, stopped for a while because they were unsuccessful, and then suddenly and inexplicably got pregnant. Others may have caught lightning in a bottle and conceived a child the first weekend they made love after stopping birth control. Some may have gotten pregnant while on the pill or another form of contraception.
Ultimately, the genesis of your pregnancy does not matter. What matters is the fact that both of you are bringing a new life into the world.
A man ejaculates between 200 and 400 million sperm during an orgasm. Only some of these sperm survive the journey up the womb to the promised land of a woman's fallopian tubes. Once the sperm enters the egg, the door is shut and no other sperm can get in. The instantaneous fusion of sperm and egg forms the single cell in which life begins.
Hearing the News
After he plants the seed, a man basically loses control of the gestation process. The woman is the one who carries the baby, the one whose internal processes will transform that single cell into a fully formed, amazingly complex little human being with eyes, ears, nose, lips, skin, and maybe even some cute fluffy wisps of hair just like Dad's.
Your partner will be the first to know about her possible pregnancy. It does not matter if it was planned or not. In every case, she will know or suspect something is different before you see any signs because she will have missed her period. In some cases, she may even have proceeded without you—received medical confirmation of her pregnancy from a blood or urine test—before she lets you in on her secret.
This puts you into a reactive position. She is going to be telling you the news, even if it is still preliminary, and you are going to be on the receiving end. The emotions you may feel when you hear this news for the first time are worth exploring.
Learning that you are about to have a baby, if you were not expecting it, is shocking news. Even if you were planning and hoping for it, this information can still catch you off guard. You may feel stunned and completely blown away. “What?” you say. “Are you sure?” Before fully accepting the news, many men need to see the results of a pregnancy test. A test provides outside verification beyond the simple fact that your partner may have missed her period.
Fear and Worry
After your immediate shock fades, more emotions will follow. You may feel all of these things at once, or they may come on over time. All of what you feel falls under the category of “normal and natural.” Every father-to-be experiences these emotions at one time or another.
You do not know what to expect because you have never done this before. People can tell you what it is like, but that is not the same thing as actually living it and experiencing it for yourself. Until you do, feelings of worry and unease will probably always be at the back of your mind.
Sadness or even depression can come over you in your quieter moments after learning you are about to become a father. While a woman feels as if she is gaining something in having a child, many men experience an opposite reaction; they may experience feelings of loss.
You may be asking yourself, “Is my partner going to get so wrapped up in the baby that she forgets about me? Am I going to lose her? Is having a baby going to hurt our relationship?” These questions and more will be discussed in Chapter 6.
Emotions, being emotions, are hard to predict. They do not follow a predictable pattern. If you do not feel these exact emotions right away, that is perfectly okay. Every man is entitled to his own emotional response; there are no “shoulds” here. Of course, if you do not feel anything at all upon hearing the news you are going to be a father, it may mean that you lack a pulse. Better call the doctor because possibly you are no longer alive.
“After getting over the immediate shock of ‘How did this happen?” says Rich Freedman, father of a son, “you can then think of what's important about being a parent: surviving the next eighteen years.” Rich also has advice for coping with your partner's morning sickness: “Stock up on pickles, ice cream, and a really good sedative.”
Once you get over the initial shock, you will certainly feel excited at some point. It is possible, however, that your partner's initial excitement may surpass your own. She may be bubbly as champagne while you feel flat. The reverse may be true too—you may feel elated, but she may feel like the world just fell on top of her. Whatever is going on inside your head, you will need to deal in some way with her feelings.