I just found out that I am pregnant. My husband and I talked about having children long before we were married and we agreed that we wanted a family. My pregnancy was a surprise—one year earlier than we had planned—and my husband has had a really bad reaction to the news. Rather than being happy and excited about the baby, he’s been angry and withdrawn. He has not asked me to have an abortion, but I have to wonder if it is on his mind. Either way, there’s no way I’d consider going that route, so I feel really stuck. We’ve recently moved because of his job, so I don’t have close friends or family nearby for support. My husband has made a few friends at work, but other than that we’re pretty much on our own. My husband’s reaction to the news has been far from what I envisioned—I thought everything would be perfect! I’m devastated and would appreciate some advice.
~Laura L. (Seattle)
It’s unfortunate that your happy news wasn’t initially met with support and happiness, but there is a good chance that your husband will come around very soon!
When couples discuss and plan for children, most of the process occurs on a cognitive level rather than an emotional level. For men and women alike, the idea of having a child can feel like a rational decision that can be scheduled to fit in with overall life plans.
However, once a pregnancy is confirmed, the news can affect the parents-to-be on a very emotional level that was not anticipated. Everyone responds differently, but it is not uncommon for the news of the pregnancy to send one or both of the parents-to-be into shock. Especially when the pregnancy is planned, women often handle the news with relative ease. After all, the fetus is in the woman’s body and the emotional connection can be nearly instantaneous. The primal sense of motherhood can melt away a woman’s initial concerns about the more practical matters of parenthood. However, men are in a different place physically and psychologically. Some men reel from the news and have difficulty adjusting to the idea that, several months down the road, life will change forever. As the reality of the pregnancy hits home, a man can worry about how the coming baby might affect everything from work schedules to a fulfilling sex life.
Men can become anxious about impending fatherhood for many practical reasons, not the least of which is the huge financial and emotional responsibility of fathering a child. Too, once the news of the coming baby is announced, a husband may suddenly realize that he will have to share his wife—his beloved bride—with a new little being! All of these thoughts, and so many more, may be racing through your husband’s mind. Again, even though the two of you planned to have children, the realization that "it’s really going to happen" can be very disconcerting.
As well, you mentioned that you’ve recently moved and that your husband has a new job. Both of these changes are major life stressors of their own. It is likely that both you and your husband are still becoming acclimated to the new surroundings and a new way of life.
Not having family or friends nearby is surely an added stress and leaves you both without much external support. As your husband is still adjusting to his new job and the many changes that come with moving, it is not surprising that he is having difficulty adjusting to the news. Finding that he is to be a father one year ahead of schedule could surely contribute to your husband’s concerns; he’s had less time to prepare emotionally and financially for this new responsibility.
The good news is that your husband will most likely come around with a bit of patience and support. Continue to have gentle, open, and honest communication with him. Make special time to show him that you are still his wife, his lover, and his friend. Consistently take part in couple’s activities that don’t specifically relate to the pregnancy. For example, invite him to take walks with you after work, enjoy romantic dinners together, and play as a couple as much as possible. By keeping the focus on your loving relationship, your husband may warm up to the idea of fatherhood more quickly.
The overall idea is to support your husband really welcoming the pregnancy. He may simply need a bit of time to get used to the idea of fatherhood. Without pressuring him, consistently invite your husband to doctor’s appointments and make clear note of them on a calendar where he can see the appointment times. Place a book on fatherhood in a strategic, yet subtle location. If his new friends from work invite him for a night out, encourage him to go. The company of other men—some of whom might be fathers—may give him a chance to unload and get the support that male camaraderie offers. If your husband hasn’t turned a corner in a month or so, it would be a good idea to gently encourage him to see a therapist.
I realize that this is a time that you definitely need support and reassurance, so it would be helpful for you to join a support group for mothers-to-be. Your local hospital or doctor’s office may have recommendations and resources for you. If your husband is amenable, a group for parents-to-be would be wonderful for the two of you! Congratulations and the best of luck!