Your partner/wife/girlfriend/ex-girlfriend/girl whose name you forgot shows you a plus sign/happy face/two lines on a pee stick.
You get light-headed.
She books a visit at the OB-GYN, who up to that point just does her annual ladyparts check-up but now will be up in that business on the regular because guess what? A baby is coming out of it in about eight months.
The OB-GYN visits are no joke.
You’re going to be a dad, and you’re going be going to that doctor’s office. A lot.
These appointments are critical. Until your partner can feel the baby kicking, it’s her only chance to make sure the baby is healthy. That's why you don't want to the kind of father who gets dirty looks at appointments. Great dad-to-be ultrasound etiquette is a matter of thinking things through.
Here are the do's and don'ts for expectant fathers at the OB-GYN
A great way to get off on the wrong foot is to make jokes about the ultrasound wand the first time you see it. Why would you make that joke? Because it looks like a dildo, and they have to insert it into your partner to get a look since the baby is so small (The one with the jelly comes later).
Your partner wants to look at the miracle creation inside of her. She doesn’t want to hear a dick joke.
The doctor wants to make sure the baby is OK. They’ve already heard your dick joke.
And those first few appointments? Things can really be tenuous. You expect good news, but you can’t be sure, so don’t be the jerk making a dick joke when the doctor suddenly has to get serious.
Let me get the jokes out of the way for you:
“Ha ha, that wand looks like a penis.”
“Buy her a drink first, would ya?”
“That’s how we got into this trouble in the first place.”
“Do you have any more of that KY Jelly? I’m asking for a friend.”
Your head will be swirling.
There’s a lot to take in. Your partner’s legs are going to be in stirrups or her shirt’s going to be halfway up. Signs all over the room will talk about SIDS or fetuses before you’ve had a chance to think. And you’ll be hearing things like “due date” and wondering, “Wait, that seems soon.”
Do yourself a favor.
Better yet, do your partner a favor.
Write down questions before each appointment. What should she eat? Not eat? What can she do for nausea? And so forth.
You likely are just going to be writing down your partner’s questions. It’s her body. She’ll know what to ask. And you’ll get bonus points for being both involved and curious.
Meanwhile, there’s nothing better at building confidence than solid info. By the time you get to the next appointment, there are a whole new set of things to think about. You will not believe how fast things change. Be prepared.
At a wedding, they have a common expression.
Don’t sleep with the bridesmaid, she’s an emotional wreck and will stalk you.
Also, “It’s all about the bride.”
As if the groom is just there for show. Wedding bloggers and magazines love saying “It’s all about the bride.” It helps feed the wedding beast.
If you say, “The groom is a big deal, too,” that doesn’t help sell wedding dresses or lavish bouquets or monogrammed napkins that cost $80.
The bride is super important. She will look beautiful, people will fawn over her, and it’s one of the best days of her life. It’s just strange that the groom gets discounted when the marriage is supposed to be a partnership.
Oh, that sh*t’s about the mom.
Do not go into that gyno’s office trying to be the center of attention. There is no baby coming out of you. Constantly talking or making it about you is the fast track to being a jerk.
It’s really easy to have one of the appointments go by with your head buried in your phone, with you just glancing at the monitor. It's your wife getting checked on, and you're on the sidelines.
I’ve basically been that guy. I’m a social media manager full time - being on my phone is par for the course. So I have to actively think, “Hey, Andy, stop checking Instagram. Your baby’s heart is beating on that screen, which is a miracle. An actual miracle. Your Instagram filter selection, while awesome, is not a miracle.”
Soak in what’s happening. You may not have planned it. You may have planned it for months and had to time out cycles like some Neptune god of the sea beholden to the moon. But it’s happening right in front of you. You helped create a heartbeat.
Enjoy that, because as a father, you will have your kid forever, but you only get a kid inside your partner for a matter of months. I guarantee it. Science.
If you’ve got a boss who doesn’t “get” why you need to go to your wife’s OB-GYN appointments, well, that sucks.
You should be able to use sick time for it, legally-speaking, but I know there are two drawbacks.
You want to save up that sick time for when the baby comes.
You don’t want your boss mad at you even if it’s not justified.
But if you can make the appointment, do it.
Nothing is going to make your partner feel better than if you show a commitment to making those appointments, even if it’s just one or two. And nothing will give you a better chance to feel connected to this kid than seeing him or her or them on screen, hearing the heartbeat and talking about what’s happening next.
“But Andy! I’ll just be in the way/no one needs me there/I’m busy.”
Your partner doesn’t get an option. Her body is going through massive changes and she’s just trying to get a grip on what in the hell is happening. Not making an effort to see first-hand what’s going on and what you can do to help her is like saying, “This is your issue.”
Trust me. She wants you there.
Women magazines make a lot of money writing articles about why men aren’t in touch with their feelings.
God, they love writing that.
They boil it down to dumb arguments about how “your guy can get rowdy cheering for his favorite team but won’t get excited for your big promotion.” Maybe if your promotion beat the Ravens, sure.
The thing is, we feel emotions all the time. We don’t always verbalize it.
That really shouldn’t matter in most cases. Nobody needs to hear me passionately talk about the Fast & Furious franchise, because A) Everyone already knows Fast & Furious is the Truth and B) It doesn’t impact people.
Your kid, though? If you’re excited, if you’re nervous, if you’re eager to see the ultrasound, if you’re thrilled ... you need to say it out loud in some form either at the visit or afterward. Why?
Saying it out loud will help make it more of a reality. That’ll help you gain confidence and help you think it through.
Saying it out loud gives your partner confidence that it’s not just her that’s excited/nervous/anxious.
This isn't the time to assume she knows what you're feeling. She wants to know what emotions you have, even if the emotion is being scared about becoming a dad. Don't make her guess!
This is some really serious stuff.
Even if everything goes smoothly throughout the pregnancy, the best case scenario is that your partner is pushing a baby out of her vagina or having a baby pulled from her stomach after months of her body betraying her like Frank Underwood to the Cabinet on House of Cards.
Worst case scenarios aren’t likely, but you know what they are, and you can bet your partner is freaking out about them.
Pregnancy does not lend itself to being rationale.
Pregnancy lends itself to your wife frantically Googling images of moms 38 weeks pregnant with twins and calling to ask you how in God’s name her belly is ever going to stretch that far out. (True story with my wife.)
It’s OK to be optimistic, but don’t discount the emotion.
Don’t say things like “She complains about her back a lot but I told her it can’t be that bad” or “Does she really have to do bed rest? How am I supposed to get things done?”
If your partner is really worried about some potential issue, it’s OK to ask the doctor. They hear it all the time, and they can do a better job easing her fear than you can by trying to say it’s not that big a deal.
Take a second to appreciate what’s about to happen or is happening to your partner.
Her stomach is stretching like Play-Do.
Her ligaments are being stretched so much that she’ll get round ligament pain - nonstop soreness in her pelvis.
Her uterus is growing like a balloon.
An entirely new organ - the placenta - is growing.
There’s a baby inside which is just some crazy sh*t when you think about it.
Things that are changing about your body during pregnancy:
So while you may or may not use “we” when saying who is pregnant, just keep it to “she is feeling _____” or “she’s pregnant” when you’re at the doctor’s office.
Don’t complain about stuff you’re dealing with, or how some pain she feels is probably like such and such sports injury you had. Because it’s not. You’ve never been tackled on the field and felt your uterus press into your spine because you don’t have a uterus.
This is not the time to whine about anything, really. It's not going to come off well, and more than that, you're going to sound like an insensitive jerk. You know what moms do with insensitive jerks? They write about them in pregnancy forums. Trust me – those forums are full of "My husband doesn't understand _____ about being pregnant. I'm the one who _____."
When you're going to ultrasound appointments, your only focus is really on your baby's health.
But financial health matters, too, and one uncovered ultrasound visit will set you back hundreds of dollars.
Do your due diligence before you set foot in the doctor's office. Verify your insurance coverage will pay for the ultrasound appointments (or how much percentage they will cover) so there are no surprises. You'll be getting those bills all the time in the mail, as the visits are weekly by the end of the nine months.
You don't want to try to sort it out after the fact. It's an easy thing to overlook.
Also crucial: All ultrasound appointments are not the same as far as insurance goes!
Case in point: My wife and I had a nuchal translucency screening for our twins, a common practice to check for chromosome abnormalities. It was just one aspect of our visit. Our insurance for our toddler had covered it, although I had since changed jobs. Well, the new insurance didn't think it was medically necessary (to the shock of our doctor, and us!) to check on abnormalities, and they denied coverage. Bill? $588. Just like that.
We had assumed it was a regular thing to be covered, but it wasn't. Always check. Don't assume the doctor's billing department is looking out for you. They aren't.