“I should be over it by now, but I am not,” he paused as though he had just said something rather common like asking for the television’s remote control or for me to pass him a glass of water.
“I mean I have done this before two years ago, but I just can’t help feeling this way. I had a chat with my bro last night at the bar and I think he feels the same,” John, a close relative of mine when I employed him to tell me about his uncommon fear(s) as a non-first-time dad, the stuff that he won’t tell others.
Just from his interaction and that of colleagues and random people I approached about the subject, I realized that not only did non-first-time dads have fears, but that they were many.
Unlike with pregnant women who were open to sharing and voicing their fears and cares, in many cases, the men felt like they did not have a right, or an audience to share their fears with.
One man – a young engineer – expressed how he preferred to “hide” behind his work because at least there he was listened to. His views really mattered at work and people even came to ask for them and did something about it.
“Make no mistake, the first pregnancy and journey is about the woman. If you think it is the couple’s journey, you are right and wrong. It is all about her morning sickness, her feelings, her preparations for labor, her comfort, her fears… With a second child, it is very different for both, especially the man,” vented the engineer father of three.
Here are the seven (7) uncommon fears non-first-time dads have, but won’t tell you.
7 “[I’m] extra petrified of losing even more sleep…”
As the conversation mellowed out with the two strangers next to me at the airport, we moved from asking the time, to getting to know one another. Flowers were beginning to droop and the excited anticipation of them walking out of the security gates any moment had faded. We placed the gifts on the floor, leaned on rails and started to chit chat.
“So, you are a writer?”
“Yes,” I replied in anticipation of the next reaction which is often a puzzled face or a follow up question. He unknowingly played along to both.
“I’m Antonio. Always wanted to be in the papers or something. Is there any interesting piece you are working on? My friend and I would not mind being famous you know,” joked the stranger waiting next to me before nodding as I explained that I wanted to know what the secret uncommon fears of non-first-time dads were.
“I’m a dad of a wonderful son you see. I love him to bits and am excited to have number two, a little girl as strong-willed and beautiful as my wife. Yet, my fear when she was on the way was that I was extra petrified of losing even more sleep,” said Antonio. I expected him to laugh and joke it off, but he didn’t.
According to this father of two, it was not easy because while women also had to deal with the crying infant who cried all night – and expected their partners to stay awake and help out at night – man have to do that and wake up and go to work the following day.
“She had months off work due to her full paying maternity leave to adjust to the life change and could stay awake at night and then sleep during the day when the little one eventually calmed down. There’s no way we can sleep through a screaming child who is in the same bed. While I can’t breastfeed, I’m also awake. In fact, I need to work even harder and be awake now that my family is growing, but I could not tell her that,” said Antonio.
6 “I’m scared we’re going to have to wait another six weeks or longer before having sex…”
“I love my wife very much and she is very hot. You also have to understand, one of the reasons I got married – definitely not the only one – was so that I could have her all to myself. With the first child, it felt like I lost her. It was no longer just me taking up her attention and privates which were only mine to see – now all the male doctors could look and touch her down there."
"This child took over our lives, shared our bed, our routines, moods, budgets and while I was happy to be a dad, I missed my wife. I didn’t know after my son was born life would not go back to normal. I thought the worst was the vomiting and swollen legs, but now our sex life was nonexistent for weeks and weeks after the birth. I am a married man and have sexual feelings,” said Antonio.
According to Antonio, being a non-first-time dad meant he knew that there would be another lengthy period without sex. While he was undoubtedly happy that he was a dad again and wanted his wife to recover well, he knew how difficult it was the first time round and was not looking forward to it again.
“I was scared we were going to have to wait another six weeks or longer before having sex… No one warns us about that and it haunts us when our wives fall pregnant again. It is just a horrible fear that the weeks may drag on and by the time we are cleared to be intimate, we could be so used to not having intercourse that we forget about it altogether. Besides, the children are skillfully designed to occupy every minute of the day when you are home,” giggled Antonio.
The gentleman next to him – also a non-first-time dad nodded and agreed that it is a scary experience for men to go through. They tend to keep it inside because society portrays them as being insensitive and rude if they raise that they miss being intimate with their partners on a sexual level.
5 “What if we get so used to being busy that it [sex] stops altogether?”
“When my wife wanted a second child, I could not believe it. With one child, we had already lost so much sleep. I love my child, don’t get me wrong. Just before the child, my partner was petite, sexy and had the stamina of an athlete in bed. After the first child, she was always tired.
“She did her best to raise the child, take care of my well-being by still running the house and cleaning as well as going back to work to carry on being a manager. She’s amazing. However one thing that fell in the cracks was sexy lingerie. It was now t-shirts and tying her hair in a ball. With the second baby, I’m worried and fear that what if we get so used to being busy that it [sex] stops altogether?” asked Antonio’s friend who was standing next to him at the airport.
I expected a chuckle or for it to be converted into a joke as they had done with the former parts of the conversation. However, when he mentioned the fear of dads who had gone through the first pregnancy and raising their first child and now at it for the second or more times, there was a sadness.
They nodded as though desperately pleading that whatever was left of their sexual intimacy should not die after getting more children. There was a despair and yet a deep inner hope that the women they knew before they had children would re-emerge.
While both men were appreciative of the fact that their spouses were contributing to the running of their households and trying to look after everyone therein, they missed the undivided attention. “I really hope it does not stop altogether…” whispered the man as his friend nodded in the background as though in self-reflection. No one dared to laugh.
4 “Can we afford another child?”
Men also said that something that they often felt more than women – or at least not just on an emotional level – was the need to provide for their families. When the family struggled, it was not just them going through a ditch, but they felt responsible and as if they were not doing their jobs as providers.
While having an addition to the family was very exciting on an emotional level, they also saw the child on another level which involved number crunching. As a non-first-time dad, they were more scared than they were first time around because they now had a realistic expectation of how expensive children were.
It was no longer guess work or forecasts because they knew firsthand how expensive kids were. Some of the costs listed were:
- Diapers (especially because children did whatever they wanted when they wanted and if they were constipated and didn’t, it was not a saving, but an extra medical checkup cost).
- Unplanned doctor’s visits (almost everything is an emergency when children are involved).
- Childcare (especially when you want the very best for your baby even though it comes at a hefty price).
- Babysitters (much needed date nights, attending weddings and outings for two adults meant hiring babysitters).
- Food (even though children ate smaller portions, their food and nutritional needs were different to the rest of the family and so much more expensive).
With the first child, they assumed it would not be that expensive and was probably overrated, especially considering that there were so many babies out there. However going at it again meant that they were in some ways more prepared to adequately stress about it with valid reasons.
The non-first-time dads I spoke to didn’t want to be identified because they feared that in speaking out, society would see them as either not being man enough to provide for their households or that they were selfish. They felt that they were not allowed to say that the child was a costly expense, especially to their spouses because they didn’t want to cause tension or be misquoted.
3 "Am I doing it right"
When you are a first-time dad, you are excused for making a few mistakes here and there. Non-first-time dads were scared of repeating the same mistakes or perpetuating bad habits with their second child and the rest after them. There was a fear and need of reassurance, especially from their spouses.
The top ten points listed where non-first-time dads had concerns were as following:
- Is it supposed to be so damn difficult?
- Do I think my own dad would be proud of me?
- Why is she not prioritizing sex anymore? Could it be that she is no longer as attracted to me?
- How do I go about not picking a favorite child or at least not showing that I have a favorite?
- I sometimes give in to tantrums for the sake of peace. Will I be able to cope now that it’s more than one?
- Am I actually doing this fatherhood thing right?
- Where do I draw a line between being a friend and disciplinarian?
- This fatherhood thing is not as easy as I thought…
- She keeps wanting even more kids. Am I selfish for not wanting more because I think they are expensive?
- I get so tired sometimes and wish we never had kids in the first place.
Being a non-first-time dad called for an evaluation to see if you were doing things right or just perpetuating a messed up cycle. There was a lot of fear and guilt because many felt that as men they were responsible for everything that went on in the house. From the finances to the spiritual well-being and tone set in the house.
Some of the fears were also bordered on things that were beyond their control. One dad said he felt guilty because he realized that if forced to pick which child to lose, he would do it under duress. He felt awful and like he was not being an unconditionally loving father. What was ironic was that this thought that had led him to so much guilt originated from a movie he watched and then dreamt about.
2 "Will her stretch marks ever go away or will they grow even more as we keep having kids?"
One thing I did not anticipate while writing this article asking for the views of non-first-time dads, was for them to turn around and ask me about… stretch marks! I could not believe it, but used it as an opportunity to find out more about the men and what they were feeling and fearing.
As a black woman, and probably a woman in general, I never thought of stretchmarks as being a big deal. Surely you are aware of them and even though I currently wear “small” and can even sneak into “extra small”, I too have a bit of them here and there. Yes, one does try to use this and that cream, but they are part of life.
That being said, one must admit that they have a way of being prominent when one is pregnant or after one has had a baby or lost significant weight quickly. I was however shocked to note that stretchmarks can actually be a big fear for non-first-time dads! In our conversation one subtly snuck them into the conversation. Another seemingly relieved that he didn’t come up with the topic added to the conversation.
Here are some contrasting stretch marks related fears/comments non-first-time dads raised during our informal chats:
- I hate how the stretchmarks have caused her to doubt herself. She’s beautiful.
- How do you make them go away?
- Why do they not bother her?
- They just appeared as the pregnancy went on and stayed. Are they going to get worse and worse with each child?
- Will going to the gym and exercising get them to go away?
- Tell me more about those lines…
- Is it normal to have them all over and not just on your tummy?
- I fear that if those lines persist, I will have to subtly prevent her from wearing a bikini (even though I know she wears a bikini for me). I still love her and find her sexy, just people stare and that makes her feel self-conscious. So I’d rather have her covered up.
- I don’t find stretch marks to be sexy.
- Why don’t the women on TV have those stretch marks even though they have children too?
- What ointment should I get her?
- I really want her to do something about them, but I don’t say anything because I love her and don’t want to hurt her feelings.
- Do they really not bother her? Am I the only one bothered that my sexy wife is all lined up with dimples and stretch lines?
- How do I show her that I still love her even with those stretchmarks and will spend my life so grateful to her for bearing our children? Stretch marks are so insignificant.
- Thanks to stretch marks, the light is always off.
1 "What about my boys’ night?"
Does being a non-first-time dad signal the end of your boys’ nights and time out with your friends? These men already felt so much loss of control with the children coming in and changing everything around. Their relationships with spouses changed, there was a lot more crying and noise in the house and finances took a strain in most instances.
There was a fear now that there was more than one child; that their lives and social interactions with friends would stop. One even expressed that he thought he was doomed to carrying baby bottles, massaging swollen feet and burping babies all his life. They felt that they needed a break at times, not to run away, but rather to catch their breath.
“After two days of having a new born baby screaming all day and night, my girlfriend begging me to stay up and rock the child with her all morning and not being prepared in time for a big work meeting which resulted in my manager almost firing me, I went to the bar and had a few beers and came home drunk very late.
“I was not even out with my friends, I just went there, tucked into some peanuts and kept the beers coming. I knew money was very tight and that she would be mad, but I did not expect her to pack her bags, take the baby and move out while I was out at work the following day. It’s a miracle that she took me back. Now that child two is on the way… I don’t even want to say it, but I worry if boys’ night out will be a selfish act,” said Nick, a teenage father.
According to Nick, his decision to spend money on beers and not come home to help even though he was overwhelmed caused the family to see it as proof that he was irresponsible and a bad partner and dad.
His main concern was whether or not going out with his friends would cause him to indefinitely lose all his children because no one took his side or tried to understand that he felt like money would be tight for at least the next 18 years and getting a few beers on his own or with friends was not as bad as others made it out to be.