We asked dads and dads-to-be for a glimpse at what it felt like to learn they were going to be parents—and how they helped their partners throughout their pregnancies. Here are their stories.

Excited Couple Positive Pregnancy Test
Credit: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

So the test came back positive—now what? Sheer excitement? Paralyzing fear? Total shock? Wait, how am I even supposed to do this? Finding out your partner is pregnant can put men on an emotional roller coaster that extends not only past those first few moments but for nine long months. We asked dads and dads-to-be to share their reactions to the happy (but also scary) news, and how they got involved during their partners' pregnancies. Boxes of doughnuts—and subsequent sympathy weight—included.

From exuberant excitement to sudden shock

"I discovered my wife was pregnant at midnight after a long day. I was still working in my home office in our basement, and she started screaming from the third floor; I thought someone had broken into the house or something! I ran upstairs to the bathroom, and she was in the shower—she had just taken the positive pregnancy test. I was so excited, I got into the shower with her—with all my clothes on. I was beyond happy because we had been trying for so long. Then, a few minutes later, it turned to shock when I realized I had no idea how to be a dad. I was with her every step of the way during the pregnancy—rubbing her belly and getting tons of potato chips and milkshakes at odd times throughout the day. We both read a ton of books and I tried to ask as many dads as I could what being a parent was like and what to expect. The best advice I received? Not to worry so much and to just enjoy every moment." —Jim E.

A long, emotional journey gets a happy ending

"I learned we were pregnant accidentally through my wife, Annie's, excitement. We were 'supposed' to wait until I returned home from a trip before she took the test, but the anticipation overwhelmed her. While we were on our nightly goodnight call, I could sense the giddiness in her voice, and, after asking her for the second or third time if she had taken the test early, she finally confessed. It was adorable that she couldn't contain the excitement and I was equally happy. Getting pregnant has been a long, emotional journey for us, and when it finally became reality the feelings were powerful. My role has been that of caretaker—I feel it is the least I can do for the woman carrying our child. This has included long-term preparation for the birth by taking daddy boot camp and setting up the nursery, but it has also included many day-to-day tasks. I have learned to become much more efficient in the daily routine, like doing chores, as well as the daily non-routine, like late-night ice cream cravings. Actually, the ice cream cravings were becoming so routine that I began using the Cuisinart ice cream maker; it has been a life-saver!" —Mike G.

'Are there two in there?'

"Eleven months after moving 1,200 miles away from our families, we found out my wife was pregnant with twins—we already had a 2-year-old. We were shocked and elated, but we wondered constantly, 'How are we going to this?' Two years later we're getting the hang of it, but we still ask ourselves that question weekly. This second pregnancy seemed to be taking a larger toll on my wife than the first. Then, during the first ultrasound, I immediately noticed two little bundles huddled together. The sonographer asked if we had conceived naturally. My wife answered, "Yes. Why? Are there two in there?" She quickly replied that she saw two fetuses with two healthy heartbeats. Excited but nervous, we shared some quiet swearing as the realization kicked in. Twin babies are no joke. 'We'll probably need a mini-van,' one of us said. We were right." —Eric W.

The dead giveaway: She could smell the scotch

"I was drinking scotch downstairs and my wife hollered at me from the kitchen upstairs: 'Are you drinking scotch?' A day or two later at work—we worked together, too—she pulled me into a janitorial closet and told me she was pregnant! We'd had a very early-term miscarriage before that and part of what I learned from that brief stint of pregnancy was the overwhelmingly strong sense of smell that my wife had 'acquired' during that heightened hormonal time. So, because of the scotch comment, I kind of expected the good news." —Kenny G.

The greatest thing he can't remember

"I can remember all the lyrics to the 'WKRP in Cincinnati' theme song. I remember the starting lineup for the 1984 National League All-Star team. Three out of four times I remember my online banking password. For the life of me, I can't remember much about the first—or second, or third—time I learned I was going to be a dad. That sounds horrible, so I'm blaming it on shock. I do seem to recall something involving a sweet card addressed to 'Daddy' that was attached to a positive pregnancy test. My wife and I were 100 percent ready to be parents, so I do know it always felt like the greatest thing that could happen." —Brian C.

Doughnuts, Dairy Queen, and doctor visits

"When the pregnancy test came back positive I had this incredible rush of joy and excitement that we were going to be parents. Being a dad was something I had always thought about, but when reality hits, it comes with a rush of 'What the heck do I know about raising a kid?' fear. Luckily my wife was a calming influence and she read every baby and parenting book she could get her hands on, and I got to hear the important parts—or at least the parts she wanted me to understand. We didn't have to make too many lifestyle changes, but I did find myself gaining weight. Who was I to let her enjoy those doughnut and Dairy Queen runs by herself? I went to all the doctor appointments and birthing classes and gained a lot of respect for the changes women go through during pregnancy." —Chris O.

'I was in disbelief'

"My wife woke me up early in the morning to show me the positive test. I wish she would have waited until I was more awake because it was a lot to take in half asleep! Initially, I was in disbelief. She had a miscarriage four months before; that pregnancy was not planned and when we found out she had miscarried, I cannot deny that I was somewhat relieved, as I felt it was happening too soon. The second time, I still had the overwhelming feeling I was not ready and that this was happening too early. I tried to act excited but deep down I felt sick to my stomach and upset with myself for letting it happen again so soon. But all my fear and regret disappeared at the first ultrasound—and I wish I would have had a more joyful reaction when I first found out, for her sake." —Anthony D.

Fast food for her, sympathy weight for me

"My wife set the pregnancy test on the night-stand next to my contacts, so it was the first thing I saw when I woke up. I was surprised at first, and then extremely excited! She is very independent, so she really doesn't ask for me to do much for her. But I do always make a run for fast food when she wants it—which means lots of sympathy weight for me!" —Chad S.

Research, research, research

"My wife thought she was getting sick because she was stuffy and nauseous suddenly. It was a week after we had tried to conceive and I suggested she take a pregnancy test—it came back positive! I was happy; I knew it would be a relief to my wife to know she was pregnant. My primary role was to become familiar with all the medical tests, procedures, and the cadence of checkups and milestones leading up to and beyond delivery so that I could help our family make informed decisions that were right for us. There is a significant amount of information out there which can quickly become overwhelming, and I found maintaining literacy on pregnancy and birth helped ensure we were fully engaged in the process and felt better about the outcome." —Maurice L.