Your partner was the leading player in the baby-making process, but he's got a smaller role these days—and may be wondering where he fits in. You get to receive lots of attention and feel your baby's first kick—things he can only process secondhand. "I love when dads ask how they can get more involved," says Joyce Gottesfeld, M.D., an ob-gyn at Kaiser Permanente Colorado in Denver. "It shows that they are invested in their family."
Fortunately, there are lots of opportunities throughout pregnancy for guys to get involved and start forming a strong bond with their baby. Parents readers and experts reveal how to shine some of that spotlight back onto Dad.
When Laura Owens found out she was expecting, her husband, Casey, immediately downloaded a pregnancy app so they could track their developing baby's progress together. "I feel like it makes my baby bump a little more real to Casey, and we have fun talking about how our baby is changing and growing," says Owens, of Alcoa, Tennessee. In addition to apps, you and your partner can read the same childbirth and child-rearing books and discuss what you've learned. You can also work together to compile a list of questions to ask at each of your doctor's appointments.
There's no rule that says men can't participate in baby showers—and have fun doing it! When Wendy and Erik Vlieks, of St. Louis, were expecting twin girls, their family threw a couples baby shower. "Some of Erik's friends from high school and work came, and so there was a lot of ribbing Erik about raising two daughters," Wendy says. "Erik and I opened presents together and participated in the shower games. All of the guys had a really fun time."
Stephanie Waters Glickman and her husband, Phil, attended several prenatal classes together, including childbirth and infant CPR. "It put us both at ease to approach the process as a team," says the Brooklyn mom. Dads-to-be should try to attend as many prenatal appointments as possible. "Seeing your baby on the ultrasound and hearing the heartbeat is a powerful bonding experience," says pediatrician and dad David L. Hill, M.D., author of Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro.
While completing her baby registry, Wendy Vlieks felt there were so many decisions to be made that it was best to split them up with her husband. "He spent hours researching the best crib, car seat—you name it!" she says. "It was a great way for him to contribute to our baby's future safety and well-being." Of course, not all guys love to build things; if yours does, you can put him in charge of assembling the crib and other baby furniture. Work together when you're figuring out how to use the car seat and stroller—because you'll both need to know.
Your unborn child can hear outside sounds—including Daddy's voice. "It's never too early to start reading, singing, and talking to your child," says Dr. Hill. "A man's deep tones will penetrate into the womb, and there are reasons to believe that infants remember the rhythms of both parents' voices after they're born."
You might be short on time and energy, but life certainly won't calm down after your little one arrives. Ask your man to plan some quiet time for the two of you. It doesn't have to be an exotic babymoon (although a last-minute trip—with your doctor's approval—can be a fantastic escape). "It may be a while before you get to the movies or a romantic dinner together, so check out that cool new restaurant or see a film," says Dr. Hill. In addition to recharging and relaxing, you can use this time to bounce around baby names and share your worries, hopes, and dreams for your new family.