First-time parents are often unaware of the complete change in life and routines that having a baby brings. The new baby will demand the parents’ full attention. All thoughts, talk and actions will revolve around the baby.You will therefore need to prepare as much as possible for the baby during pregnancy. Make room for the baby in your home and buy or borrow all of the basic things that the baby will need, such as clothes and a cot or crib. Think about how you want to arrange day care. Pregnancy is also the time to prepare mentally for the coming life change. However, it is not possible to be prepared for everything – some things will always come as a surprise! Becoming a parent brings a longterm responsibility to care for your baby. Having worries or fears about the baby and how you are going to cope is perfectly normal. Yet, having a baby is one of the most natural and richly rewarding experiences life can bring. Having an open mind will help in solving many questions and problems during pregnancy and after the baby is born.

Fears and concerns

During pregnancy the parents may be worried about many different things: Will the child be healthy? How will I know how to take care of a baby? What to do when the baby cries? Will I make a good mum/dad? Will I love my child? How will we manage financially? A single parent might also worry about being ”shorthanded”and how she will manage alone with the baby.

Even when the pregnancy has been planned, it is quite common that the par- ents have second thoughts at some point. You may be overwhelmed by the thought of being responsible for the life of another human being and wish you could just cancel the whole thing. These feelings are very common and they will pass in time. Find someone who you can share your fears and concerns with. Remember that there is no need to feel guilty about such thoughts and feelings; processing your thoughts and feelings is all part of becoming a parent.

Becoming a mother

For many women, pregnancy is a wonderful and cherished time without any negative experiences or complications. The baby grows in the safety of the womb and the mother can continue with her normal activities. However, as a mother, you will need to review some of your choices and habits concerning food, drink, exercise and rest.You will start seeing things from a new perspective now that you are also responsible for the well-being and healthy development of your unborn baby (see ”Pregnancy and well-being”).

Mood swings

Hormonal changes can bring about severe mood swings in the mother, causing her to become exceptionally emotional, tearful or sensitive. The first pregnancy is especially testing. The pregnant mother needs to be assured and reassured that her partner still loves and supports her. The developing baby exhausts the mother’s energy resources, and she will need a lot of rest. However, pregnancy is a natural condition, not an illness. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with your partner and other close friends will help.

Physical changes

The female body goes through tremendous changes during pregnancy. Skin and other tissues are stretched to their limits. Breasts usually grow during pregnancy by at least one cup size, and the pelvis spreads. The body acquires a feminine softness and lustre – the characteristic “glow”of the expectant mother. The centre of gravity changes as pregnancy progresses and this will affect balance. The changes are great, but they happen slowly as pregnancy progresses. Your general mood depends greatly on how well you will be able to accept these inevitable changes. The father can be a huge support during this time by complimenting the mother on her growing tummy and appearance and by enjoying together the changes that take place as the pregnancy advances.

Pregnancy and the father

Pregnancy and having a baby are demanding for the father as well. He is expected to be supportive and understanding. During the very early pregnancy, in particular, it can sometimes be difficult to understand why the mother is becoming so emotional. If the dad-to-be is aware of the hormonal changes and other pregnancy-related changes, it will be easier to understand the pregnant mother. Attending an ultrasound scan is just as important for the father as it is for the mother: they will both see their baby for the first time. The father may also have questions and doubts about the life ahead of him. Men often wonder if they will be good fathers and a good example to their children, and how the family will cope financially in the new situation. The responsibility may feel overwhelming. Some men may feel the need to savour their ‘freedom’ for as long as possible. It is recommended that the dads-to-be share their feelings with other prospective fathers or experienced dads.

Support networks

For the mother, late pregnancy, childbirth and maternity leave constitute a time when socialising with colleagues and friends decreases. Nursing and caring for the baby at home may make the mother feel isolated, especially if there are no other mothers with babies in the neighbourhood or among her friends. Fathers on long-term parental leave may also encounter similar feelings of isolation. Since there is less contact with other adults than before, great expectations fall on the partner to listen and provide companionship. Start building your social network already during pregnancy and actively seek to make friends with people in the same situation, e.g. with the parents in your antenatal class. Maternity and parental leave provide a chance to make new friends. Find peer support in parenting clubs, parent nights and family cafeterias organised by xxxx. You can meet other parents with young children in parks, playgrounds and open day care centres. Mothers, particularly single mothers, need special attention and support during pregnancy. In addition to friends and relatives, the prenatal clinic’s nurse, a social worker and health care centre psychologist are available to provide support. You can also contact helplines, the child guidance and family counselling centre, or the church’s family guidance centres. Single parents will find peer support from the association for single parents (xxxx). If you are pregnant without a partner, you can invite a doula (a trained support person) to attend the birth.