Be the perfect partner for a pregnant woman; DADS-to-be, listen up. There's a book on the market which tells you all you need to know about the next nine months. And it'll make you laugh too, says SAM WONFOR.
FIRST things first. Mark Woods' book, Pregnancy For Men, has nothing in common with the film Junior, starring Arnold Schwarzeneger. I felt the need to make that clear from the off following three consecutive comments from male colleagues, which all referred to the 1994 comedy in which Arnie's character undergoes a male pregnancy in the name of science.
This book is not about men who get pregnant. Because men don't get pregnant, do they? They don't have to go through the emotional and physical rigours of bearing children - the mood swings (although one could argue they do experience them); the swollen feet; the itchy bump; the sleepless nights; the need to pee 86 times a day and, of course, the birth.
But as they're not actually capable of doing any of the above, you can't really hold it against them.
Mothers-to-be can, however, get pretty hacked off with their male counterparts if they don't try to empathise, understand and (as a matter of course) offer foot, back and neck massages on demand.
To prevent any bad feeling of this nature, may I suggest that any prospective fathers out there bag themselves a copy of this friendly, funny, informative and accessible nine-month guide to pregnancy.
"The book is all about the woman," says 35-year-old Mark, who grew up in Coventry but comes from good Easington stock. "It's called Pregnancy for Men, but it's all about what the woman goes through and what you can do to be of use."
Written after Mark became a father for the first time to the now three-year-old Stanley, the book uses the experiences of scores of first-time dads, as well as up to the minute research and statistics, to tell men in no uncertain terms what they can expect, what their partner is going through and what they should be doing during any given month.
"When we got pregnant with Stanley, Sarah's bedside table was chocka with books about pregnancy ... and mine was empty, aside from a glass of water," says Mark.
"The books she had were great and of course I read them too - they're not gender specific - but there was nothing really written for me as a dad-to-be. So I thought I'd write one."
Flicking through the book, which is broken up into digestable monthly chunks, it seems like Mark must have been the perfect partner for a pregnant woman. So understanding of the mood swings, so thoughtful to change the bed without being asked, so well organised to book the antenatal classes at month seven. The glowing list is long.
Mark, who is currently working on a sequel, offering a 0-3 guide for dads, laughs at the assertion.
"This book isn't a diary of our pregnancy, although my wife probably wishes it was. I found out about a lot of it after the event.
"But little things like making the bed and the massages, and making sure there aren't lots of obstacles for your partner to trip over when she's going to the loo 18 times during the night, they all make a difference."
No excuses second time around though, as Mark found out recently when the couple welcomed baby Louie six weeks early.
Since the book came out earlier this year, Mark, who is the youngest of seven children, says he has had great feedback from both sexes.
"I think women approve of it because it's not one of those laddish books. It is for men who want to get involved." And who don't want any full colour photography, I offer. Mark laughs.
"I suppose, but also I think men like it because it has been written with humour and still includes all the important info they need to know. I've also tried to dejargonise the whole experience.
"There are plenty of excellent of books for women to read. Hopefully, this is a good one for the men."
SOME WORDS FROM YOUR FELLOW MAN Donald, 34, father of two: "We used the most foolproof broadcasting method there is when we wanted to get the news of our pregnancy out there - we told my sister."
Jim, 34, father of one: "I definitely showed signs of a sympathetic pregnancy. I had headaches during the first few months and became exhausted on doing the slightest thing.
"That has continued after the birth too, but that's probably more to do with being actually knackered all the time than any phantom response. I also had dreams of having a baby, physically. Not sure if that is phantom or weird."
Nick, 35, father of two: "We attended one (antenatal) class - and it was not a good experience. I had to hold an item picked from a bag and explain why it was relevant. I got a plastic pear. It apparently meant that I had to remind my wife to eat lots of roughage after the birth to ensure she was regular. I didn't go again."
TIRING TIME Author Mark Woods and his first child Stanley