A body language expert would love to be an observer during the first five minutes of my antenatal classes for dads. We sit in a circle and for the first minute or so the dads are arms folded, ankles up on the knees, hesitant to speak. They want to be there - after all, they've paid for the classes - but they just feel a little...uncomfortable.
But then we start talking, and within a few minutes the defences crumble away and the body language shifts to the other end of the spectrum. The expectant dads are chatting, laughing, swapping stories and asking questions. (It also helps that there are plenty of biscuits.)
I've been running dads-only antenatal classes for a few months now, in partnership with a local business who provide various courses for expectant parents (and beyond) in the area, and there are a few themes which run through each session:
They really want to be dads
This might sound a bit odd, but allow me to explain. The dads in my sessions - like the vast majority of dads - don't want to just be the father of a child. They want to be dads. They want to get involved, change dirty nappies, be there through the vomiting, the teething and the crying, to wrestle with their son or daughter on the living room floor and to get their hands dirty in every aspect of their child's lives. They're ready, it's just that...
They're a bit worried about the birth
I know what you're going to say. Oh, really? They're worried about the birth? They're not the ones pushing a watermelon through a drainpipe, are they?! Perhaps not: but that doesn't stop expectant dads from being concerned about the big day. Whether it's the risk of feeling useless, or the fear of seeing the person they love most in the world in so much pain and being unable to help, they can't help but feel a flutter of nerves. Fortunately, there's loads that dads can do in the delivery suite to help make their child's birth as straightforward as possible.
They're prepared to be ruthless
If you're a close friend or relative of someone who has just given birth, you might want to check with the dad before you turn up out of the blue for a good look at the baby.
Becoming a father awakens the paternal monster in dads, which means they're quite prepared to throw away any courtesy and niceness to protect the health and sanity of their new family, to the point where they'll happily drive sharpened stakes into the ground around their front door to keep visitors away whilst mum and baby get some sleep.
They're new to this, too
Many dads are wary of letting on that they're not quite sure what they're doing in the first few days and weeks after birth. That's the whole point of dads-only classes: to allow expectant fathers a bit of time to share their fears with each other and know they're not alone without running the risk of looking a bit daft in front of their partners.
Parenting is a steep learning curve for all new mums and dads, and so communication is vitally important. Like they tell you at school, there's no such thing as a daft question, and if you're thinking it chances are the other person is too.
They're not that bothered about sex
Inevitably, the conversation in the dads' classes will turn to sex, and the topic of when a new couple can expect to return to a physical relationship. However, this always comes up right at the end of the class, for the simple reason that most dads aren't that fussed about when they can have sex again.
They're far too concerned with being a dad, and supporting their new family as much as possible. Returning to a physical relationship is an afterthought, and something very much led by the mum - and so don't be surprised if he's not chomping at the bit after a few weeks. He's probably just trying to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
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