• Ben

Thoughts on becoming a father

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

So, it was finally happening. I was about to transition from being a man in a partnership of two to being a father in a family of three. Now there would be another person to consider in my life. What was it going to be like? How would my relationship with my wife change? What was I going to have to do at the birth? How did I feel about being at the birth? Where could I go to get advice and share what I am feeling? What happens if there are complications? Will we have sex following the birth? Will there be any time for just ‘us’ anymore? What happens if my job falls through? Questions followed by more questions.

This is what is what like for me with our first child. I was about to be initiated into fatherhood and no-one had ever told me what it was going to be like. I felt totally unprepared. When I wanted to drive a car, I had to take a driving test and here I was about to become a father with no test to take! How could I best support my wife during the pregnancy and what support could I get for myself throughout this massive personal transition.

Often the transition into fatherhood is rushed and not well prepared for. Our busy lives don’t slow down just because we are about to become a father. So, what can we do to support ourselves and our partners throughout the pregnancy, during the birth and then once the baby has been born?

During the pregnancy is an opportunity for you both to explore your expectations and hopes for the birth. Consider where you want to have the baby, at home, in hospital? Create a birth plan together that details things like who you want at the birth, how you want to set up your space, what type of intervention you would like (if any) amongst others. Writing this down allows you to prepare yourself for the event and provides time to discuss and change things. It’s also a great chance to be together as a couple and share what may be going on for each of you during this time. As a man, the level and type of involvement is never the same as for the woman. I wasn’t having the baby and I knew I wouldn’t be breast feeding the baby either. I wanted to get involved in the planning prior to the big day so I felt included in the overall process. This helped me following the birth as I was already primed!

Use the time before the birth to discuss what you think your approaches are going to be towards various things following the birth. How do you intend to set up sleeping arrangements? Will you be sharing a bed, sharing a room or having your child in another room? In my experience, babies are happier and feel the closeness of their parents, therefore can sleep better if they are in the same space as their parents. What are your intentions around breast feeding and who or what organisation would you call on if you need support? What will the father be responsible for and how will he create intimate time with his new baby? How are you intending to transport your baby, pram or sling? Be aware of any set or learnt views you may have and be prepared to challenge these to create a situation that really works for both of you and feels right deep down.

How are you best going to manage your time away from work. Will you take it all at once or stagger it? Is there any way that you could do some of your work from home? Who else will be around to support your partner immediately following the birth?

As the birth date arrives, agree how you can best support your partner during the birth process. In my experience, focussing on the ‘head’ end of the body works much better than getting engaged in the mechanics of the birth! Leave that to the experts. However much you plan, it’s very likely that even the best set plan will need to change during the birth process. Consider what you may do if the birth takes a while and you or your partner get hungry or the car park meter needs more money. How will you as the partner manage an extended labour. Sometimes taking a five minute break for a quick breather can help in maintaining a level head. During the birth of our second child, my wife was perched on the edge of the loo for what seemed like hours (maybe it was!). This happened to be the most comfortable position for her at that time. All I had to do was massage her lower back. After about 2 hours, I really needed a break. I was feeling full up of emotions and physically exhausted. Thankfully, my mum arrived shortly after and I was able to take a bit of time doing something different.

Remember to best support your partner, you need to make sure you are in a fit state to do so. Be prepared to witness your partner expressing herself in a way that you have never experienced before. There may be occasions when she wants space from you and just wants to be with the midwife or other helpers. It’s best not to take this personally, rather use it as opportunity to take a break and prepare yourself for the next stage!

There may also be times where she won’t want you out of her sight. Supporting your partner at the birth does not have to be a complicated affair. Sometimes, just being there for her to hold your hand or have you massage her back is all that’s wanted. Be responsive to her needs and sensitive to the fact that she may not express herself in the usual polite manner!

Be prepared to feel emotional. I know we men often don’t 'do' emotions very well but witnessing the birth of your child is likely to be one of the most amazing experiences of your life. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and enjoy the experience.

The time immediately following the birth is very special. This is a time for both of you to bond with your new baby and to begin the process of learning his or her routines and ways of communicating with you. Growth of self esteem begins from day one in the way we interact, talk to, hold and touch our baby. Be aware of the way you are with your baby energetically and plan times for time together where you have no other agenda that needs attention. Remember to also plan times for you individually and together as a couple however challenging this may be and however small those time slots are. As a father, I loved to have a bath with our new born at the end of each day. It was my way of having physical closeness with skin to skin contact.

Whatever you read in books, each baby will be unique and will create a unique relationship with its parents. I have found that responding to the baby’s calls for attention as they occur works far better than attempting to stick to a preset schedule for feeding, sleeping, etc.

Often the time following the birth is a time when all the relatives want to be around to visit and as a couple, you may feel the need to look after the visitors. Consider what really works for you both and your baby. In my experience, the time immediately following the birth of my children was a time to almost lock ourselves away and be together with our new child as a family. We were happy to have a few visitors especially those that came bearing lovely meals and were prepared to help out a bit in the house! Putting on a party in the first couple of weeks was definitely out of the question. Spend time being together with your new baby and enjoy this period with minimal interruptions. See if it’s possible to reduce the need to have such a clean and tidy house and focus instead on your own needs for sleep, time with your baby and time as a couple.

Support yourselves in asking for what you want from your friends and family. Remember that for a happy family there is a natural order of needs that must be met, firstly you must take care of yourself, then your relationship with your partner, then the needs of your child or children. Remembering this order will help you promote a happy and balanced family lifestyle.

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