5 things every dad needs to know before the birth of their child
It’s Monday so its guest post time again so I hand over to Bec and her latest post on 5 things every dad needs to know before the birth of their child.
Since having the Baba bu I’ve reflected long and hard on the differences in terms of support and indeed experience of being a parent that men and women have.
As a woman, you’ve carried the baby around with you for 9 months. You’ve been thinking about baby things all that time, reading, attending classes, talking to friends and generally preparing for birth (and panicking a bit about what comes after!).
As a man, or certainly as my man, you’ve seen your woman grow a bump, you’ve touched it and tried to get your head around the fact theirs some weird fruit sized creature in there that is partially of your making. You’ve felt it kick. You might’ve read a book or a few blogs; your mates have joked with you at the pub about how awfully your life is going to change, you maybe went to the first few midwife appointments and were, in the main, ignored, as they talked predominantly ‘to mum’. You’ve maybe done NCT classes but probably not the NHS birth prep ones cos they happen when you’re at work and there’s really only so much time your boss is going to accept you dipping out of the job for.
So even before the baby is here there’s actually a staggeringly gendered divide in experience, some of which is obviously unsurmountable. But below is my manifesto for the sort of preparation and support I think should be in place for dads-to-be…..
Bottle feeding and soothing for boys
We’re all down with the ‘breast is best’ rhetoric but I think there needs to be more focus on expressing (for women too), including how to, when to, how much to etc., and then on how, as a dad, you should administer a bottle to your baby. Knowing how to do something and what the logic is behind doing it that way would be super helpful. We all know it’s a good bonding experience to feed the baby, why are we not doing more in the pre-birth prep to put this in as an expectation for our men and train them accordingly?
What happens to your woman
I ended up having a frankly awkward conversation with my partner about the devastating impact bringing forth a life into this world could potentially have on my body. He listened, somewhat mute with shock, about the likely stitches, the 6 weeks of bleeding afterwards, the certainty of stretch marks, the recommendation that we don’t have sex for at least 6 weeks after, the fact it would possibly hurt me the first few times we made love afterward. He knew none of this. I heard one man describe the physical impact on his wife as being akin to having his favourite pub firebombed. Savage. Oh and that’s before we even start to consider the emotional challenges and changes….
Where to turn for advice/help
When I was pregnant I was given no end of information on where to turn to for support – and that was in addition to the NCT group, the girls I met during preggo yoga, my own girlfriends who were already mums etc., but not once did anyone pass over a leaflet to my partner saying ‘Here you go mate, we meet in the back room of the pub twice a week, straight after work, if you want to pop in for a pint and a chat’. Not once. Why is that exactly?
The Return to Work challenge
So men get a couple of weeks paternity leave and of course they can share in the maternity leave allowance if needs be (how many ACTUALLY do that? Where are the role models? Do we see this behaviour on telly etc.,?).
But in the main after two weeks of being totally absorbed in this new life, as a man you are thrust back into the world of work, where you are expected to function exactly as you did before, work the same crazy hours, attend the unofficial after work meetings in the pub and do it all often on broken sleep.
Meanwhile back at home the love of your life is trying to get her head round the enormous changes to her daily routine (routine??? Ha!) and she feels adamantly that her man ‘has it easy’ and just ‘doesn’t get what she’s going through’.
In addition to this, your bundle of joy can be a bit crochety with you as you become more of stranger to her/him, so that it becomes quicker and easier for mum to do things for her/him (how annoying for her), or to tell you what she needs (how annoying for you) and so the resentment builds.
Where, I ask you, is the preparation and support for both parties, but especially the men, to handle that???
How devastatingly and amazingly in love you’re going to feel with your new family
To be fair, nothing can prepare you for this. This is the golden glue that holds you together when all the other chaos is happening. It’s something you can’t stop and it’s something society can’t deny you. This one you have to experience all by yourself….
So come on NHS, NCT, any other parent support groups, when are you going to add these modules to your classes???
Next week its your “8 point survival guide to breastfeeding”