I'm The Daddy Now! - Becoming A Father
Becoming a father can be a scary time. Your wife or partner may appear to be distant, your relationship feels like it's changing, and you've got all the extra responsibility of being a dad. Here are some ideas and suggestions to aid the transition.
Me, my partner and bump!
You've just discovered your partner is pregnant. You may be experiencing pangs of panic or a warm glow of inner peace and expectation. Whatever you are feeling inside, it is likely to be powerful and new to you. Before you head for the hills or start painting the spare room you may wish to take a few points into consideration:
Whatever you are feeling, your partner is also experiencing very powerful emotions, after all it is she who is carrying your baby. Don't focus on your own emotions or needs to the point you forget hers, this is likely to cause misunderstanding and ill feeling between you.
Talk about how you feel. If you feel scared, say so. It's far better to share your feelings than bottle them up, where they will only eat away at you.
Listen to your partner - pregnancy can often leave women feeling vulnerable. Try to make sure you hear what she is trying to say, don't just listen, talk. Ask how she is, be responsive to her and recognise there will be time when you both need space.
By talking and listening, you will both be able to support each other. Understanding why your partner is quiet and unapproachable when she is feeling physically tired and overwhelmed tends to take away some of the ill-feeling that can occur.
This can be a very special time for you both. Watching your partner grow as your baby develops within. Alongside this, however, is the need to be sensitive to your partner's feelings as she grows. Many women embrace and enjoy the coming motherhood and the changes pregnancy brings. However some do not enjoy the changes they experience and often encounter physical pain and discomfort as their body changes to accommodate your baby. Be loving and supportive and try to respond to any unexpected feelings or emotions.
Attend the Ante-Natal Classes - If possible, accompany your partner to the ante-natal classes. These classes are no longer focused purely on the expectant mother, but on you both, and will help you prepare for your new role. Attending the classes will ensure you know all that you need to and give you both a time to learn new skills together. Attending classes will also enable you to meet up with other fathers-to-be, which can help you network support and share your feelings.
Pregnancy can be exhausting - be supportive and help as much as you can.
Sex in pregnancy - Some women feel incredibly sexy during pregnancy. Equally, you may find your partner very attractive as she grows through her pregnancy. Some women may find they feel quite the opposite, as you may do. Whatever you feel, talk about it. Be sensitive as to how you express your feelings - especially if you find your partner less attractive due to the pregnancy, and be respectful of how your partner feels, either way. However you both feel, whether pregnant or not, it is important to remember that sex needs to be something BOTH of you consent to. However if either of you do not wish to have sex, there are alternatives, such as sensual massages, loving cuddles or intimate touching. Do what feels right for you both.
Myths Of Fatherhood
Most of us carry around assumptions about what fatherhood will be like and what it means to be a dad. These assumptions come from our parents, the books we read, the TV we watch and the papers we read. Most of these are assumptions and do not have to dictate how you will behave as a father. There is no single job description for the "good father"; it is more like a role you develop as you go along. Let's look at some of the common assumptions:
The mother's feelings are all that matters. It's easy to become so focused on supporting your partner that you forget yourself. Many men keep their fears and worries to themselves because they don't want to add to the burdens of their partner. Ironically, most women admit they crave this type of conversation. Expectant mothers also get nervous and anxious, and sharing your feelings helps you both.
Newborns don't need their fathers. Your partner and your baby are likely to form an incredibly strong bond in the early weeks and months, especially if she is breastfeeding. Do not let this dishearten you, you are a very important person in the baby's life, and close contact will enable you to also develop a strong bond and benefit you both through the comfort and affection you share.
Men don't know how to care for small children. You may occasionally hear this myth that men are unable or do not know how to care for small children. Many years ago this was an accepted fact, however modern thinking recognises that men are capable of caring for babies and are competent parents. Parenting is something that you learn on the job. The more time you spend with your baby, the more comfortable you will be and more sensitive you will become to your baby's needs.
Men who focus too much on their child lose out on their careers. Society can often tells us that if we want to get ahead in the world we must sacrifice time with our families, and that those that spend excessive amounts of time with their families are less likely to be successful in the workplace. This may have been true at one time. However our society is changing and it is now recognised that men can combine being active fathers with successful careers. In fact some men are actively choosing to trade career advancement for the fulfilment they experience in fatherhood. Remember no one ever said "I wish I'd spent more time in the office" on their deathbed.
You are destined to be just like your father. You are bound to take a long look at your father as you prepare to become one yourself. This type of reflection is not generally a bad thing, however you need to be practical about this. Things change as time goes by and what was OK for parents twenty or thirty years ago may not be viewed so well today. This doesn't necessarily mean your father was bad or good, just different from the way you may prefer to do things. Your father isn't the only influence that has made you who you are; consider teachers, uncles, grandfathers, colleagues and friends. All these provide the ingredients to make you the father you are.
Dispelling the Myths
The myths we have looked at can have a strong impact on how we parent our children. Here are some thoughts that may help...
Give yourself time and space to think about how being a father is affecting you. Talk with your partner - share your feelings and listen to her.
Spend time holding your baby - from birth, hold, cuddle, talk softly, coo and rock as often as you can.
Learn to help - change nappies, help with feeding, bath your baby and be part of all the daily activities when you are around.
Think about compromise - you are likely to need to develop your career, but not necessarily to the exclusion of your family. This may take some serious consideration for those serving in the military, where your posting and drafting can impact on your family time considerably.
Take what you like about your own father, friends and others who you feel may make good fathers. Combine these strengths to develop your own character as a father.
Countdown to E-Day (Expected Due Date that is)
So you've been as supportive as you can be, you've pampered the mother to be, decorated the spare room, and attended the antenatal classes. Ever had the feeling you've forgotten something? Here are some other things to consider...
If you are attached to a unit, ship or establishment, you will need to discuss time-off around the birth. The MOD actively supports fathers being present on or around their child's birth. This is called confinement leave. Although laid down in Naval Regulations, confinement leave cannot always be guaranteed, so the sooner you discuss your need with your line-manager or Divisional Officer the more likely you will get what you need.
If you are due to be absent around the expected due date, consider discussing this with extended family or friends. Your partner will need support, especially if you have other children or have no family in the area. Plan ahead to avoid heartache.
Have you and your partner discussed a birthing plan? Is she intending to have the baby at home, does she want a water birth, and what type of pain control would she prefer? If you discuss these things in advance you will both know what is likely to happen, and are more likely to get what you both want.
More Information: Legal and Disciplinary Matters - Pregnancy
More Information: Pregnancy - Preparing for Baby
Web site:NCT Pregnancy and Baby Care
Web site: National Family & Parenting Institute
The Baby has landed!!
The happy day has arrived and you and your partner are now the proud parents of a bouncing baby. This is probably one of the most joyful, fulfilling, terrifying and stressful times for you as a couple. The demands of parenting a baby places tremendous physical and emotional pressures on you both, and these pressures can have an enormous impact on your relationship. Your partner will still be recovering from the physical impact of the birth and will undoubtedly appreciate as much support from you as possible. Here are some things to consider.
Care from daddy is good for babies - and for fathers. It develops a strong, positive relationship for you both and helps your baby feel more secure.
Babies who have fathers who actively participate in their care typically smile more.
A strong positive relationship with their father can help babies and young children where their mother is depressed or poorly.
Children whose fathers are active in their parenting tend to have fewer problems in their teens.
Between 3 and 10% of new fathers suffer from depression. This often lifts or is reduced when fathers take a more active parenting role. Especially when they are given space and opportunity to spend quality time with their child.
Fathers who get on well with their children are often happier, if not more successful at work and life in general.
Most fathers say they want to be available for their children and to be involved with their upbringing. However some feel they have to wait to be approached by their children or asked for help by their partners. This is another misconception…Being there is being able to get down on your knees and play cowboys, dress up Barbie, or have pretend tea parties. Equally it is the cuddles, hugs and listening to them when they have something to say.
Remember, if you ignore children when they try to say something to you, you teach them to ignore. Undoubtedly your child is likely to demonstrate this skill right back to you in later life if you show it to them enough.
Web site: Babies Direct
Web site: BBCi on Pregnancy
Who Can Help?
You can discuss any problems with your GP or Health Visitor. In an emergency call 999. Additionally, NPFS or RM Welfare can offer support to families experiencing difficulties.
Phone: 0808 800 5000 - NSPCC (24 hr)
More Information: Pregnancy - Preparing for Baby
More Information: Dealing with Parental Stress
More Information: NPFS / RM Welfare
More Information: RNCom Helpdesk
Web site: Home-Start
Web site: Parentline Plus
Web site: NSPCC