There is absolutely nothing to equip you with the challenges you are about to face in your journey of fatherhood. However, correct advice and support will prepare you to embark on this joy ride as a Dad.
1. Supporting your Partner through Pregnancy
It is an extremely important job to support your partner during her pregnancy. Childbirth and the processes associated with pregnancy take a toll on a woman’s physical and emotional health. Therefore, helping her during this phase will benefit her and the baby as well.
Generally, it is a good idea not to announce the news of the pregnancy till the completion of the first trimester. This period can be implemented to accommodate yourselves to the idea of being parents and come up with strategies to manage the changes the new baby will bring. You need to involve yourself throughout the pregnancy. For instance, you can accompany your partner to the doctor’s appointments or pick out baby equipment together. When your partner experiences mood swings and morning sickness, encourage her to eat tiny amounts at small intervals.
The second trimester
The symptoms related to morning sickness will ease with the advancement of pregnancy. During the second trimester, you need to think seriously about finances. Encourage your partner to have a healthy pregnancy, which includes doing physical activities, doing away with smoking and drinking, and so on.
The third trimester
During this phase, your partner will have to go for more check-ups. Accompanying her will enable you to hear the baby’s heartbeat and get a grasp of what is going to happen during birth. Since this stage can get extremely uncomfortable for your partner, you can help her gain ease via massages and putting in utmost cooperation. Remember, every effort counts and whatever you do will benefit your partner, the relationship that you share with her, and your baby in the long run.
To prepare yourself beforehand, you can talk with other people who have undergone the process recently, watch videos, read about it on the Internet, and attend antenatal classes together. It is a great idea to set up a flexible birth plan for the best way to reach the hospital when she goes into labor. Ensure that you have every other necessary item packed and ready when the time comes forth. As a birth support partner, you are expected to provide physical and emotional encouragement to your partner. If it becomes too overwhelming for you, take slow deep breaths.
Managing your feelings
As a partner, you can also face anxiety and depression during these stages. It is more likely to happen if you have experienced these conditions before or if your partner is dealing with stress or if you have health issues or relationship problems. Maintaining a work-life balance, financial stress, and the struggles of parenting can make it extremely difficult for you to cope during pregnancy and even after that. If you look after yourself, you can take care of your family as well. Exercising and talking to family and friends can help you ease tension.
2. Being a birth support partner
It is a huge honor and responsibility to support a woman when she is giving birth to a baby. Many a time it becomes exhausting, especially when the labor lasts for several hours during the night. It is worth noting that a birth support partner does not always have to be the father. They might be a close friend, a same-sex partner, and co-parent, a sibling, a doula, the woman’s parent, and so on. If you have opted to be a birth partner, you need to give the utmost mental and physical support to the mother. It may so happen that your partner will have to opt for a C-section. Therefore, you will be needed to accompany her to the operating theatre. Since you will be her advocate, you have to take responsibility and convey her requirements to the maternity team.
Expectations as a birth support partner
As a sort of preparation, you can attend antenatal classes and discuss the birth plan beforehand. Each birth is different and things can get messed up sometimes. Therefore, a flexible plan needs to be made. You may discuss your responsibilities as a support person well in advance with the maternity team.
Ways to support the soon-to-be-mother
Before birth, you can help her around the house when she feels sick or tired. During labor and birth, you need to provide her with a great deal of positive encouragement. You may be needed to help her move into certain birth positions or with breathing and coping methods. If she wishes, massage her, wipe her face, and hold her hand.
Looking after yourself
Since it can be a hectic process, you have to care for yourself and take rest breaks whenever it is possible or in the presence of another support person if any. You can bring drinks and snacks for yourself, clean clothes, comfortable walking shoes, and swimwear in case you are to go into a birthing pool or shower.
3. Bringing a baby home
It is a major event in any father’s life. You may take some time to adjust to your new life but it will help to develop your confidence.
Preparing your home for the newborn
A newborn baby does not require much other than diapers and clothes. However, you still have to think of where the baby is going to sleep, where to bathe them, and change their clothes. If you have thought of driving with the baby, you need to arrange for a rear-facing child restraint for your vehicle. Though you can have second-hand equipment, it is best to use a new cot and mattress for the baby.
Tips to become a hands-on dad
After the baby arrives, you can bolster your confidence through involvement in everything related to the baby. You need to learn to dress and bathe them and change their nappies. This process will enable you to bond with your baby and provide a break to your partner.
Getting back to work
Having a proper work/family balance is essential and often it becomes a struggle for several new parents. Therefore, you should discuss the allocation of responsibilities and finances. Also, you can talk to your employer about the working hours and the necessary family-friendly policies if any.
Relationship with your partner
Caring for a newborn is undoubtedly stressful and frustrating, especially if you are a first-time parent. After a certain time, you might experience stress and tiredness. It may so happen that you are feeling left out of the pregnancy. There can also arise differences of opinion with your partner. The best way to overcome any unpleasantness is to talk and listen to each other. You should be able to parent your baby as a team where you solve conflicts calmly and take decisions together. Mothers are advised to not indulge in sexual relationships till their 6-week postnatal check-up. What you can do is support her while she is recovering and share the household chores and work related to the baby’s care.
4. A guide to breastfeeding
Though you cannot directly engage in breastfeeding your baby, your support to your partner through the process.
How you can help
You can take turns to carry the baby in a sling. Bathing your baby is a beautiful way of bonding with them. When your partner is breastfeeding the baby, opt for being her extra pair of hands, that is to say, bring her a glass of water or pillows. During night feeds, take your child for a burp and change their nappy and soothe them back to sleep. It will be a great help to your partner. Since breastfeeding makes a woman hungry and thirsty, you need to encourage her to drink lots of water and supply fruit and vegetables for her to eat.
What one needs to know
In case your partner faces difficulties with breastfeeding, you can encourage her to seek assistance. However, if it is still not possible, do not fret and opt for expressing breast milk. A breastfeeding session can last for around ten minutes to over an hour. Almost all newborn babies feed eight to twelve times a day. Once the baby and the mother have developed a proper breastfeeding system after one to two months, you can give your partner a break and feed the baby yourself through the process of expressing breast milk.
To sum it up, the labor of a woman conceiving for the first time can last for a day at times. It includes her first contraction to the procedures associated with delivery. As a partner, you need to utilize this period to help her be at ease and try and relieve some of her unimaginable pain. Therefore, all focus should be on her. Fatherhood is a huge job and it starts with taking proper care of the mum. There is no predetermined method to anticipate every scenario, so, embrace and cherish each moment of this life-changing event.
This article has been written by Madhurima Bhadra and the opinions expressed herein are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of 9HappyMonths. You can contact the author at email@example.com