What to expect when your partner is expecting...
Having a baby is, more often than not, a joint venture, long after the point of conception. Exciting as it may be, bringing someone into the world and caring for them once they're here is the biggest job you're ever likely to undertake, and it is something you and your partner are much more likely to succeed at if you both share the roles and responsibilities of parenting.
Reacting To The News
If you've been trying for a baby, or feel 'ready' to start a family, you're bound to be delighted at the news that your partner's pregnant. But in reality, many pregnancies do come as a complete surprise, and the shock news can leave you reeling. You are not the first man this has happened to! What is important is how you deal with it.
The last thing your partner needs is to feel pressure or blame. By all means discuss your trepidations with her, but in a loving and sensitive way. Although the baby will bring enormous upheavals to your life, they are bridges best crossed when you come to them, and worrying throughout the pregnancy creates stress and resolves nothing. The most valuable thing you can provide your partner and child with are love, and that costs nothing.
Your New Baby
Babies howl when you first change their nappies. Babies clothes are a pain to put on/take off but remember, the more you faff, the more the baby will cry so be bold and sure. For the first few days, nappies are foul and full of a tar-like substance that sticks to everything it touches. They get better, but smellier after that (you will not believe how much you will talk about the colour of poo from now on).
Although a baby might seem like it cries for hours, it might be crying about different things. EG: The baby's been fed and starts to howl so you burp him. It continues to howl, so you change the nappy. It still howls so your partner has to feed it again. To you, it's an hour of solid crying, to the baby, it's crying for three different reasons.
Babies are tough - don't be afraid to handle them, just make sure you support the head. And remember – all babies are different. Some of them will prefer to be held facing down, over your shoulder, etc… just try different positions and see which they like best.
All babies are different so don’t get hung up on any one piece of advice about what you should/shouldn't be doing. What is good for one baby will not necessarily be good for another – remember that they are just little people. If you are hot and bored – they probably are too – if you don't smile at them – they won't smile at you.
Supporting Your Partner
An important part of your role as a father begins before your child is born, and that is providing your partner with support. It's easy for a father to feel alienated from the pregnancy as your partner is likely to have her health care professionals, friends and relatives gathering round and sometimes pushing you out.
Many dads find it difficult to get a look in. But it is your child too, so don't skulk in the background. Take the initiative and be as actively involved as possible. If you can, take time to attend the antenatal appointments with your partner, and discuss with her what she would like your role to be in the birth. Help her with her birth plan and find out ways in which you can make her pregnant months a pleasurable, relaxing time.
Breast-feeding is very hard work. Supply water, fruit, treats and make encouraging noises.
The new mum will probably get a few nights/weeks of rational and irrational fear, tears and emotions. Be strong, supportive and encouraging. Basically try and agree without question certainly at first – even if you are not sure that is the right thing – if it's not harming anyone don't argue!
Just because she's given birth, that doesn't mean that she has more experience at looking after the baby or has all the answers. Try and solve the problem yourself. Don't just hand the baby over at the first sign of tears. After the birth, women's bits will hurt both front and back. Be sympathetic. If she has a Caesarean section – everything will hurt. Remember it is major surgery. She will need help with everything.
At least once every other day compliment her on making progress toward getting her figure back- however well she's doing!
Going through the pregnancy together will prepare your relationship for parenting. Doing practical things as a team, like preparing baby's room and making a birth plan, will be enormously reassuring for both of you. It will make you feel like you're 'getting ready'. Make sure you know what to pack her for hospital in case it's down to you in event of an emergency.
This is also a good time to share everyday things like housework, cooking and shopping as you gear up for family life.
And it's vital that you lay down good foundations for your future relationship, as children will tend to test it at some point! Do this by being gently open and honest with each other, discussing any issues or concerns as they arise, whatever they may be. Those channels of communication are going to be a lifeline to both of you for years to come. So start tending to them now.
Surviving The First Few Months
Try to limit your visitors, as you'll be knackered most of the time. When you get home you will need to concentrate on what you are doing for at least the first couple of weeks.
If friends/family are coming to visit, ask them to bring food with them (and make their own cups of tea). You've got enough to do. Don't be a martyr or afraid to ask for help. It is tough.
Persuade your partner to stay in her PJs. That way guests are more inclined to help out and not stay too long.
If you can, get people to help with the chores, laundry, washing up, cleaning. It makes a HUGE difference to your partner's (and therefore your) peace of mind.
Make sure you've got always got a kettle full of boiled water available. It's unbelievably useful for everything. Have a muslin cloth handy especially if you're going to handle the baby just before going to work. If not, you’ll have to change your shirt when it pukes.
Bathtime – don't get too hung up on this. They don’t need a full bath every night. Support their heads by holding them under one arm. Don't have the water too hot but also don't get so paranoid that you make it too cold. As they get older try and make it fun and they will enjoy it. There are lots of things on the market to help – baby baths (buckets and chairs), big baby sized sponges, etc.
Take the baby out for a walk. It helps them gets some fresh air and lets mum have a rest. Take them in a baby carrier and go for a coffee. It's amazing how much attention and admiration carrying a little baby gets. As a new father, learn to milk it!
Changing nappies – hold their legs in the air like a chicken – they will otherwise just kick in the poo. They like to wee and poo into the clean nappy. Try putting the clean nappy under the dirty one and then pull the dirty one after you have cleaned them otherwise they are likely to poo on the changing mat/table/floor. Also try different types of nappies – they may prefer different ones or they could fit better. Watch out for nappy rash – very painful for them and bad for your ears. There are lots of creams available which are can keep using to prevent it rather than just to treat it.
Cloth nappies are no harder to change than disposables so they're worth a go. And if all this seems daunting, the first smile/laugh makes it all worthwhile!