Congratulations, you’re going to be a dad. Your life is about to change forever and you’re probably on a steep learning curve. I’ve outlined below a few nuggets that I hope you’ll find useful. It’s not always going to be easy as a parent but it is incredibly rewarding. I wish you, your partner and your offspring the very best of luck!
Mark your territory
When your child arrives you need to be there for both mother and baby. You may come across individuals, possibly even close family members, that freeze you out of the scene because you’re not the child’s mother. Their actions are probably well meant but their views on parenting are antiquated and they see it as women’s work.
As a father you are more than capable of changing nappies and no matter whether it is 0300hrs or 1500hrs you can bottle feed your child. You’re also perfectly qualified to bathe your child, take them to see the health visitor and so on.
Do not let anyone tell you otherwise and do not question your own abilities. Aside from breast feeding you are capable of doing everything with your child that mother can do and you can do it to exactly the same standard. One other thing, be prepared to do all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing etc. following the birth. You may have help from friends and relatives but running the household will fall on your shoulders while your partner recovers.
Write a birth plan
Write a birth plan for the three most likely outcomes; natural birth, forceps delivery and caesarean section. Get to know this plan intimately. Some people say birth plans aren’t worth writing because every birth is different and the unexpected is guaranteed (see below). I disagree and think birth plans are vital.
It’s true, you can’t plan for every eventuality in the delivery room but you are your partner’s advocate and you need to know what her wishes are. It’s very difficult for your partner to tell a medical consultant what pain relief she wants while having a contraction and puffing on gas and air. In these circumstances it will be your job to make clear to the medical team exactly how your partner wishes to be treated and that’s easier if it’s written down in black and white.
The unexpected will happen
Even if you have an exceedingly detailed birth plan, accept the fact that each and every birth is unique and the unexpected is inevitable. The labour could be much quicker than anticipated, baby’s heart rate could fluctuate, your wall-flower of a wife may scream and make noises you’ve only heard in horror films, you just don’t know.
Whatever happens, just let the midwives do their jobs. Keep in mind that a midwife has to deliver 40 live babies plus their placentas before they are considered fully qualified. Even a student midwife is, therefore, pretty damn knowledgeable. Unfortunately there is little that you can do during the final stages other than reassure your partner and let the professionals do their job. Keep calm, keep out of their way and do whatever the professionals ask of you.
Allow standards to slip for a while
After the birth, just concentrate on the important things in life and let standards slip. I mentioned above that ironing would be your responsibility. That was a joke. Your child and partner need you more than you need a freshly ironed shirt.
Following the birth of our second child, we didn’t have a sheet on our bed for nine whole days. Every night we pulled back the duvet to reveal a mattress protector and no sheet. Yet again we’d gone for an entire day and simply forgotten to put a sheet on the bed. At night we just crawled into bed regardless and slept. Those few, valuable sheet-changing minutes were instead spent with our children and it was time well spent.
Intimacy will happen again (eventually!)
You’re probably wondering when your sex life will get back to normal. Don’t fret, you will have sex again but you need to be realistic; there will not be much love making in the short term and it will take some time for this most intimate part of your life to evolve and adapt to your new circumstances.
I hardly need to tell you that your partner has to recover from the physical trauma of the birth. What few new parents appreciate is the impact of post-birth hormones. To be blunt, these chemicals temporarily affect a woman’s libido and unfortunately not in the way you would like them to. I was once in conversation with a sex therapist (not as a patient I should add) and she was even more blunt saying that; “it’s all about the hormones, hormones, hormones.” Add to this the fact you’re both going to be knackered and you’ll see why life isn’t going to be one big, post-baby love-in.
You will probably find that spontaneity is difficult when you are looking after an infant. You may even find you have to plan your intimate moments around your child’s nap times.
Look at the positive side though; consider all the people you know with children. Very few of them just have the one. Based on this strong anecdotal evidence, you can rest assured that most people’s sex lives recover following the birth of a child!
Enjoy being a parent
Being a parent is hard work and you’re going to make mistakes along the way. So what? Every parent finds it tough and every parent makes mistakes.
There are also many upsides to being a parent. You’re joining a club that most people are a member of or at the very least can relate to. As a result you will meet new people and make new and lasting friendships.
Being a parent is also very rewarding. You have many special moments to look forward to; first spoken word, crawling, walking, first day at school and so on. Enjoy it while you can because one thing you’re going to learn very quickly is that your children grow up with terrifying speed.
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