It is important for us women to remember that while having a baby is a huge event in our lives, it is also a massive life-changing event for our partners.
The big difference is that they have little control over anything to do with the birth. The opportunities for them to take control are very few and far between – they are often left sitting in a corner watching everything happen around them. Men are conditioned to take a back seat here; after all it is the women’s body and men are told that it is her choice and most don’t want to add to that already overwhelming situation. Feeling that they want to help and be involved, but at the same time feeling a bit sidelined and not knowing what to do can be a tough thing for men to handle.
The first thing I’d recommend is to encourage your partner to do all courses with you. Let him know that you are relying on him on know everything so that when you are exhausted, he can step in and take over. This is a great bonding experience and Dad will feel much more empowered if he understands about breastfeeding and changing etc. Have discussions about how you feel about the birth so that he can be in charge of relaying this to the midwives during labour.
The best thing you can do, as a supportive wife/partner, is to ask Dad how he is feeling and listen to his input on what he is going through.
After the birth, check in on him as well. Understand that watching someone give birth can be pretty traumatic! If you’ve had a difficult birth he may take some time to process it and may well have found it unnerving and frightening. Encourage one of his close friends or family member to take him out and ask how he is doing. If he is anxious, he won’t want to add to your burden and may well bottle it up and look like he is coping on the surface – giving him the opportunity to talk to someone else will be a huge help.
Talk to Dad to find out how he’d like to get involved when the baby is home. Remember he might feel left out. Praise him all the time for doing a great job, even over the smallest thing. Go over the top when he puts the nappy on the right way! It may seem unnecessary but trust me, it will encourage him to do it again!
Put Dad in charge of visitors. Make him aware of the schedule (link) and make sure he knows it inside out and back to front. Put him on ‘bouncer’ duty - it’s his job to tell visitors when to go home!
For further support, check out Dad’s Rock in Edinburgh.
Dad’s: this bit is for you.
We know that at this moment you have no idea what you are doing... your wife will want you to intuitively know what you don’t know! So let me tell you what you need to do right now!!
Before the baby comes, in the last 4 to 5 weeks of pregnancy, do all the things that you (hopefully!) would have done when you were dating. Be romantic! Make mum feel loved; give her a cuddle on the couch every night; rub her feet; run a bubble bath; cook a meal etc etc.
Making her feel loved will increase her levels of oxytocin which makes for an easier birth. (Cuddling every night on the couch has been shown to increase these levels significantly.)
Your partner will absolutely love it if you do these tasks around the house before she has to ask you for it. She will start feeling horrible about herself if she feels that she has to start nagging you to do things that she feels are obvious, for example, the overflowing rubbish bin. The result will be a much happier, cohesive, peaceful household. If you are not sure what chores need doing here’s a quick list:
Make the bed, empty the dishwasher, put a wash on, clean the house, make sure there are always nappies/wipes etc available, empty the bins, maintain a constant supply of snacks and water, make dinner etc.
It’s all boring stuff! But it will make mum feel so loved and looked after. Happy Wife, Happy Life!!