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Genevieve Vieira
4 minute read
2 Jan 2014
10:21 am

Fatherhood: where does dad fit in?

Genevieve Vieira

You've known the day was coming for a long time, but somehow when your partner says those two little words – "I'm pregnant" – it's a reality check. She's having your child and she's super-excited.

Image courtesy stock.xchnge

Your life is turned upside down and everything becomes about the baby.

During the next nine months, life is a series of ups and downs, and it doesn’t end there as you both prepare for a little miracle to enter your lives. Becoming a father will require a major adjustment and it’s not uncommon to feel panicked. After all, you now have an extra person to worry about, meaning more responsibility, more time and more money.

The problem is, no matter how much advice you accept, you will never fully understand how it feels until it’s your turn. Nevertheless, here are a few tips, taken from Expectant Father’s Guide, that may come in handy.

The unborn baby
Spend quality time with your unborn baby. The emotional bond between parent and child begins in the womb.

Every pregnant woman needs one thing from her partner: support. Never underestimate the value of your presence. Go along to check-ups and show sensitivity to her changing body. She will feel vulnerable and her self-esteem will take a dip, so remember to make her feel loved and beautiful.

Dr Pierre van der Spuy, author of A Happy Brain, told Expectant magazine: “You will not find love and happiness by having a child; you must have love and happiness to give to your child. Your child’s happiness therefore starts even before he/she is conceived. It starts with both mother and father being happy and loving individuals in a relationship of respect, intimacy and support.

Image courtesy stock.xchnge (monigirl)

Image courtesy stock.xchnge (monigirl)

”So spend more time fixing your relationship than fixing the baby room.”

You don’t have to wait for the baby to arrive to experience sleepless nights. As the pregnancy progresses, she may struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position, especially in the third trimester. If you become frustrated, imagine you are the one who is pregnant try to see these nights as preparation for parenthood.

As her hormones change, so will her moods. Listen to what she has to say, show her you understand and do not try to give advice or fix anything. You will need to make some important decisions, such as: should your partner change her job or working hours? Should you move house? What financial actions should you take?

Attend pre-natal classes. These will help prepare you for labour, so you both understand the birthing process and what birth is really like.

The delivery room
The last few weeks of pregnancy are always the worst. It becomes difficult to free your mind of that call, the need to drop everything you’re doing and dash. Enjoy the moment, but be safe when on the road and use your emergency lights. You have more time than you think, especially if it’s your first child.

Ensure that you have spoken about her desires beforehand. During labour you will act as her mouthpiece, informing the staff of her needs. Encourage her and help her breathe through her
contractions.

The moment you’ve both been waiting for and one you’ll never forget is when you see your baby. There is no right or wrong way to react. Take it in as it comes. Don’t be afraid to hold the child – he/she is not a porcelain doll about to break into a million pieces.

Savour the moment and enjoy the start of a new season.

Image courtesy: Stock.xchng.

Image courtesy: Stock.xchng.

Being a dad
Fatherhood doesn’t have to spell the end of fun. In some ways, it gives you an excuse to be a kid again, though with responsibility. If you are feeling confused, don’t worry. Things may feel unfamiliar but no one is born knowing all the answers and there is no substitute for experience.

Work together with your partner, communicate and trade off on childcare responsibilities. Trust your instincts.

It is natural to feel sad about the irreversibility of being a parent. As with most things, in greeting the future, we have to say goodbye to the past. Your partner, with all the hormonal shifts, physical healing and meeting of expectations may feel bewildered and exhausted and will need your thoughtfulness at this time.

You may be feeling left out as she begins providing for the baby’s needs, but help her ease into parenthood, making it a mutual responsibility. Keep visitors away for a while as you settle into your new family.

Babies can be a lot of work, but don’t get so wrapped up in the responsibility that you forget to have fun with your baby. When you play, give your baby your undivided attention. Playing rough and tough (with appropriate concern for the child’s age) is excellent for gross motor development and balance.

Your duties will be to feed, clothe, bath, rock, carry, change nappies, discipline, praise, entertain, educate and impart values on your child.

According to Melodie de Jager, author of Play, Learn, Know: “An involved dad is said to increase a child’s IQ, attention span and sense of humour. While the mother’s love is expected, a child often feels he has to earn his dad’s love.”