Nurture Article | The Portland Hospital Parenting Magazine
Autumn/Winter Issue 2014 | Becoming a Dad
A dad in the delivery room was once a taboo. However, today, the journey from the first scan to childbirth is a more inclusive experience for men.
But many still end up daunted by the prospect of impending fatherhood. So what’s it really like having a baby if you’re the daddy?
John Adams is a stay-at-home father to five-year-old Helen and Elizabeth, aged 19 months, while his wife works full time. He is also one of the UK’s ten most influential dad bloggers. His site Dadbloguk.com chronicles his experiences and is read by several thousand people a month.
John says: ‘It makes sense for dad to attend ante-natal classes, read up on childbirth and visit the delivery suite prior to the birth (a visit is standard practice at most hospitals).
‘In my opinion, dad needs to know about the experience and his partner’s wishes so he can act as an advocate for her. It is, after all, difficult to tell a midwife whether you are comfortable or not mid contraction while puffing on gas and air.
‘Many people will tell you a birth plan is pointless. I strongly disagree. You should write a birth plan with your partner and get to know it inside and out. ‘It’s true, things can move very quickly in the delivery room and the medical team might not be able to adhere to every single wish your partner has stated. If, however, you have a birth plan then people will know your attitude towards pain relief, for example, and whether dad is to cut the umbilical cord.’
John sees the greater involvement of dads in their children’s upbringing as wholly positive. ‘If you hear men of older generations talking about their children, they often didn’t know them,’ he says.
‘Everything was left to the mum and womenfolk of the family, and society had very low expectations of fathers.
Thankfully that has changed. ‘I was at home for several days while a builder was doing some construction work on our house. The man was in his sixties so I thought I’d better explain why I was always at home with my daughter.
‘Expecting to get a rough-ride, I was very surprised when he said, ‘I wish I could have done what you’re doing. I didn’t see my kids growing up, I was always working’. After the birth, John advises letting standards slip for a while. ‘Concentrate on your family and let the small things go. When my wife returned from hospital following the birth of our second baby, we went for nine days before putting a full set of sheets on the bed.
‘We were so tired and so wrapped up in our expanded family we just kept forgetting to do it. It sounds very slovenly but so what? Did anyone get hurt? No, we just spent those valuable few minutes with each other instead of doing mundane housework.’
Here Mr Emeka Okaro, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at The Portland Hospital, answers 10 questions every dad should ask about pregnancy and childbirth.
1. What can I do to help during pregnancy?
This can be an exciting and confusing time for dads-to-be and some end up feeling like a bystander. Prepare yourself by talking to other dads or reading parenting guides. And if you smoke, this is a good time to quit: second-hand smoke is bad for pregnant women and babies.
2. Can we continue to have sex?
Your partner may want to have more or less sex than before - let her guide you on what she feels comfortable with. Try different positions that avoid deep penetration. Do remember that sex won’t hurt your baby.
3. Should I go to all the antenatal checks and classes?
These will help you and your partner share the experience. She’ll appreciate you being there and you’ll benefit from knowing what’s going on. Your job during labour is to provide a calm presence, so it’s essential to be informed about what to expect.
4. Why are her moods so up and down?
Mood swings are common during pregnancy. Your partner is facing all sorts of hormonal changes, may be anxious about the future and is carrying a growing life inside her, while also coping with work and domestic demands. So, if she’s tired a lot of the time, teary or irritable, don’t take this personally - she needs your support.
5. What do I need to know about pain relief?
Your support is the foundation for effective pain relief. The options include use of the birthing pool, gas and air, medication or an epidural. Your midwife/obstetrician will guide and support you to make the right choices as labour progresses.
6. How can I prepare for the birth itself?
Make sure you’ve planned the route, know where her hospital bag is stored and have a relative/childminder on standby (if you’ve already got children). Discuss your partner’s birth plan so you both know what she wants - one of your key roles is to be her advocate during your child’s birth.
7. Should I attend the birth especially if it's a Caesarean?
This is a matter for you and your partner to discuss. These days, most dads are there even with a C-section and you can help support her during labour which can last anything from two to 20 hours. Your support and encouragement is vital. Patience with helping the baby to latch on to the breast is important.
8. How can I be of assistance with breastfeeding?
Encourage her to drink plenty of fluid as the true milk production starts after 48 hours. Help her persevere with feeding as the colostrum fizzles out. Her nipples may become cracked and sore so do take care.
9. What happens if I don't bond with my child?
You may be more concerned about supporting your family rather than excited about the birth. This is perfectly normal. Don’t panic if you don’t feel an instant rush of love when baby arrives. Instead, find quality time to bond with your newborn.
10. How soon is it ok to begin having sex again after childbirth?
Every woman is different - for some it may take weeks, others months. It’s best to wait until the post-birth bleeding has stopped and she’s had her six week postnatal check-up. If you have sex before this, there’s a risk of infection because her uterus is still healing.