How to be a Supportive Partner
My wife had two complicated births and we would have lost both sons had it not been for the quick action of the Consultant. He played a very supportive role throughout the pregnancies and birth of my two sons. He put my mind at ease dispelling the fears and concerns I had about being a First Time Dad. Read my home page on Flourishing Dads
In fact, he encouraged me to attend the birth of my children. Both my sons were born at St Marys Hospital Praed Street Paddington. I can only say that it was the most emotional experience of my life holding a ball of warm energy in my arms.
Babies always radiate warmth, peace, and love and you can only stare at them in wonderment. Such perfection, perfect features in miniature form, from the eyebrows to the toes. It’s very hard to visualize what your baby is going to look like obviously he or she is going to look like you or your partner, get worried if they don’t, (joking of course).
It’s a Boy! Shouts the Midwife
I was just relieved that my baby was a healthy seven pound with a robust pair of lungs to match. Nearer the expected time arrival we always had a case with baby clothing and wife’s clothing in case we had to make a dash to the delivery room. One thing I realized that babies will arrive when they are ready both my sons arrived two weeks earlier.
My daughter was the only one who arrived on time. Like an express train, she shot out like a bullet to the music strains of the famous Jazz Violinist Stephane Grappelli. Not a good choice Dads, please!
I had grabbed the wrong tape when the ambulance came to take my wife to the hospital. We were allowed to bring some relaxing music during the delivery. My wife almost had a fit when she heard the music – I switched it off immediately.
Sorry readers! I was jumping ahead with the third birth. My daughter was the last one to be born in the hospital. You will find that when you attend the birth of your children, each experience will be different but that infinite closeness and paternal bonding will tie you to your children for the rest of your life.
Words can’t describe how I felt when I heard the news I was going to be a Dad. I was ecstatic but scared. I was pulled out of my comfort zone as I had no clue what to do. All sorts of what-if thoughts kept going around in my mind.
I was so wrapped up in my fears and concerns that I almost shut out my partner. We sat down to talk and I realized that my wife also had her own fears and concerns about the new baby.
She Needs Your Help The best way to be a hands-on Dad is to support your partner two hundred percent. Attend prenatal classes together, there is a range of information available on a healthy diet, physical emotional changes your partner can expect during pregnancy. My wife's craving was coke it was more "the taste of the tin" she said. I ran out of coke one night and luckily the garage around the corner was a twenty-four-hour service.
Pamper her, do the housework and offer to massage her feet. As the baby grows she reaches that stage where the baby feels cumbersome and she has to run to the loo quite often.
She will feel tired and needs her sleep. Share your partner’s anxiety, this is where your strength lies and your caring will hold this relationship together
Ensure that you are taking care of yourself as well. Eat and sleep well exercise is a great help. You are going to need it when the baby comes along. There will be the bottle feeding times, the nappy changing times. the bathing times, the teething times. It also helps to talk to other Dads about your feelings. It’s not an easy thing to do, men don’t talk about fatherhood and babies. Times have changed now and men are opening up and having a heart to heart conversation about their personal lives.
There is so much I want to share with you on this wonderful journey of Fatherhood and one post won’t be enough to cover it all. I have included a link to the NHS on Fatherhood for more in-depth information related issues on babies and toddlers. The information is invaluable for Dads. I found it very absorbing reading, and even though I have been a Dad for thirty-five years I am still interested in articles and stories about how we can improve to be better parents.
If you’re the partner of a pregnant woman, the closer the two of you are the more you’ll be able to share the experience of pregnancy and birth. You can look at the information on different weeks of pregnancy to see what happens to a pregnant woman and her unborn baby throughout pregnancy.
In the early weeks (up to around 14 weeks of pregnancy) pregnant women can feel very tired and sick. Certain smells and tastes might make your partner feel nauseous, and she might only want to sleep. She might be irritable about things that seem minor to you. After this, many pregnant women find that much of their energy returns, and she may not want to be given special treatment anymore.
Towards the end of pregnancy (around 27-40 weeks), the baby can feel very heavy. The tiredness and irritability of the early weeks often return, and your partner may start to feel frightened about the birth. If she’s on maternity leave from work, she might feel lonely without the company of her colleagues.
If your partner is anxious, encourage her to talk about it. Many women are more used to listening than being listened to, so it may take a while before she opens up. Be patient. If you can learn to support each other now, your relationship will be stronger when the baby arrives.
Now is the time to start sharing the housework, if you don’t already do so. There are two areas where you can be helpful:
- Cooking – in the early months the smell of cooking may put her off, and if you cook she’s more likely to eat what she needs.
- Carrying heavy shopping – carrying can put a lot of strain on her back, so do the shopping yourself or together
Let your partner know that she’s not alone. Start by browsing through this site with her so that you’re both well informed. The basic health advice is just as important for you as it is for her.
- Eating well is much easier if you’re doing it together – start picking up healthy food habits you’ll want to pass on to your child
- Cigarette smoke is dangerous for babies, so if you’re a smoker, get advice on how to stop smoking – if you continue to smoke, don’t smoke near your partner, don’t offer her cigarettes, and don’t leave your cigarettes lying around
- Go with your partner to the doctor if she’s worried, or be sure to talk it through when she gets home
- Be there if she has a pregnancy ultrasound scan and sees your baby on the screen – if your partner needs to have extra tests, your support is especially important
When your partner is offered blood tests in early pregnancy, you may be asked to have blood tests as well. This is to check whether your baby is at risk of having an inherited or genetic condition, such as sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia or cystic fibrosis. You’ll also be asked about your family history and origin because certain inherited conditions are more common depending on family history.
Find out about antenatal classes for couples, or partners’ evenings. The more you know about labour, the more you’ll be able to help. Most people stay with their partner during labour, but it’s important that you’re both happy about this. Find out what happens in labor and what’s involved in being her birth partner.
If you prefer not to be present, talk to your partner and listen to how she feels. You may be able to think of a friend or relative who could accompany her instead.
Talk about what you both expect in labour, and talk about the birth plan. Fill it in together so that you know what she wants and how you can help her achieve it. Support her if she changes her mind during labour. Be flexible – the health of your partner and the baby is the most important thing, so birth plans sometimes have to change.
Your Feelings and Emotions
Just because the woman is the one carrying the baby doesn’t mean that pregnancy has no impact on you, her partner. Whether the pregnancy has been planned for months or years or is unexpected, you’ll probably feel a range of emotions. A baby means new responsibilities that you may not feel ready for, whatever your age.
You and the mum-to-be may have mixed feelings about the pregnancy. It’s normal for both of you to feel like this. The first pregnancy is a very important event. It will change your life and change can be frightening, even if it’s something you’ve been looking forward to.
Money problems may be a worry. You may face the loss of an income for a while, extra expenses for the baby and, if the mother returns to work, the cost of childcare. You may be worrying that your home isn’t right or that you’ll feel obliged to stay in a job you don’t like. It might help to look at what benefits you’re entitled to and start planning ahead.
It’s also natural to feel left out. The pregnant woman’s attention will be on what’s happening inside her, and you may not have realised how much you relied on her to make you feel cared for.
Sex in Pregnancy
Your loneliness may be increased if she doesn’t want to have sex, which can happen in pregnancy. It varies from woman to woman. There’s usually no medical reason to avoid sex, but keep in mind:
- her breasts may be very tender in the early weeks
- don’t have sex if there’s any bleeding or pain
- make sure she is comfortable – you may need to try out a few different positions as the pregnancy progresses
Find out more about sex in pregnancy. If you’re not having sex, try to find other ways of being close, but do talk about it.
Some partners find it difficult to make love during pregnancy. If you feel uncomfortable about your partner’s changing shape talk about it but be sensitive to how your partner might feel. She may well feel uneasy about her changing body and may be hurt if she thinks that you don’t like her appearance. Confide in friends who are already parents who will know what you’re going through.
Be Prepared for the Birth
This checklist for parents-to-be may be useful for the final weeks:
- make sure you can be contacted at all times
- decide how you’ll get to the hospital (if you have arranged a hospital birth)
- if you’re using your own car, make sure it works and has petrol, and do a trial run to see how long it takes to get from your house to the hospital
- remember to pack a bag for yourself, including snacks, a camera, and your phone or change for the telephone
Seeing Your Baby for the First Time
Watching your baby coming into the world can be the most incredible experience. The midwives may hand you the baby. If you feel afraid of hurting such a tiny person – don’t be. Hold the baby close to your body.
Many new parents experience very strong emotions; some cry. It can feel difficult to go home and rest after such an intense experience, so think through what your needs might be at this time. You may want to tell someone about the birth before you can rest, but then sleep if you can. When the baby comes home (if the birth took place in the hospital), you can expect sleepless nights for some time to come.
Bringing mum and baby home
Learning through play This helps your baby’s growth and development. It’s easy to join a local group or find online support on play ideas and more. Visit CANparent or phone 0808 800 1102.
The best things about being a Dad see Video
You may find that relatives and friends are able to help in the early days so that the baby’s mother can rest and feed the baby. This is especially necessary after a difficult birth. However, you may live far from relatives and your partner may have only you to help, so it’s a good idea to have a week or so off work if you can (find out about paternity leave – if you qualify, you’ll need to apply for paternity leave before the baby is due).
Think about the following:
- too many visitors may exhaust the baby’s mum and interfere with this special time when you are learning about being parents and becoming a family
- you could look after the baby so that the baby’s mum can get a good rest each day
- take over the basic housework, but don’t feel you must keep the place spotless
- try to use this time to get to know your baby – learn to change nappies and bath your baby as well as cuddling and playing with him or her
- if your baby is breastfed, you could bring the baby’s mum a snack and a drink while she’s feeding; if she’s bottle feeding, you could sterilise and make up the bottles and share the feeding
- be considerate about sex – it may take weeks or months before the baby’s mum stops feeling sore, so think about discussing other ways of showing your love for each other until sex is comfortable
- You can find out more about your partner’s body after the birth, including stitches, soreness, and bleeding.
How to Help if Your Partner Feels Low
Some mothers become depressed and need a lot of extra support, both practical and emotional. Make sure you know how to spot the symptoms of postnatal depression and where to get help.
You may also get depressed. Your partner is facing the biggest changes, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your own feelings. You need support, too. Keep talking and listening to each other, talk to friends, and be patient. Life will get easier in time.
Becoming a parent, particularly for the first time, is an emotional experience. By reading all the information in this pregnancy guide, you can learn about what to do to help the mum-to-be be happier and healthier throughout her pregnancy.
Find out about a healthy diet in pregnancy, foods pregnant women should avoid, antenatal care and signs that labour has begun. See Blog Post – Survey on Hands on Dads here
Read my Blog Post – How to Cope with a Set of Twins