Listen, read and reassure.
We are starting a brand new series today on the blog; Dadvice.
Yeah, I know, I didn’t know what to call it, but thought that sounded nice and helpful. Really, it is just advice from dads for dads, on everything from pregnancy to how your relationship with your wife changes after that little bundle of joy appears.
Today, we have Nick on the blog…whose wife’s blog www.stitchesandstretchmarks.
I’m a twenty-something dad of two who uses night feeds as an opportunity to watch wrestling. I’ve swapped Nintendo for Leapfrog and romantic strolls for stomps through muddy puddles. Being a dad is the hardest, most stressful, terrifying, wonderful thing in the world.
What was the most amazing thing about your partner’s pregnancy?
We had early scans with our first son because of some problems, so when we saw his heart beating at the seven week scan it was amazing. We had thought that we were losing him and then there was this tiny flicker on the screen telling us he was hanging on.
What was the most annoying thing?
All of the waiting around at hospitals! There were a few occasions when we were rushed to hospital because the baby was at risk and when you think your world might be ending it seems unthinkable that the rest of the world isn’t willing to drop everything to help you. Then there were the routine appointments where we waited for a scan followed by waiting for the consultant followed by waiting for blood tests… We would spend over half a day in hospital for each appointment.
How did you feel when you first felt your baby kick?
The first time I felt my first son move was the day we had been for our twenty week scan and found out that he was a boy. There had been some complications earlier in the pregnancy and it felt like he was saying everything was okay now.
Did you worry at all through the pregnancy? What about? Why? If you did worry, what did you do to calm those fears?
When we found out my wife was pregnant the first time we thought it was ectopic. Then throughout the first sixteen weeks we thought we were losing him several times. It was terrifying. I became adept at telling my wife that everything was fine, at talking to the baby in her belly, at asking doctors what we could do and how I could help.
What three pieces of advice would you give to expectant fathers to help them and their partners through pregnancy?
- Remember that your partner is going through huge physical, emotional and hormonal changes and that when she’s upset or angry it’s not necessarily personal. Try to calm her down and help her with whatever she needs but never ever tell her it’s her hormones!
- Stop thinking that you’re important. Your baby and your partner are your priorities now and your job is to keep them safe. There will be time to think about you again in the future.
- Listen, read and reassure. Your partner will be worried and scared about a whole host of things but if you’ve got the answers to the common questions stored away then you can help to make it easier for both of you. Also ask questions. Find out what it’s like for her, what she’s scared about, what she wishes she could do differently. It’s an incredible time and you should try to go through it all together.
How did you feel about attending the birth? Did you? What were your reasons behind your choice?
There was no way I would have missed the birth. Not only did I want to support my wife but I wanted to be there when my son arrived. I was nervous about the idea of witnessing childbirth and of my wife being in pain but it could never have been as hard for me as it was for her so I just tried to be as positive as possible.
If you attended the birth – how did you feel and why?
Being at the births of my sons was absolutely amazing. They were both quite different experiences but my role stayed the same – getting my wife through it. The moment you see your child it seems like time is standing still.
What three things did you do to help you and your wife get through the birth experience?
- I was quiet when she needed me to be. If she was talking I’d chat with her but if she was quiet so was I.
- I gave her sips of water while she was using the gas & air.
- I told her when I could see him. By the time each baby was about to be delivered she was feeling like she couldn’t carry on and knowing she was about to meet her sons gave her the strength she needed to help them arrive.
How did you feel seeing your child the first time?
There are no words. It’s like your heart is theirs now.
What were the best items (toys, clothes, muslins, etc) that you had bought for your newborn?
A swaddle wrap that allowed us to swaddle him whilst keeping his hip joints free; vests that buttoned up the front so we didn’t have to take them over his head after nappy problems; two cartons of ready made formula and two bottles.
How did you feel after your child came home?
Strangely calm to begin with, then completely desperate when he wouldn’t settle at all through the first night.
What did you do practically in those early days for your baby and wife? What could you have done differently and why?
I let her sleep whenever I could, especially when she was on strong pain relief, and I helped out with night feeds – although after a few weeks we found that we were all happier if she did them all and I let her have a lie-in.
Did your wife breastfeed or bottlefeed? What did you feel about these choices and why?
My wife tried to breast feed but she was on epilepsy medication and it was affecting our son. Stopping made her feel wretched and I wish I’d known how to support her more. In hindsight I would have encouraged her to bottle feed him much sooner – I did with our second and she was much happier – but she felt under such pressure to carry on. The choices were always hers to make but I loved feeding them so bottle feeding gave me time with them too.
If you had to go back to work after paternity leave, how did you feel? What did you do to help your partner when you did? Do you have any specific advice for fathers that need to do this.
I had two weeks’ unpaid paternity leave so I had no choice but to go back to work for financial reasons. Unfortunately the day I went back coincided with my wife’s SPD flaring and she couldn’t walk. I gathered everything she would need for the day – nappies, bottles, outfits, painkillers, food, water – and piled it up around her before putting our son’s Moses basket right next to the bed. I hated leaving her but I had to keep reminding myself that I was supporting my family.
Looking back, what three pieces of advice would you give to all Dads who have just had a baby?
- Don’t listen to people who say you need time for yourself. If you get some then great, but don’t try to make it. You don’t come first anymore.
- It’s good to ask for help, and it’s okay to put them down somewhere safe and walk away.
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself; you can’t make structured plans anymore. Don’t expect too much of yourself or your baby because things will change without notice – baby will explode out of his nappy or throw up down his sleepsuit right as you’re about to leave the house, for example!
Feelings and relationships
What is the best thing about being a dad?
The privilege of guiding two little people through life and teaching them how exciting the world is.
What is the worst thing about being a dad? Why?
Being constantly worried. About their health, their development, their eating habits, their nappies, their routine…
How has your relationship with your parents changed since having kids? Why do you think this is?
I understand how much my parents love me and I never could have known that before.
What can partners do to make sure that they don’t drift apart after having kids?
Talk. Don’t worry about date nights or romance, just be honest with each other and share the bad bits. Wake each other up and say “help me, I can’t cope” and gain strength from each other. You probably will bicker and fight because you’ll be exhausted and you might not agree on parenting styles but if you expect it and you apologise to each other you can get through it. You’ve made a person together, you can do anything.
How do you feel having a child has changed your partner? If at all. Why do you think this is?
My wife has always been confident and unafraid to challenge people but now she’s fierce. If it affects our boys she won’t give up. But she cries a lot more too!
How does being a Dad make you view the world? Do you look at it differently? If so why?
I see the good in the world and it excites me to teach my boys about it. I read science books so I’ll be able to answer their questions. But I also see everything that needs fixing – sexism, racism, politics, religious dominance, poverty, environmental welfare – and I worry about what the world will be like when they’re grown up.
General advice for Dads
What three pieces of advice would you give the Dads out there for raising their kids; from toddler tantrums to helping mums/dads get some me-time?
- Listen to their mum. It may sound like a cliché but if she’s worried about something she’s probably right to be. She knows them better than anyone and you don’t need to feel threatened by that because your role as dad is equally important, just different.
- Don’t argue over who’s most tired. It doesn’t matter who gets most sleep, you can’t measure tiredness. All it will do is make you resent each other.
- Cuddle your baby. If he cries, pick him up. If he won’t sleep rock him. Sleep with him. Kiss him. Do what feels right, not what other people tell you. Techniques go in and out of fashion but your love won’t. Don’t look back and wish you’d held them more.
If there was one thing you would do differently about the last few months/years as a Dad – what would it be and why?
I would try to be more patient. If my son is frustrated because I don’t understand what he wants it’s not his fault. I have to find another way to work it out. Everyone’s happier if we take deep breaths.
If you would like to feature in Dadvice, then fill out the form below and we will drop you a line. All Dads welcome, whether you are used to writing or not. You don’t even have to have a blog, just a kid or two ;-)