Fatherhood

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Pre-conception

It is important for men to be healthy as possible prior to conception. Don’t panic, this doesn’t mean that you have to hit the gym or undertake the kind of detox diet that would make even the skinniest celebrity faint. The main points are quit smoking (aaaah), cut down on alcohol (aaaah) and eat a healthy balanced diet (have salad on your kebab).

Discovering you are going to be a dad

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Your feelings

Finding out you are going to be a dad can unleash a rollercoaster of emotions; joy, excitement, sheer terror! You may be overwhelmed by the feelings of responsibility, but no doubt your partner will be having the same feelings (plus she’s got to give birth, ouch). Talking together can help you both feel more relaxed about impending parenthood.

There are some great books for new dads out there    such as; “Fatherhood” by Marcus Berkman, “The Blokes Guide to Pregnancy” by Jon Smith, and “Dad’s Survival Guide to Babies” by Hunter S Fulghum. Parenting magazines are a great source of information. Just think how knowledgeable you will look at antenatal classes, as well as getting in your partner’s good books for taking such an interest! Another way to get some inside info and ask any questions you may have, is to talk to male friends who have kids, they will be more than happy to give their “expert” opinion and lots of gory details.

Remember your life will change in lots of ways, but when you meet your baby, you will see what a positive change it can be.

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Your partner’s feelings

Pregnancy is a scary time, especially for a first time mum, not knowing what to expect from pregnancy and birth. Take into account that she will be feeling tired and uncomfortable. Add in hormones going haywire and you will be in for 9 months of fun!
You partner will need reassuring and supporting. She will be feeling insecure as her body gets bigger and bigger, and worrying that you won’t find her attractive. Even if the sight of her ever expanding frame doesn’t fill you with desire, it’s probably not a good idea to share this info with her, especially if you want to have more children.

Attending antenatal appointments with your partner will give her support and get you feeling more involved.

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Sex during pregnancy

During a normal pregnancy, it is safe to have sex up until the point of her waters breaking. If your partner has had previous miscarriages, or had problem s with her pregnancy, then it is advisable to speak to your midwife or GP.

Every couple is different as to how their sex life is affected by pregnancy. If your partner has felt tired or unwell during pregnancy, then this will probably mean that she will not feel in the mood for sex. During the later stages of pregnancy she may also feel uncomfortable and be worried about the changes to her body. If this is he case, try to retain the intimacy by showing affection in other ways, such as cuddling or massage. Some women though have an increased sex drive whilst pregnant. Although certain positions may be uncomfortable, or even physically impossible during the last trimester. The key here is to experiment, experiment, experiment.

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The birth

Most dads attend the birth of their children nowadays. Although it is difficult to see your partner in pain, watching the birth is a wonderful experience, and if you’re squeamish you can always stay at the head end, mopping her brow.

You will need to remember the following items to take to hospital; your partner’s hospital bag, snacks and drinks, books and magazines (you may be in for a long haul), plenty of change for the payphone (you can’t use your mobile in hospital) and for the car park.

It’s beneficial to attend antenatal classes with your partner, there is usually at least one class aimed at fathers. Although I must warn you that the sight of a midwife pushing a doll through a plastic pelvis, doesn’t quite show labour in its full glory.  I would also recommend on swotting up on what to expect during the birth, that way it won’t seem half as scary. Talk through the birth plan with your partner before hand, as when she is a drug induced haze (I know she said she wanted a drug free birth, but a girl can change her mind) then you will be able to make informed decisions on her behalf.

You can play a vital role during labour by massaging her back, being in charge of birthing music, helping with breathing and taking a few obscenities on the chin. Yes, you will need to be aware of the fact that your partner will go from mild mannered mum to  foul mouthed Gordon Ramsey-like, it’s not personal, it just hurts.  You will probably be given the chance to cut the umbilical cord, which is like cutting through thick cardboard.

If you really don’t think you can attend the birth, then talk through your feelings with your partner. Explain why you feel this way. After she has told you she’d rather not attend the birth either, then she will probably be relieved that you have told her, so that she can choose a partner who will be comfortable attending the birth, and able to offer her the support she needs.

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Sex after the birth

After the birth it is recommended you wait until the 6 week check-up, before having sex. You and your partner will probably find that you are both too tired to care for the first few weeks.

Some couples find they need to use lubrication during sex, this is normal, especially when breastfeeding. Remember you will need to use contraception. Be sensitive to the concerns that your partner may have and remember she’s most likely self conscious of her new body shape, which now has added curves, stretch marks and leaky boobs.

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Your new baby

Today’s dads are much more hands on than in previous generations. This means you can be really involved with you new baby and form a fantastic bond. If your partner is breast feeding, then obviously the feeding will be left to her, unless she is expressing milk too.

But you can

  • change nappies (you get used to it, honest)
  • bath time
  • winding
  • cuddling
  • talking to your baby (whether its baby talk or reading out FHM, it doesn’t matter).

It will give your partner a break, whilst you get to spend quality time with your baby.

If you feel worried about handling your baby, don’t worry you will become an expert in no time. Try watching how others hold and pick up the baby, such as your partner or the midwives. You will soon relax and enjoy your baby, even if at first you feel like a total novice who has lost the instruction manual.

It is quite normal to feel anxious after the birth. Some new dads even suffer symptoms similar to baby blues or even postnatal depression. If you continue to experience feeling very down, or have extreme mood swings, then you should seek help from your GP.

It is important to try and make time for you and your partner as a couple. In the first few weeks this may just be sitting down to eat a meal together, or just having a conversation about your day. When your baby’s routine is more established, call on family and friends for their babysitting services. Then have a night out together, where you can be yourselves and not just mummy and daddy.