In the past I have often felt like fathers have been given a bad rap (although perhaps previous generations deserved it!) – as if we all sit in the hospital waiting area smoking cigars until the baby is born, then showing up after the delivery to see the baby through the glass panes in the nursery. After that, we’re back at the office or on the golf course the following day.
Now, it’s different. I see dads in my office every day immersed in the trenches of parenting, and it’s truly a refreshing experience. I also teach occasional prenatal classes at our local hospital, and lately I’m amazed at the thoughtful
questions fathers have came up with.In my Present and Productive Parents group, which to be honest, is mostly mothers (but Dads are welcome too!) we recently asked members what sort of things they wished their partner would have done in the prenatal stage and after delivery. So, here’s the inside scoop on how to best take care of your partner during this confusing and potentially challenging time.So DADS, this one’s for you. I have a secret weapon to help you support your partner as she gets ready for the big day!
Before Baby Arrives
One sentiment that was stated over and over again is that mothers want to feel as if the father is wholeheartedly PRESENT. This simply means that you’re tuned in and engaged in the big changes that she’s experiencing herself but also in the unchartered territory you’re trekking as a couple.
Now, I’m not saying you have to be totally familiar with the 3 stages of labor or what the mucus plug is (don’t worry – your partner will tell you when you need to know) but that you are actively anticipating the changes to your lifestyle that will happen when the baby is born.
So, what do I mean by actively anticipating?
Putting a crib together is nice. painting the nursery and hanging shelves for books to sit on and all that is great and helpful. But, that isn’t what I’m referring to here.
Asking questions, showing genuine interest through thoughtful intrigues, and offering consistent verbal affirmations establish more trust and understanding than anything that you can build, buy, or assemble.
Ask what she’s most excited about and which part she’s most nervous for. Discuss together what you anticipate will be the most difficult part of having a new baby. Ask, as often as feels right, what you can do to best support her through that time. Another consensus in the group was that many of the mothers felt that they did not feel that support from their partner was lacking, but rather they felt either guilty of accepting help or that they had trouble articulating what their exact needs were.
For example, your partner may feel emotionally and physically overwhelmed about all of the unknown elements that are about to be thrown her way. While you can’t always quiet her busy thoughts- you can try taking some things off of her pre-baby checklist. This includes things like scheduling appointments, addressing thank-you cards, and researching daycare options if that’s something you’ll need.
Next, SHOW her that you’ve given your new journey some thought.
Describe something that you’re looking forward to when baby arrives. Some great examples could be going on a walk to the park with baby in the stroller, cuddling on the couch as a family, or taking the baby to meet a relative. All of these visualizations that you foresee with you, her and baby, will help to solidify your bond as a couple and hopefully ease the transition for you.
Don’t be afraid to share what you’re excited about AND what you’re nervous about. Be sure to voice that you’re aware the baby will be most dependent on her in the beginning and that you understand the pressure and magnitude this role can bring- but that you want to figure out ways to help when you’re able and when she needs.
Also, show her that you know what’s coming. Don’t just put the baby book opened or dog-eared on your nightstand (or keep my e-book bookmarked on your phone) so she sees you’re taking an active role in the learning process. But, more importantly SHOW her you’ve done your homework by bringing up various topics AND share your thoughts on each (to show you’ve actually given THOUGHT to the information you’ve digested).
You can talk about what you think it’ll be like being deeply sleep-deprived the first few weeks, or what you think the best order for solid food introduction is, or how you took the baby walker OFF the gift registry because you read that they are dangerous and switched it out for a bouncy exercise device. These little nuggets of interest will show her that you are actually thinking ahead, engaged in the process, and in it WITH her- not just as a spectator on the sideline.
So I know I said NOT to get hung-up on the physical to-do list, but…
…of course you still do have to get the crib put together, the walls painted, the shelves hung, the boxes put away….. all that good stuff. However, instead of making that your main mission- instead simply check-off those tasks and then turn your true focus and energy on your mental readiness and the bond between yourself and your partner- further establishing that you are a team.
Look at it like prepping for the big game! Yes, we have to get the gear, do the drills, and go through the game-day motions. BUT, we also have to train mentally….we have watch the tapes, have the plays mapped out ahead of time, and learn how the team can function as a unit to win.
P.S.- My group also made me mention ice-cream and lots of massages. So, there’s that.
If you found this helpful, please share it with another dad or a set of new parents- both they and I would really appreciate it.
Keep up the good work. You got this!