You've just heard the words "You are going to be a father!" and you find yourself going through a landslide of feelings. The range can go anywhere from bewildered to scared silly to proud as a peacock, and all of those feelings are normal.
The birth of the baby makes you a father, but your role begins long before that. From the positive pregnancy test to the birth of the baby and beyond, it is important to focus on being involved.
Many times, the focus of all the attention throughout the pregnancy will be the woman. While she will be the one to experience all the physical changes, there will be many changes for you as a couple. It will be important to talk to each other throughout the pregnancy and share the experience in as many ways as possible.
Things you can do to be involved throughout the pregnancy, birth & beyond:
- Talk to your partner about what you expect of each other as a mother and a father
- Go with your partner to prenatal visits; Ask questions to get the information that you need
- Go together to prenatal classes; there will be things that you will learn/remember that she may not
- Interact with other 'fathers-to-be' & peers who are fathers now
- If your partner chooses to make lifestyle changes, support her & consider making them also; go for a walk together, eat healthy foods, quit smoking together
- Talk to your unborn baby since (s)he can hear you as early as 20 weeks
- Look at your division of household chores … be prepared for this to change; if she is feeling lousy at the beginning or end of pregnancy, take over some of her chores; Don't expect a gold medal, but you will be appreciated!
- Help with the preparations for the new baby; Be SAFETY conscious! Learn how to install a car-seat, how to work the crib and the baby monitor
- Be involved in planning for finances, work & child care options
- Prepare early for labour & birth; PRACTICE!
- During labour, reassure your partner; encourage & praise her often
- Share in the care of your child; It is normal to feel nervous at first, but like everything else, you'll get better with practice
- Tell the baby's mother that dads might do things differently from moms (like diapering, bathing, playing), but as long as it is safe, it's okay. The baby will come to expect that when Dad does the bath, it happens this way, and when Mom does the bath, it happens that way … no big deal!
- Play, read, and spend time with your child; give hugs, kisses, rock, hold, and comfort your baby
When we talk about involved fathers, what do we mean?
According to The Father Involvement Initiative - Ontario Network we mean:
- A father who knows and enjoys his kids
- One who shares with his partner the work and play of raising them
- One who understands them well
- One who can handle their daily routines
In other words, an involved father is a man who has his own direct, close relationship with his children.
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