Are you involving the father enough in the pregnancy? Here is how you can get the father to be more involved
We’re all familiar with the popular mother-and-child image. That archetype has been the subject of paintings, sculptures, and photographs from the Renaissance all the way up to modern times — and sadly, all this time, fathers have been conspicuously absent from the picture. Even in these modern days, the bearing and raising of kids in most cultures continues to be viewed primarily as a maternal concern — a very real everyday challenge that moms-to-be inevitably face, oftentimes on their own.
It makes sense. Women, after all, by virtue of their sex, carry the baby in their wombs for nine months, then go through the agony of labor to bring the child into the world. Is it any wonder, then, that mother and child share a bond unlike any other? Perhaps not. But just because it’s so doesn’t mean that fathers aren’t willing to try and become part of it.
The catch is, even here in the good ol’ US of A, we’ve got systems in place — particularly with regard to the professional and hospital settings — that aren’t exactly supportive of fathers being family men. While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants nearly half of American workers 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave, for instance, very few states have laws requiring paid paternity leave. This sends out an entirely wrong message: that a “brief encounter” with a newborn is all that should be expected of a dad.
A roundtable discussion hosted by The Guardian reports that, contrary to long-held beliefs that pregnancy is not a father’s business, fathers nowadays are more-than-willing— eager, even — to take an active role in helping bring their children into the world.
The good news is that those in charge of the system are slowly starting to take notice of the needs of fathers-to-be. The better news is that mothers-to-be can help this along.
Here’s how you can get the father of your child more involved in your pregnancy:
1. Psych him up:
From the moment you find out you’re pregnant, make him a part of this new adventure in both your lives. Think up a special way to let him know he’s going to be a father. Make the announcement to your families together, attend baby showers and family parties side-by-side. Let it sink in that he’s about to start a new chapter in his life too.
Choose the baby’s name together, something that will have meaning for the both of you (and won’t get your child teased relentlessly at school). Let him touch your belly as it grows, take the time to let him have silly (or profound) conversations with the new life growing within you.
Discuss your dreams for your child, and plan for parenting down the line. Encourage him to talk to other fathers in your family or community as well, so he has a support system of his own.
2. Don’t leave him in the waiting room:
Gone are the days (or they should be) when the functions of the female body were mysteries men should not be privy to. Nowadays, rather than shying away from the reality, being a good husband means taking an active interest one’s partner’s or wife’s pregnancy and getting involved as much as is possible in everything to do with your child’s birth.
It will undoubtedly be really comforting for both you and your partner to have him with you when you go for your monthly check-ups with the OB. Do encourage his participation in every possible way: Get him to read up on what to expect during your pregnancy, let him ask questions, and ensure that he’s present when you undergo your diagnostic tests or have prenatal visits.
Be mindful too, that the hospital staff consider his needs as well as your own — take the lead in showing them that your partner isn’t merely a spectator but rather, an active and necessary part of your pregnancy, and people will follow your lead.
Sure, he’s a man and will never himself undergo everything you’re going through, but it will do him a world of good to see and understand the unfiltered experience; it will for sure make him more sensitive to what you have to undergo in bringing your child into the world.
3. Nest with him:
Get your nest ready together before the stork comes! Get the dad-to-be involved in choosing the very first things your new human will own: the crib, stroller, car seat, blankets and beddings, toys, clothes, and shoes. You might both surprise each other with your taste in baby stuff!
One of your most important projects together will be the baby’s nursery. This will be a room where you will both spend time in looking after your newborn, so make sure the space is something you both find peaceful and functional. Leave the painting to him, however, to avoid inhaling any chemicals in the paint that can harm your growing baby.
Tip: Do away with the pink-or-blue, “It’s a girl” versus “It’s a boy” themes and go with gender-neutral themes that will work for any future kids as well. (It’ll save you money over the long run, and help your kids grow up to be more gender-sensitive people too.)
4. Redistribute responsibilities:
Now for the hairy part. Nine months should be enough time for the two of you to prepare for the necessary changes in the logistics of your household.
You will have to begin adjusting your finances to fit a third person’s needs, as well as squirrel money away for your expenses during the pregnancy and childbirth, factoring in the possibility of any emergencies throughout this period.
Discuss with your partner how long you’ll continue going to work and whether (or how) he has to pick up the slack once you go on maternity leave. You will also have to prepare to divide responsibilities at home and rework your schedules around the baby’s needs once it comes.
Don’t wait until the baby is born to make these decisions—you will work better as a team if you are proactive and prepared!
5. Enlist him as your fitness buddy:
Your baby’s birth will be a grueling physical ordeal, and it’s no picnic to carry those extra pounds around for the next nine months. You’ll need to work out regularly to keep up with your body’s changes, and there’s no better fitness buddy than the future dad!
Set aside regular times in the week where you can both hit the gym or do some exercises at home together. He can hold your ankles while you do sit-ups, and you can spot his lighter exercises. If you want to kick the fitness regimen up a notch, plan and prepare healthy meals to eat after your workout too.
6. Let him practice being dad:
By all means, take birthing classes, but don’t let the learning end there! Practice looking after the baby as if it’s already there. Buy a baby doll from the toy store and practice holding it, bathing it, changing it, swaddling it, and dressing it.
Not all new mothers may have that innate maternal instinct, and new fathers always seem to have reservations about how fit they are to hold delicate infants. Practicing before the baby arrives will build your anticipation and confidence.
7. And being your partner:
Lastly, make sure that your game plan for the big day is all mapped out, and that your partner has been drilled on his role in it. He needs to be reliable enough to know the way to the hospital and not to forget anything in the baby bag.
You may be used to managing the details of your household or your trips, but when you’re in the throes of labor, you’ll have to surrender the reins to your partner.
8. The bottom line – Being a dad means being there:
Studies show that fathers involved during pregnancy and childbirth tend to continue being engaged and present as their kids grow up. And that can only be a good thing, if the society we live in takes notice and capitalizes on the willingness of men to nurture, as well as provide for their children.
It takes monumental effort, trying to change the healthcare system and overthrowing outmoded gender roles, but the future’s looking bright for modern families. A fundamental part of that effort begins with future mothers. It falls upon women to help open the doors for future fathers — to ensure they don’t remain on outside looking in but, rather, that they be part of the overall picture from the very start.
About M Pimental: M is a happily married Filipino mother to three wonderful little daughters, ages: 8 years, 5 years, and four-months old. Her daily life is a struggle between being the Executive Content Director for Project Female and deciding who gets to watch television next. She specializes in creating and editing content for female empowerment, parenting, beauty, health/nutrition, and lifestyle. As the daughter of two very hardworking people, she was brought up with strict traditional Asian values and yet embraces modern trends like Facebook, vegan cupcakes, and the occasional singing cat video.
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