Whether you’ve been waiting for this moment for years now or its hitting you as a shock, fatherhood is one life-defining process. The role of a father is critical and can’t belong to anyone else but you.
However, it is normal to have mixed feelings – either joy or terror- even if you’ve always wanted it.
Having the feeling that you’re entirely prepared to become a father is difficult. Nevertheless, there are some ideas in place for you as you look forward to your child’s birth, and as you prepare for the exciting-yet-exhausting, fun-yet-tiring moments to come.
1. Do your homework
The fact that you’re not the baby’s physical carrier doesn’t mean you’re not part of the whole pregnancy and birth experience. The same thing applies to those going for adoption or surrogate – there are various ways to get and feel involved.
There are many books out there, written especially for expectant fathers – and the fun part is you don’t have to be limited to those alone. You can as well sign up for a pregnancy newsletter or join and partake in some online groups.
Start doing your own research as soon as you notice pregnancy symptoms such as heartburn or morning sickness in your partner—understanding how and what your partner feels helps you provide better support even as she carries your child.
At the time of labor, birth, and caring for the newborn, knowing the exact things to expect would make the entire experience much easier because you have taken out time to do some research. You could also read about cesarean and vaginal deliveries, diaper changing, breastfeeding, and many more.
2. Focus on your health
Before the arrival of your newborn, it is important that you focus on your health. If you have the habit of smoking, try as much as possible to quit the habit. Studies have shown that exposure to smoke during pregnancy increases the chance of congenital heart defects in babies.
On a scale of one to ten (with ten being the highest), how would you rate your eating habits? Eating well now will provide you with all the energy you need to brace the long days (and nights especially!) of new parenting. You could consider healthy swaps or adding some fiber-packed and immune-boosting foods to your diet.
If you’ve not visited your health practitioner for a while, you should consider scheduling an appointment so as to be up to date on your vaccinations, such as whooping cough.
3. Talk to your co-parent about parenting
Now is the best time to talk about the kind of parents you both want to be to your child. Are you both in support of breastfeeding? (support from the father is vital for breastfeeding success.) Will you both be working? Would the baby have to sleep in a crib in a separate room? What plans do you both have as regards childcare?
Keep in mind that these things are still in the planning phase for both of you. On the arrival of the baby, your feelings may change. Breastfeeding might become much more challenging than you thought, or you may want to think twice about diapering. Some things still won’t seem necessary to discuss yet. Nevertheless, they are still relevant.
Discussions on discipline, in terms of spanking and other forms of punishment, should also be addressed beforehand to avoid overpampering your child as they grow. Starting the discussion now ensure that communication lines are open and not abridged. It also helps you and your co-parent to be on the same parenting page.
4. Work as a team
It is essential that you and your co-parent work as a team. Even if the romantic relationship with your partner doesn’t continue, one thing you should always remember is that you, your partner, and the newborn are connected for life.
It is vital that you both understand the value of teamwork in parenting your newborn, and stop acting like you’re in some competition.
If the baby’s carrier is dealing with morning sickness and feels exhausted, helping them also means helping yourself and the baby. You could make sure to check in on them daily, pick up the housekeeping duties, and feed them with what they are able to eat. This goes a long way in showing that you care and support your family.
5. Speak up when in doubt
Fatherhood requires that you join forces and engage with your partner. When you’re unsure about something- even the simplest things – ask your partner about it. Talk to them on how you feel, your opinion concerning a particular thing, and ask them the same.
You both are getting to know this baby at the same time, and also getting to know each other in this new setting, so asking out loud can help clear doubts.
6. Decide on the kind of father you want to be
Not everyone had the opportunity of having a great father. But if you were among the lucky ones, then you may want to emulate him – which is fantastic. If you weren’t lucky to have a great dad, you might get nervous trying to play the father role.
Whichever way, the decision of the type of father you want to be to your child rests in your hands. Decide on what parenthood approach to use. You could also get inspiration from other men who you see as fatherhood role models.
Remember, you’re creating this role from the beginning; therefore, it is solely up to you to decide how you want it to be.
7. Find fellow dads
As you gear up for the great task ahead of you, it is also a great idea to add some fellow dads to your friends’ list. When you have someone that is conversant with the challenges that come with parenthood, it provides an avenue for you to ask questions and air out your experiences concerning becoming a dad.
There are church groups and online groups where you can find other dads.
8. Ensure you go for the appointment whenever you can
One way to feel all excited about the pregnancy is by attending the prenatal appointment. There is this feeling of you seeing your baby on the ultrasound, and other routine checks, which can also help you connect with the pregnancy and find out what to expect.
Here, you have the chance to learn how your baby is developing, asking your own questions to clear doubts, and finding out what your partner is going through.
Even if work and any other activity prevent you from attending all appointments, it is crucial you talk to your partner about scheduling time that allows you to be present more often. This can also continue during newborn check-ups.
9. Know that there may be a change in your sex life
As you become a parent, your sex life definitely changes. You might begin to feel a range of emotions as you get to know that your partner is expecting a baby.
You may feel confused, intensely attached to them, desiring the involvement of sex, or having an uneasy feeling of doing something that might affect the pregnancy. Whatever the emotion is, open communication is important.
You’ll definitely hear many jokes about how the body changes during pregnancy, or how your sex life is over. These talks aren’t helpful as they tend to neglect the emotional complexity of sex and parenthood.
The fact is sex after pregnancy will take time – this is not the usual suggested six weeks recovery for physical healing after labor and delivery.
However, it is important to be sensitive to all the changes you both face, such as breastfeeding, lack of sleep, and the emotional impact of having a new child. You should also discuss with your partner about their needs and your own when it comes to sex and intimacy.
Who says sex after childbirth can’t be exciting? It can even be better, as it connects both partners in ways they’ve never been. The shared experience of parenting also brings them much closer and makes the bond stronger.
10. Celebrate the milestones
Often times, the progress of pregnancy and celebrations like baby showers are centered on the pregnant person alone, but you are also part of the whole process. You and your partner can decide to go shopping, get items for the coming baby, host a fun co-ed shower, take lots of pictures during the pregnancy phase, and write down how you feel.
11. Accept your place in the preparations
There’s a lot to do before the baby arrives – and it goes beyond just carrying the child. There are a couple of things you need to tackle which includes but are not limited to: saving money, researching child’s care, creating a registry, preparing a space, and so many more
You may discover your strength and weaknesses on the way – the tasks you can handle with ease and those that need more effort. Who knows, you might even enjoy being a part of the whole process.
Ensure you get involved in different things as regards the preparation for your new baby. Here is a list of suggestions you might want to consider:
- Take a class on birth or breastfeeding with your co-parent
- Learn how to install and use the baby car seat – volunteer to teach each other
- Speak with your employer about your leave options
- Do some research on the best baby carriers or formula
- Make phone calls about childcare and insurance
- Pack the hospital bag
- Put furniture in place or paint the room
12. Perform the role of the communicator when needed
The arrival of a new baby can bring either the best or worst out of people. Remember, we used the word TEAM? It’s you, your co-parent, and the child.
It is the responsibility of your team to decide on certain things such as the birth of the child, how soon to have guests, the number of guests to invite over, and other decisions. If your choices get questioned by family or friends, it’s important you man up and speak your mind.
Setting boundaries is healthy and normal. If you want to celebrate your child’s arrival by receiving everyone you know to your house, it’s okay and totally up to you.
However, if you decide to limit the number of visitors to have and just spend time as a family, it’s equally up to you and fine. It’s your decision to inform others about what you will and won’t be doing as a family.
13. Advocate for your co-parent
This doesn’t apply to family gatherings alone. You could also speak up for them during labor, asking questions during appointments, checking out for signs of postpartum depression, and helping them seek professional help, doing what you can to support them in their decisions to either stay at home or return to work.
Remember, you’re a strong force in supporting their health, and of course, having two healthy and strong parents is definitely good for your baby.
14. Portion out duties
You might have been there together during the pregnancy phase, but then ensure that you stay involved even when the baby arrives.
It’s understandable to feel like you’re left out during the early days, most especially when your partner is breastfeeding, and it gets you feeling like your role isn’t important. Just so you know, it is.
There are diverse ways you can get involved in caring for your newborn and not feel left out, such as
- Giving baths
- Reading to your baby
- diaper changing (not just during the day but in the middle of the night as well)
- Doing chores like laundry and dishes. You can also babywear while you go about with the chores
- Bottle feed the baby – if they are exclusively breastfed, care for them before and after mealtime.
- Pick a song to sing to them at bedtime
- Get snacks and drinks for your co-parent
- Ensure you spend time skin-to-skin with your baby to build a secure attachment.
15. Maintain your sense of humor
Although parenting is mussy, challenging, tiring, and complicated, it is also thrilling, fun, and satisfying. What is vital in getting through these moments, be it good or bad, is the ability to laugh often.
Even if the diapers appear to be a blowout, or you haven’t had enough sleep or accidentally got breast milk poured into your tea, just laugh everything off as it will help you get through every one of the challenges.
You need sleep; your co-parent needs sleep; your baby needs sleep – the whole team needs sleep. There are different ways to go about sleep, but it might take some experimenting to figure out the one right for your family.
The important thing is that everyone should get some sleep.
You and your co-parent should take naps whenever you can and sleep in shifts so as to handle the chores and other responsibilities while the other person is having a break. However you handle it, be sure to see that everyone gets a chance to sleep.
17. Know your importance to your baby
There will definitely be many stages in your newborn’s life where you might feel unplugged or less important. Returning to work might be hard, and you might feel like a secondary caregiver, but working outside the home doesn’t make you less a great dad – you’re still your family’s provider.
There will be moments for you to shine in your newborn’s life, especially when they hold your fingers for the first time, or say ‘dada,’ or even when they want no other person but you to sing them their special song.
Being in it for the long haul is what fatherhood is all about. Being present in the life of your baby is a gift you give to them and yourself always.
Remembering and accepting the fact that there are times when your child will prefer or need your partner instead of you will make you less likely to draw back when you’re not needed.
Stay physically and emotionally present. Ensure that you’re available for both your child and partner, and don’t stop showing up. They need you at any given moment, even more than you imagine.