By Patrick Houser When Lamaze asked me to write some blog posts about dads, for moms, I knew I needed to both grab your attention as well as provide real support for expectant families. I have been speaking, educating and writing about fathers and the family for many years now and I enjoy finding new ways to provoke conversation and emphasize the various topics important for early family life.
You might be puzzled by the question, Should cars have four wheels?, and perhaps find it misplaced on a blog that mainly discusses birthing options for mothers, how to deal with pain, morning sickness and other important topics pertinent to expectant parents.
The question about cars and wheels occurred to me when contemplating another question that is occasionally raised today: Should fathers be at the birth of their child? Well, most cars do have four wheels and most fathers (over 90 % in the West) are present at the birth of their child, so both questions are rather meaningless. Since we both can agree that most fathers are at the birth of their child, let's move on to a more important discussion: understanding the father's experience during pregnancy and birth, and how to support the new family relationship. [Sidenote: I do not profess that all fathers should, or should be required to, be at birth; however I do think it is a missed opportunity if not. Secondly, the role of primary support for a mother is not necessarily gender specific and many of our discussions could be useful for women supporting mothers whether romantic partners or others.]
I used to build houses and one thing I learned is the importance of foundations. A well planned, strong and stable foundation is what a house and a family needs, and the earlier the planning, the better the outcome.
Since fathers are participating like never before in the groundwork of the family, they certainly also must be at the heart of most discussions about early family life. I have noticed that for the majority of mothers, a significant factor in the success of her pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding is care provided by the father. Rarely does an expectant mother's best friend, doula, midwife, doctor, mother, etc. have as much influence over her or the developing baby as the father. At the same time, the father is having an experience of his own that needs support.
Since the vast majority of conceptions are a surprise announcement (Dear, I'm pregnant!) rather than planned event (Dear, let's make a baby.), the father may likely be the most surprised. Just like the mother, this new awareness and phase of life takes some time to get used to. While a mother experiences biological and physical changes in her body that act as a constant reminder of pregnancy, fathers do not.
Moms, be patient. Fathers need to process the information in their own way and at their own rate. It will be different for everyone.
So how is it for you and your guy? Can you feel the changes? How is communication between you? It is really, really important that you each take the opportunity from the very beginning to speak about the changes. However, it also is important to avoid delivering a barrage of questions, which could seem like an inquisition. Work your way in through thinking questions in order for him to reveal his feelings. For example, What do you think about& rather than How do you feel about& Men tend to have a less developed emotional vocabulary than women due to their upbringing. Stay close to each other, keep the intimacy alive, and spend time not speaking about the pregnancy and baby as well.
The sooner a dad is engaged in the pregnancy and with his developing family, the better. Since over 80% of the information dads receive during this time tends to come through moms, trustfully you will aim a few dads in the direction of this blog too and your whole family will benefit.
Patrick Houser is author of the, Fathers-To-Be Handbook, a roadmap for the transition to fatherhood, a parent and childbirth professional workshop leader, freelance writer and speaker at conferences world-wide. Learn more at www.FathersToBe.org.