Being present at the delivery of your baby is a wonderful event and the beginning of a new phase in your life. But this new life is not without its challenges – for your partner, you and your relationship
One of the ways dads like to bond is by playing with the baby – it’s a great way to engage with them.
It may seem that your partner is the ‘expert’ on your baby – you may feel isolated or pushed into the background. That’s natural, because they are generally with the baby for a longer time and take on the primary nurturing role.
Your baby may at times be a complete mystery to you. This is just something you need to accept. If you are one of those men who ‘get on with life,’ work hard, are used to being in control and being able to fix everything, life is about to become more complicated
A baby’s actions are raw, spontaneous and often don’t make sense to you – because they can’t tell you what’s wrong. There will be times when you have a critical day at work and your baby will be screaming most of the night, your partner in tears and there is no sleep on the horizon. It may seem there is nothing you can do to control the situation. But you’ll have to put aside your frustrations and find a new way of coping, without suppressing your own needs and emotions. If you have an unsettled baby, on occasions you may need to sleep in another room if you have a big day at work the following day. Your partner has the opportunity to sleep during the day when baby sleeps, but you don’t.
Don’t despair! There are still plenty of things you can do to make a valuable contribution and be involved every step of the way.
Bonding is about being there. It is a commitment to be involved and stay involved. One of the ways dads like to bond is by playing with the baby – it’s a great way to engage with them. But you need to know that when playing games, babies can become overwhelmed quickly and start crying. Their crying usually means baby has had enough playtime, is tired and needs to be settled to bed. Being able to recognise the signs of tiredness is important.
Tips for bonding
You are now a vital part of the team and there are many ways you can participate, by organising ‘special’ times with your baby or partner. For example:
Make bathtime your special time with baby. When you come home from work might be an ideal time to bath baby so you can have some fun and bonding time with them before bed. Alternatively, you could be in charge of the bedtime routine, singing a lullaby or telling a story.
Arrange a time with your partner when you can take care of the baby yourself – for example, one morning on the weekend when you can take your baby for a walk, go to the coffee shop and read the paper with baby. This is an ideal time for your partner to have a sleep-in or a well-earned break.
If you’d like to treat your partner to dinner (but they are not ready to go out and leave the baby with anyone else), consider ordering take out from your favourite restaurant, set the table with candles to create an intimate atmosphere, and create a special dinner at home.
Tips for working dads:
If you work close to home, ask your partner to bring the baby into work so you can all have lunch together, or a cup of coffee or walk with the baby in the pram.
If you sometimes need to work late, try to plan set days in the week with your boss, so you can tell your partner in advance that you’ll be late home.
Talk to your boss about the possibility of doing some work from home.
If you have some leave available, think about taking one day off each week instead of a whole week, if that’s an option. Make this a family day when you can go for a walk, a picnic or just sit in the park and enjoy each other’s company.
Handling your baby safely
Dads are famous for bringing a little rough and tumble into a child’s life – it’s a valuable part of their upbringing. You are the best super-incredible interactive toy they have (and no batteries needed!).
But here are a few things to remember:
Your relationship with your partner will change in many ways. The conflict in your mind of seeing your sexual partner experience the pain of labour and delivery, and the physical effects on her of the birth process, may make you feel reluctant to initiate sex. Your previous methods of exciting her may not be accepted. For example, her breasts are now dedicated to feeding the baby and may be painful and not conducive to sexual stimulation. It may take her some months to feel able to have sex again and this may lead to frustration on your part.
Lack of sleep and the challenges of looking after a newborn are added strains, which are compounded if you have a constantly crying baby. Life can seem out of control, illogical and you somehow seem to be the victim – is the baby deliberately doing this to you? No, they are just being a normal baby. Remember, this is only a temporary phase – things will improve before you know it, and these feelings will soon be a thing of the past!
Dads can feel down too
It’s not just women who may suffer from postnatal depression – men can be depressed as well. In fact, up to 10% of new fathers may suffer from postnatal depression. This may manifest itself in many different ways, for example you may find yourself staying back at work when you don’t really need to, finding excuses to escape the house, or losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed, such as sport. Or you may just feel down and overwhelmed. Depression and anxiety is an illness and help and treatment is available. Talk to a GP or phone a help line for services in your area.
You may find yourself in a situation where you feel out of control. In utter frustration, you may have desperate thoughts about how to stop the baby crying. This is where you need to step back for a moment. Make sure the baby is safe, take a breather and call for someone to help. The last thing you ever want to do is harm your baby. A call to a friend or helpline can be invaluable. Just being able to describe your situation to a sympathetic and trained counsellor can put things back into perspective.
Chapter 1 Baby Basics