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Becoming a father

Becoming a father can be one of the most exciting and rewarding times in your life. It can also be one of the most stressful.


You might be pleased at becoming a parent. But you may also have a few concerns. Talk to your partner and try and understand what you are both going through. Make decisions together about the birth and how you want to approach parenthood.


DURING THE PREGNANCY


One of the best ways you can help during the pregnancy is to learn as much as you can about pregnancy and parenthood. This way you will be able to provide emotional and practical support when it is needed.



  • Find out about what’s happening to your partner. Read books, blogs, websites; talk to your partner, whanau, other parents and health professionals.

  • Go to antenatal classes with your partner; you’ll learn a lot about what to expect at the birth, as well as a little about practical parenting after the birth.

  • Visit the lead maternity carer with your partner.

  • Go with your partner to any scans or tests. 

  • Talk to each other about how you are both feeling and listen to how she is feeling.

  • If you’re a smoker, try not to smoke around your pregnant partner, or later around your baby.

  • Help with meals, household chores, transport etc. – particularly later in the pregnancy. 



  • Help prepare for the baby – e.g. get a space or room ready for the baby, organise a car seat and other essential equipment.

  • Make a birth plan together, with your lead maternity carer, and agree on what you will do during the birth.

  • Read the antenatal information, and keep it somewhere handy. You could get caught out by an early arrival.

  • Talk with your partner about breastfeeding. Telling her, before the baby is born, that you will support her to breastfeed will help her feel more confident when she goes to do it. Breastfeeding is natural and healthy for your baby but it’s not always easy to do.

  • If you are working, think about how you want to organise any paternity leave e.g. you could split it over different weeks.

  • If you are going to a hospital or birthing centre for the birth, visit it beforehand and familiarise yourself with how to get there and if you'll need to find parking. 

  • Treat yourselves a little before the birth – e.g. spend some fun time together.


DURING THE BIRTH


Most women go into birthing centres or hospitals to give birth. Some stay at home. It is a legal requirement to have medical assistance at a birth. Make sure you give your partner all the support she needs during the birth. Studies have shown that it helps women to have their partner there. Women are likely to be less distressed, they have less pain, and feel more positive about the birth experience.


Labour can sometimes be long and difficult. Your partner may need lots of pain relief and, sometimes, a general anaesthetic. You also have an important role as an advocate for your partner and new baby. So if you, or your partner, have any questions or concerns during or after the birth, don’t be afraid to speak with the midwife or other medical staff.


For many men, being present at their child’s birth is an amazing and moving experience. However, many men find it distressing to see their partner in such pain. If you don’t want to be at the birth, talk about it as early as possible with your partner and help her to arrange for someone else to be there.


AFTER THE BIRTH


The first few days of your life as a new dad may be exhausting and amazing. Looking after a newborn baby is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job. You may be the major earner but if you can, get involved with all your baby’s daily routines. For example, you can help with feeding, bathing, nappy changing, comforting, settling to sleep, and going for walks. These are opportunities to smile at, talk to and hold your baby. They will become treasured memories you will share together as a family.


All the regular household chores still need to be done and some of these (e.g. laundry) may have just got a little harder. The physical demands of early motherhood are very tiring, and she will also need to recover from the birth. Help whenever you can. If this isn’t possible, ask friends and whanau.


PREGNANCY, PARENTHOOD AND SEX


Many people worry about how pregnancy and parenthood may affect sex. Some women will find their sex drive goes up during pregnancy, others may experience the opposite. Talk about it together. Find ways that are comfortable and enjoyable for you both. And don’t worry, sex won’t harm the baby.


Once the baby arrives, your relationship might change. A baby makes demands on your time. It can sometimes be difficult adjusting. Remember to make time for just the two of you.


After the birth of the baby, you may be tired. There may not be many chances to have sex. Your partner needs to recover physically from the birth, and this may take some time.


Talk about how you are both feeling. Are there other ways you and your partner can be close without having sex? Can you get sexual pleasure with your partner without penetrative sex? Plan times to have sex when you are least tired, and less likely to be interrupted, e.g. when baby is sleeping.


Contraception is something you will also need to discuss. Even if your partner is breastfeeding, she could get pregnant again. If you don’t want to have another baby quickly, talk to your midwife or GP about contraceptive options, or see Family Planning.


SEPARATED-DADS-TO-BE


Things could be complicated, especially if you are not in a relationship with the mother-to-be. The more help you can get to resolve any issues before the baby is born, the better. It is a good time to discuss your thoughts and intentions around caring for the child, e.g. if you are working do you want to have some time being a stay-at-home dad.


If you are not going to be living with your partner after the birth, it is important to try to get your name on the birth certificate if you want to be legally recognised as the father. It may make it easier for you to have contact with your child if the mum doesn’t want you to later on. However, you will be required to make Child Support payments if you are named as the dad. You will be financially responsible for your child until s/he turns 19.


Remember, no matter how bad things might get with the mother, it’s ok to want a relationship with your child. For further advice and information, visit the website of the Father and Child Trust: www.fatherandchild.net.nz


YOUNG DADS


Many new dads are young men. You might not have planned to have a child at such an early age and there may be people who are not so happy that you are having one. Just remember being a dad is about commitment. The more you can show you are committed the more people will respect your determination. Do your best to support your partner and show how responsible you can be. Young men can make very good fathers. It’s your actions, not your age, which count.


STEP-DADS


Some men become new dads when they start a relationship with someone who has children from a previous relationship. This situation brings its own challenges. The children in the family may resent the appearance of a new man on the scene. What should the role of step-dad be? It seems that being friendly with step-children rather than trying to discipline them is more helpful. Relationships with children may take time to develop. Supporting the mum in her role is also important. Talk to your partner in private if you feel undermined or left out, and show respect to the children.


 


 

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.