There is so much research, wisdom and counsel for first time mums. From the mummy blogs, youtube tutorials, community advocacy and outreach programs.
In our first couple of years of novice parenthood, we have found hardly any information for first time dads.
My husband Charl, breaks most stereotypes that people try to place him in.
He is passionate about strength in men, he works daily with teenagers who are the most vulnerable in our community, but at the same time he is emotionally intelligent.
He loves training in Muay Thai, regularly will be found in a boxing ring with one of his mates, eating whole chickens after a workout in one sitting and is proud to be a man’s man. At the same time though he is willing to talk about his emotions and what is stressing him, I often overhear him talking on the phone with his best mates and talking deeply about life and that which is confusing him. The conversation is hardly ever shallow, it is often deep, thoughtful and encouraging.
The very first time I realised there was a major lack of balance in help and information for first time fathers, was a few hours after the birth of our little Maximus.
I remember nurse after nurse, midwife after midwife, doctor after doctor, talking directly to me about our son and completely dismissing my husband and his questions.
It was like they categorised him in a Beefcake/male macho/ here in a token appearance kind of way. It didn’t matter how much I referred questions and decisions to Charl, they would always look to me for the final say.
It was at that moment that I decided that this was wrong and my husbands thoughts, emotions and concerns with the birth of our first little baby were just as valid as mine. If not more valid, because he was not only now responsible for a little person, but his partner who was the most vulnerable that he had ever seen her.
I smiled a few hours later that morning, after many conversations about an important bonding phenomena that the hospital staff were talking about which is called ‘skin to skin contact’. Professionals recommend as soon as possible, that they place the baby naked on the Mums chest to form a unique and strong bond outside of the womb. The stability of the baby when placed on a Mothers chest, after the trauma of the birth is miraculous.
Many would say that this practise is important in the first few weeks after birth as well, so that the baby forms a strong bond with its Mum, transitioning from the nurturing environment over the last nine months to the new and overwhelming stimulus in the world they now find themselves.
The reason I was smiling was, (even though the professionals had been talking to me about this practise), I rolled over half asleep, to see my former world championship body builder husband, had ripped his shirt off in the hospital and had his first born son, chest to chest in the most beautiful moment of my life. He was determined from the very first few hours of my sons time on this earth, to let him know that he was his protector, his buddy, his father, his companion in this world.
The bonding between father and son, was just as important as the bonding necessary between Max and me. At that precise moment, I remember a midwife walking into our room, seeing my very buff husband bare chested with our son, raising her eyebrows and rolling her eyes.
Week after week, moment after moment, I have watched my husband deliberately form connection and bonding with his son. His work with troubled youth, daily reminds him of the breakdown of Father and child relationships. When we spent time in a slum in Thailand, shown in the photos above, it was amazing to see the young men, who were in gangs, drug traffickers and often spent the evenings prostituting themselves to older men, respond to my Charl. The bond between men and their children is imperative if we are to see a change in our society and the issues that culturally run so deep.
If we begin encouraging this bonding right from the birth, I believe great generational change can be encouraged in our society. In our public system men are forced to leave the hospital overnight, the doctors and professionals are completely focussed on the mother and in our experience the opinion of the father is often ignored, unless there is a serious problem in communicating with the mother.
Some tips for first time dads
As novice parents, we have learnt some of these lessons along the way and as we prepare for the second birth of our baby in less than a couple of months time, we are a little more ready than before.
So new Dads, here are our thoughts;
- Ask any question that you have, even if your questions are ignored, ask again and get the information you want before you leave the hospital.
- Wear closed in shoes to the birth! Even if it’s the middle of the night, don’t just chuck on thongs (Jandles), believe us from first hand experience thongs and birth don’t go together.
- Find a guy in your friendship circle that you can be completely honest with about the overwhelming feelings of responsibility that come when your baby is born.
- As much as your wife needs to bond with your newborn, so do you, so if that means Mother in Laws, Aunties, Uncles, friends, Aunt Bertha’s need to be told to stay away, then you do what is necessary for your new little family.
- Birth’s can be super fast, but also overwhelmingly long, make sure you have coins for parking, snacks for the wait and a bottle of beer waiting at home, for when you go back to your house alone that night, you will need some company.
- If anyone asks what can I do to help? what presents do you need? Tell them food. Get those hospitality crazy relatives to cook you meals. Stock up the freezer and the fridge. No one ever needs another bib, or a crazy outfit that says ‘My Dad rocks’, everyone needs good wholesome food when a baby is born.
- Don’t be afraid to speak your mind when someone in your world is overstepping the boundaries in the first few weeks of your babies lives. The protective instinct that comes alive when you become a Father is a very real and valid feeling, clearly, with kindness, let those closest to you know what your little family needs.
- Own it. You are just as important in this whole new scenario as your partner. Bring your strength and your ideas, understand the roller coaster of emotions for your wife is crazy. So be slow to speak in the heat of the moment and do everything you can to bring kindness and grace. Don’t be afraid though to pick up that little dude when he is screaming and comfort him. Don’t be afraid to take control and get involved.
To all those people who are about to have little new people in our world, we are so excited for you.
It is the craziest and most breathtakingly beautiful experience of our lives.
Charl, you are the most amazing father and I cannot wait to do it all again. Thank you for taking part in this season of our lives. Thank you for getting up early, thank you for kindly caring for me, thank you for your strength, your opinions and your ideas, I value every single one of them.
You are my person.
I wouldn’t want to form a human with any other person in the world.
2 thoughts on “Secret Dads business: what they never tell first time fathers”
So beautiful Amanda! Interestingly we didn’t have the same experience. Scott cut the cords, did the 1st baths, stayed the first nights so many a first cuddle after a feed too and with our 1st he went to PMH with him as I couldn’t due to C Section. It was at that time after a few important tests that he stood up to the medical staff when he said enough was enough with the tests despite their disgust. I think something that would be helpful is to have a similar question sheet as they do for the mums at each CHN check up and then support any Dads with their needs too. I love this generation of involved Dads. Scott goes to Playgroup and does a lot of the things I do. I think it has made him more confident in his parenting skills and takes all 3 boys 6 and under out all the time by himself. Love a great Dad! I’m sure Charl can’t wait to do it all again!!
Thanks so much Tam. It’s great to hear a different experience. We absolutely loved our time in hospital and the staff were amazing. We just noticed a big difference between the way they treated me and Charl. We can’t wait to do it all again. Xxoo