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Becoming a father

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

You might be pleased at the prospect of becoming a parent. But you may also have a few concerns. If you are in a relationship with the pregnant person, talk to them and try to understand what you are both going through. Support the pregnant person to make decisions about the birth and discuss how you both 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 the pregnant person. Read books, blogs, websites; talk to your partner or the person having the baby, whānau, other parents and health professionals.
  • Go to antenatal classes together; 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 together.
  • Go together to any scans or tests.
  • Talk to each other about how you are both feeling and listen to how they are feeling.
  • If you’re a smoker, try not to smoke around your pregnant partner, or later around your baby.
  • Help with meals, household chores, transportation etc., particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy.
  • Help prepare for the coming baby – 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 support the pregnant person to decide what they 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 or the pregnant person about breastfeeding. Telling them, before the baby is born, that you will support them to breastfeed if that is what they choose and will help them feel more confident when they go 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 – you could split it over different weeks.
  • If you are going to a hospital or birthing centre for the birth, visit it before hand and familiarise yourself with the route and parking etc.
  • Treat yourselves a little before the birth – spend some fun time together.

DURING THE BIRTH

Most people 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 or the pregnant person all the support they need during the birth. Studies have shown that it usually helps them to have their partner there. They 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. The pregnant person may need lots of pain relief and, sometimes, a general anaesthetic if they are having a caesarean section. You also have an important role as an advocate for them and the new baby. So if you, or the other parent, 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 people, being present at their child’s birth is an amazing and moving experience. However, many find it distressing to see someone in such pain. If you don’t think you can cope with being at the birth, talk about it as early as possible with your partner or the pregnant person and help them to arrange for someone else to be there.

Looking after a newborn baby is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job.

AFTER THE BIRTH

Your first few days 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 bathing, nappy changing, comforting, settling to sleep, going for walks and bottle feeding if necessary. These are opportunities to smile at, talk to and hold your baby. They will become treasured memories.

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

PREGNANCY, PARENTHOOD AND SEX

Many people worry about how pregnancy and parenthood may affect sex. Some people will find their sex drive goes up during pregnancy, others may experience the opposite. Talk about it together and try to find ways that are comfortable and enjoyable for you both. And don’t worry, if you choose to have sex, it 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 or your partner may not want 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? Are there ways you and your partner can have sexual pleasure without penetrative sex? Plan times to have sex when you are both least tired and less likely to be interrupted, eg. when baby is sleeping.

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

CO-PARENTING

Things could be complicated, especially if you are not in a relationship with the pregnant person. It is a good time to discuss your thoughts and intentions around caring for the child and supporting the other parent through pregnancy eg. 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 talk to the pregnant person about having 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 other parent 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 they turn 19.

Remember, even if you do not have a good relationship with the other parent, it’s okay to want a relationship with your child.

YOUNG DADS

Some new dads are young adults. 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 or the pregnant person and show how responsible you are. Young adults can make very good parents. It’s your actions, not your age, that count.

STEP-DADS

Some people 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 person on the scene.

What should the role of step-dad be? It seems that being friendly with step-children at first rather than trying to discipline them is more helpful. Relationships with children may take time to develop. Supporting the other parent in their 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.

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