When I walked into the room there were only two chairs
One was for my wife, Su, and one for the consultant who was reviewing her pregnancy. The doctor acknowledged me, but did not offer to get me a chair, so I stood in the corner of the room, feeling like an intruder, and listened while he spoke to Su.
He was attentive to Su, but throughout the whole consultation he did not make eye contact with me once. I felt like a spare part, unsure and uncomfortable. The message I received that day was this: you are an observer. Watch, listen and be on hand if needed, but the jurisdiction of babies is not yours. It belongs to your wife and the professionals.
Su attended a programme of antenatal classes at our medical centre. I was not invited or expected to be there – except for one session. Dads were invited to accompany their wives or partners on a visit to the maternity wing of the hospital to help prepare for the birth. It was a very useful evening and I came away knowing more about how to be a good support to Su during the birthing process. Essential stuff – but it did not cover my role beyond that. Where could I explore what it means to be a father? How could I learn how to bond with my child? Who should I turn to when tough times come?
Fortunately, we had an excellent midwife, who went out of her way to make it clear that my presence was necessary and valued. She made me feel needed, and feeling needed is powerful. It makes you do things you did not think you were capable of, including things you would previously have baulked at. It makes you believe in yourself, and I believe it made me a better father.
My experience was many years ago now and hopefully dads today are much less likely to be excluded, because it is essential for expectant dads to know how important they are.
Dr. Anna Machin explains in her book ‘The Life of Dad’, that the work a father puts into bonding with his baby before it is born will see him ‘reap the rewards a thousand fold’ once his baby is born. She says that ‘there is an opportunity to be seized’ during the nine months of pregnancy and that even thinking about his baby will help a father better relate to his child when it is born. ‘Try to imagine who is in there,’ she says. ‘What will they be like, look like? What will you do together and what sort of father will you be?’
At Care for the Family we want to congratulate dads-to-be, acknowledge their importance and help them through the process of preparing for fatherhood. We want to help them to form an attachment with their unborn child, and so we have written something specifically for men who are about to become dads. While we know how important it is to be prepared for the practical aspects of parenthood, such as changing a nappy and preparing a bottle, we felt that something was needed to help dads-to-be explore the identity and role of a father.
We hope it will be an encouragement to you, make you feel needed and help you prepare for the valuable role of being a dad!
About the author
Mark Chester is the parent support manager at Care for the Family. He is the founder of Who Let The Dads Out? and has been writing and speaking about fatherhood for over twenty years. He has two grown-up children.
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