Fatherhood beckons and it still doesn’t seem quite real. The nine – or more likely eight – month window you have to get used to the idea might not be enough and the clock is ticking. You will be handed pamphlets and leaflets about your role in the pregnancy, birth and beyond, but imagining the reality will remain difficult, impossible really. What we have put together here is less a tried and tested formula for surviving the process and more a reflection of the situation on the ground as we found it. May it serve you well and hopefully throw a bit of light on a process that at times, and for men at least, can still seem like a shadowy and confusing ritual.
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Patience is a virtue. Not the kind of patience that you exercise in the queue at the post office, but the kind required to stay tight-lipped when irrational, illogical arguments are rained down on you by a she-wolf in your partner’s clothes. Some are better than others, of course, and emotional volatility will be expressed in a variety of ways. Pouts, tears, fists – all could make an appearance over the next nine months and beyond. Find your inner chi, and remember (or hope) that it is only temporary. Aside from the negative sexist stereotyping (all true), you will also have to take care of more practical tasks. Fetch water, provide pillows and open doors – this is your new role. That said, the pregnant woman can be surprisingly sprightly up until that last few weeks, so beware of opportunists.
The first thing to be aware of, going in, is that your support is the only thing you can offer. You will be frustrated that you can’t ease the pain, or convince the nursing staff to do so, and you will arguably go through as much psychological anguish as your partner as a result. Hold on to the fact that your mere presence is helping and try to take comfort from that. The early stages of labour are nothing compared to the final ones, so remember the staff are holding on to the good drugs for then. Childbirth has always involved an element of excruciating pain, so this temporary torment is just something you both have to do. It will end.
The new set up
There are good, rational reasons for men to want to avoid. Sleepless nights, crying, nappy changes, round the clock babysitting and limits on your alcohol consumption are all realities – everyone knows that. Your social life will become limited, or at least alter, and priorities must necessarily change. Most men are rightly scared of all of this. The good news is that when the little tyke does come along, these things will seem small prices to pay for having him or her around. Trust me, you will be amazed at how it happens, and in fear of sounding like the gooey, saccharine half-man my pre-baby self would have loathed and pitied in equal measure, you will love them unquestionably when you first see them.
If you think that staring at someone while they sleep is creepy, get ready to be a creep. For some reason they are fascinating. It might be the fact they look like a small you, or it might be the fact that having a new baby is a bit like having a new friend, partner and pet monkey rolled into one. You will laugh when they poo their pants in your arms and even when they wait for their nappy to be undone only to fire an arcing rope of diarrhoea at your chest. There is a world of firsts waiting for you and them, so jump in at the deep end and enjoy every minute.
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