We get it. The nine months leading up to the birth of a baby tends to be all about mom. The bump, the cravings, the moods - everyone wants to know how mom is doing, all the time. For just a moment though, we want to talk to you. Just you. We want you to know that even though you aren’t doing the heavy lifting during this exciting time, you still play an integral role in the health of mom AND baby.
When you’re involved, your partner-in-parenthood is much more likely to go to prenatal appointments. That means a healthier pregnancy for her and a healthier start for the baby. When you are there to support mom after she gives birth, she is more likely to be willing to breastfeed, which builds your baby’s immune system and encourages bonding with mom, which is great for both of them. And the benefits don’t stop there.
If your new bundle of joy is a boy, your involvement in his life puts him at far less risk of being excessively aggressive or violent. If you’re expecting a girl, your nurturing will lead her to display of a greater sense of competency especially in mathematics. Regardless of gender, when you are involved in your child’s life, your child will have an increased ability for self-control and be more independent. We know it’s scary, new dad. It’s a lot of responsibility. But oh, it is worth it.
You might be worried about being able to provide financially, or maybe you’ve never held a baby, much less changed a diaper. Or you might be concerned about the relationships that are going to change – with your friends, your family, and even your partner. This is normal. Change can be unnerving, and this is a big change! But guess what? Worrying about all these things already shows you have an investment in being a good dad. And a good dad you will be.
How, you ask? Well it’s pretty simple. Start by just being there for your partner. Go to prenatal appointments. Go for walks with her. Take a birthing class together. Being present shows your commitment to being an involved father, and that can go a long way to build trust between you and mom, as well as you and the baby. Start bonding with the baby now. Read a book or talk to the baby. Write a letter about all your hopes and dreams for her. And when the baby comes? Continue to be there. Go to well-baby check-ups. Hold him. Hug him. Skin to skin contact is a great way for the two of you to bond. The crazy thing about parenting is that kids really don’t require all the latest and greatest gadgets, the fanciest clothes, or the most expensive stroller. What they need the most is love. And you’ve got that, dad.
One last thing: ask for help when you need it. No one has this whole parenting thing figured out (even if they pretend they do). There will be times when you feel like you are doing it all wrong while everyone else has got it right. There will be moments when you think you’re doing more harm than good, but that’s just not true. Ask parents who you trust about how they manage challenging situations. For you that might be your own parents, an aunt or uncle, or maybe even a neighbor down the street. The point is we’re all in this together. When your kid grows up loved and nurtured, our community is made stronger. So ask. Even though it might feel uncomfortable, ask.
You’ve got this dad. We believe in you. Your kids believe in you, too, and they are going to grow up feeling safe, supported, and more confident simply because you are a part of their life. It might be all about mom right now, but once that baby is placed in your arms, you can bet that you’ll have a fan for life. So be there. Stay involved. Even when it’s hard. It will be worth it.
All of us
Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee provides in-home family support and coaching through the Healthy Families TN program, and Nurturing Parenting classes. For more information, visit www.pcat.org/support-for-parents/. The 24/7 Parent Helpline is always available when the stress of parenting becomes too much. 1-800-CHILDREN