Written by Greg Harris | Game Of Twins Blog
‘I’m going to be a father! What now?!?’
Finding out you are going to be a dad for first time is one of the few emotions that can be described as truly unique. When I found out my wife was pregnant with twins, I felt this incredible surge of energy in my stomach. If we had not had to wait to see a consultant after our scan, I would probably have had to go for a run just to release it. It was a combination of nerves, fear, excitement and happiness I have not felt before or since.
Within an hour though, things changed. Having twins would be amazing, but how would we manage? What on Earth is a dad supposed to do? Whether you have just found out you are having one baby, two babies or more, you are probably struggling with similar questions. Here are five tips to help you prepare for fatherhood.
In too many relationships researching pregnancy and child birth and rearing is left to the woman. Unless you want to be a clueless dad stereotype, this really should be a shared activity.
There is a lot to learn. Whether it relates to every day childcare (how DO you change a nappy?) or complex medical matters (what is a breach birth?), no question is too stupid or unworthy of investigation. Six months into being a stay-at-home dad, there are still things I wish I had read more about in those halcyon days pre-birth. If I could go back in time I would spend less time researching distant milestones and more time looking at practical issues like bedtime routines.
Beginning this research can seem daunting. There is certainly more to know than for any school exam you will have had to revise for. And unlike exams, with parenting there are no resits.
Fortunately there are lots of places to turn to for help. Traditional parenting books can be great but are often costly and take a long time to read. There is also a proliferation of parenting websites, some of which are very useful (for example, Whattoexpect.com has a great series of videos on how your child develops in the womb, as long as you can tolerate the size of your burgeoning child being compared to an ever increasing list of fruits). Friends, parents and colleagues can also be great sources of advice.
However, the best research we did was attending an NCT antenatal course (https://www.nct.org.uk/courses/antenatal). Some people seem to hold the view that NCT pushes an agenda which is not particularly father friendly but I could not have found this to be further from the truth. The course taught me more than I could have learnt in a year of reading and gained my wife a group of friends which were invaluable to her during those tricky first few months.
2) Get your house in order
I do not mean this in idiomatic sense of sorting out your life and affairs. As an expectant dad, you need to literally sort your house is. However wonderful you childless house is, adjustments will have to be made. Babies come with stuff. Huge amounts of stuff.
Much of this stuff will have to be bought, assembled and fitted in the months leading up to the birth. Whatever you do, do no play it cool and think you can finish the job once the baby arrives. As you will soon find out, babies take up amounts of time inversely proportional to their body weight. Between doctor trips, family visits, nappy changes and feeds there will be precious little time for DIY.
On the subject of DIY, try not to be put off by these ominous three letters. As someone who has no practical or physical skills and scrapped a pass in his technology GCSE, I was terrified about facing the male preparation ritual of ‘Decorating the Nursery’. However, by giving myself ample time to prepare (and watching lots of tutorials on YouTube) I was able to make a fairly good job of it and learn a skill for life.
3) Take time out with your partner
This may seem like a no-brainer, but once your bundle of joy arrives it will put a strain on your relationship. Even the happiest of couples will be tested by a lack of time together, sleepless nights and new baby anxiety.
Whatever you like to do together, make sure you do it. If possible, do something nice every week of the pregnancy, even if it is something as simple as making your partner a nice lunch or buying them a bag of their favourite treat.
When you spend time together, you will invariably want to talk about the soon to be addition to your family. It is absolutely crucial that in this period you gain a thorough understanding of how your partner wants to approach the birth and what she will require of you on the day.
In the last trimester, my wife and I spent many a meal discussing what we would do if one of the twins needed to be in special care and the other did not. It was agreed that if this happened I would go to special care and return to my wife and the other baby to let her know what was happening as soon as possible. On the day, this is exactly what we ended up having to do. It was not something that was particularly pleasant for either of us, but because we had discussed in advance I was able to do it immediately and spare my wife a difficult conversation whilst recovering from the births.
4) Speak to your employer
In recent years, paternity rights have improved considerably. Depending on your employer, you are entitled to 1 or 2 weeks paid paternity leave which can be taken within 56 days of the birth. Since 2014, fathers (including those in same-sex relationships) are also allowed to take time off work for two antenatal appointment, which you will probably want to use for your 12 and 20 week scans.
Some employers, however, offer considerably better entitlements than the minimum described above, or may be prepared to if you ask for them. One of the first people I spoke to about my wife being pregnant was my line manager. Though this is probably not the norm, given our twins made us a ‘high risk’ pregnancy I felt it was necessary. This turned out to be a very sensible decision. Not only was she incredibly supportive but my employers later agreed to give me time off to attend two antenatal appointments above the minimum. They also unquestioningly released me to attend an emergency scan when my wife was taken unwell.
On finding out you are pregnant, work will probably tumble considerably down your list of priorities. Though you do not have to tell your employer this, if you have a dialogue with them about the pregnancy they will likely infer and, if they are reasonable, understand this. This can lead to a better working environment when you return to work after your paternity leave.
5) Throw a ‘daddy shower’
The cold hard truth is that in the months after the birth you are unlikely to have much time for socialising with your friends. This is tough.
To remedy this, women often hold a baby shower. These are lovely events full of friends and presents. Why should women get all the fun? Though it’s unlikely your mates will get you a cake or any baby clothes, they can hopefully give you a good send off before you temporarily leave the social scene.
I would, however, suggest planning this sometime ahead of the birth. I met up with my friends from teacher training at Shoreditch’s Tramshed on the 4th of July 2015. The next day my wife went into labour. I am eternally grateful that it was a lunchtime do and I got the train home at 5pm!
Written by Greg Harris | Game Of Twins Blog
Twitter | @gameoftwins