Preparing for fatherhood
About to become a young father? If you're in a relationship, and facing parenthood together, here's how to play your part in your partner's pregnancy.
During the pregnancy
Your input doesn't stop when the test comes back positive. You're facing nine months of expectation and preparation, after all. You may not be carrying the baby, but there's a great deal you can do to lighten the load.
- Make an effort to communicate: Expectant mothers differ in their needs during pregnancy, which is why you need to talk. Aim to know what's going on inside your partner's mind as much as in her womb.
- Voice your own feelings, too: Facing parenthood can be just as daunting for you, so don't store up any worries. Often, just opening up about your frustrations and anxieties can help you get to grips with the situation.
- Make life easier for her: From morning sickness to fatigue, she needs your support during this time. It might be a case of simply paying more attention to her needs, or taking over tasks she would otherwise do (that bathroom won't clean itself, boy!).
- Consider antenatal classes: Becoming a parent doesn't come with an instruction manual, which is why antenatal classes make a fine primer when it comes to handling your newborn. It's also a chance to meet other young parents-to-be, and share experiences. Visit your local doctor's surgery for details of your nearest class.
Approaching the birth
With the due date looming, don't sit back and wait for the big moment. Once the baby arrives, all that free time you had could disappear, so it's best to be prepared.
- Consider what the baby will need: From a crib to countless nappies, clothes and a car seat if you drive, don't sit back and assume it's all taken care of - draw up a list together, in case one of you has forgotten something.
- Discuss the birth plan: This is basically a written outline of how your partner would like to manage her labour and the baby's delivery. Typically, it might cover her wishes to give birth at home or in hospital, as well as use of painkilling drugs, or even whether she would like you to be present. A copy of the birth plan should be given to the midwife who will endeavour to respect your wishes, though of course the health and welfare of both mother and child take priority. Even if you don't play a part in drawing up the birth plan, be sure you know what's in it.
- Be ready to go: If you're planning on being present at the birth, make sure you're able to attend at a moment's notice. Giving a neighbour or friend a key to your place can mean peace of mind. Also check out your rights to paternity leave.
- Sort out your stuff: Expectant mums are always encouraged to have a bag packed so they're ready to leave for hospital at a moment's notice, and you'd be wise to think along the same lines. Charge up your mobile, input all the contact numbers you might need, and even pocket a toothbrush in case it's a long labour.
- Take care of transport: In the event of a dash to hospital, how do you plan to travel? If you're driving, know your routes, be sure there's fuel in the tank and you're not exceeding the drink driving limit. Alternatively, keep the number for your taxi rank handy (and check in advance that they won't come over all precious about their upholstery and refuse to take a woman in labour).
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