I have been reflecting on my pre-natal experience over the last few days and wanted to share my experience with new and expecting Dads.
We moved house when my wife was 32 weeks pregnant. We had a small top floor flat in London that was not ideal for a baby. So we sold up and moved out to Kent. I felt so grown up! But I had no clue how grown up I was going to feel once our son Teddy arrived in blistering heat of summer 2018!
We started NCT in the local area which was a great way for my wife Dani to meet new friends – ones that she still has now. WhatsApp groups were set up, all manner of advice swapped as each baby was born, and ‘coffees’ (wine!) arranged. But the other Dads weren’t so keen. The girls had a sense of purpose, they were all taking a year’s maternity leave and needed each other. For the Dads it felt a bit more of a phase. We were going to have our babies and after a couple of weeks go back to work and our lives. We didn’t ‘need’ it as much. But the reality was, we were wrong.
Looking back, having more Dads to talk to in those early months would have been so helpful. And I didn’t ‘go back to my life’ as I no longer wanted to meet my friends in the city after work. I just wanted to get home for bedtime. But it might have been nice to have grabbed a local beer later in the evening, or gone on a run with someone on a Sunday morning. I was out in Kent, and my only support was my wife and boy.
I think I could have been a more supportive partner to Dani if I’d had more Dad friends. When Teddy had the slightest ailment the both of us would panic. I didn’t have anyone to sound the ‘crazy’ off! We had also suffered pregnancy loss before we had Teddy and I think that made us cling onto him just a little more.
The one thing I notice now that I look back is that very few people asked me how I was. Friends and family would call and ask how the baby was doing, how Dani was recovering from the birth etc. Dani had a lot of support which I want to make clear was absolutely the right thing! Her Mum and friends fussed about her, and whenever we had a midwife appointment or health visitor call they asked how she was doing physically and emotionally. It gave her the opportunity to ask herself ‘am I ok?’. Dads don’t always do that. We are typically not very good at that.
And then comes sleep deprivation! I have said this over and over again, I wish I had known when I was a new Dad that it wouldn’t last forever. Those long sleepless night feel endless and no one tells you that once your baby gets to a certain age, you can take gentle actions to nudge them in the right direction to help them sleep (and you) longer and better. I think if I had known that, I wouldn’t have felt so overwhelmed. When I became a sleep consultant one of the first products I created was a pre-natal/newborn course. I have packed it with everything I wish I had known about sleep before becoming a Dad.
Being a new Dad, whether it’s first time or third time around, is challenging. It’s the most wonderful thing in the world, but it’s tough. And those first weeks are a complete whirlwind and life is turned upside down. Throw in some serious sleep deprivation and it can feel like survival of the fittest at times. But it does get better, trust me – I’ve been there, done it and got 2 t-shirts and I wouldn’t swap it for anything in the world.