The father’s important role
It happened faster than I expected. Only three weeks after my wife Emily and I decided to try for a baby she was pregnant. I’ll never forget the excited and nervous look on my wife’s face when she handed me the pregnancy test, and eagerly awaited my reaction.
“Wow, we’re going to have a baby?” I said, looking into my wife’s weepy eyes.
“Yep” she replied with a smile.
A rush of emotions hit me and I found it difficult to focus on one thought. I was thrilled by the news of a baby, overjoyed that I would be a father, uncertain of how the pregnancy and birth would play out and worried that I could let my family down.
We could not sit still. Emily and I talked about it for hours. You wanted to tell the world but it was still early days. “What’s next?” I thought to myself. I could feel the eagerness and enthusiasm pulsing through my heart. However, this journey was not going to be a sprint but I wanted to be supportive to my partner, but how?
I feared for my wife and I now saw her differently. She was about to go through a dramatic physical transformation and extreme change in lifestyle and diet. The courage to go through this pregnancy willingly amazed me. The resilience Emily showed throughout the pregnancy still surprises me. I wanted to do all I could to help her through. I was determined to support her and be with her for every joyful and painful moment and to provide regular reassurance.
Reacting to her early morning sickness one day, then, finding suitable food the next day was not easy. Knowing what to be ready for was certainly a big challenge but it was important to me to be supportive in every way I could. I wanted her to feel like we were going through this together.
For me, the first ultrasound scan was intriguing. Science, biology, technology and creation all rolled into one. I could not wait to see the baby for the first time and I found the entire process fascinating. There was our child, no bigger than six centimetres, with a heart pumping and limbs moving.
As we talked to the ultrasound technicians we discovered the scary truth that in this beautiful moment we were actually checking the baby’s health. It reminded me that things can go terribly wrong during pregnancy, which changed my perspective and made me nervous and concerned. An ultrasound technician will never tell you what they find in the scan. You have to wait days to see a doctor for the details.
The results showed a risk of pre-eclampsia, which affects the blood flow to the placenta, often leading to smaller or prematurely born babies. This added complication intensifies your anxiety and I felt the need to regularly remind myself of the miracle of modern medicine. We prayed frequently to reassure ourselves during that period.
Was I prepared for a baby? What did prepared look like? Did I need to earn more money? Would I be a good father? Was the house safe and secure? Would I still be able to do the things I liked to do? All the unknowns began to worry me. The more I thought about them, the more I pictured a life with my little one and it didn’t seem so bad. In fact, it looked amazing. I recalled all the fond memories I had with my father.
As the father I couldn’t wait to create my own moments and I became more and more excited. My wife and I regularly talked about the ‘concerns and unknowns’ and I found these open discussions paramount. We didn’t have all the answers but we knew we would tackle everything together and in our own way.
We found heaps of information online, through books, audio guides, classes and as always, friends and family. You will hear a lot of stories. Most of the them may be negative or terrifying, probably because they are the most memorable or discussed more often. Don’t let the bad stories scare you; focus on the positive ones. You will hear some amazing birth stories, so best to focus on them. Every pregnancy and birthing experience is different.
During the pregnancy we had regular meetings with doctors and midwives. I felt like the doctors and midwives ignore the father during these meetings. I suppose some fathers don’t attend these appointments or show any interest. However, I attended all appointments and wanted to be involved, by asking questions and understanding the process and the risks. I encourage all fathers to do the same. Ask any question you like and if the discussion begins to drift and you don’t understand ask for clarity.
The hospital advised us that we could call whenever we had a concern. Also, there were many 24-hour ‘no cost’ hotlines we could call when things became uncertain. I suggest using these services as much as you can. There are so many known complications these days and someone is available to help you, no matter the issue or the time of day.
As the baby grew, its movements changed and this led us to the hospital. The nurse suggested we come in for monitoring. The monitoring machine listens for the baby’s heartbeat and movements are recorded, which is then reviewed by a nurse for feedback.
We were told the baby’s readings were passable, but they can never guarantee the health of the baby while it’s in the womb. The nurse insisted we talk to a doctor. While we waited for the doctor, Emily and I were ‘stressing out’. As the pregnancy was over 36 weeks, the doctor suggested the baby be induced.
The forced labour was not in our original birthing plan and we feared this approach, but the doctor advised that if we had any concerns about the baby’s movement it was best to induce. I guess if you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We didn’t heed the doctor’s suggestion and proceeded with our original plan for a natural birth. This was the best decision we could have made. We went with our gut feeling and my wife had an amazing water birth.
Sienna was born without an issue and we recently celebrated our beautiful daughter’s baptism with family and friends.
This story is in the first issue of our Becoming Parents series titled A New Beginning. Details at www.becomingparents.org.au
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