MAMA MEETS....YOU THE DADDY!
Couples come to me to learn Hypnobirthing because their past experience of birth may have been difficult or traumatic. All too often I will hear the men say that they felt "useless', "disempowered", "not in control', "left out" when it came to their child's birth. They want to feel more prepared, more in control and able to protect their partner by supporting them in the best possible way. I'm a firm believer in this and place a BIG emphasis on the role of the birth partner in my teaching. That's why I want to kick start the new Mama Meets... series by chatting to a man that knows all about the ups and downs of pregnancy. So much so, that he started a blog about it... Meet Giles - a London-based dad and author of dad blog YOU THE DADDY. When he found out his partner was pregnant, he found that there was very little information and support out there for fathers-to-be. So, he set about recording his perspective on pregnancy, babies and parenthood. As well as his 4000+ followers on Instagram, he writes regular articles on everything from top tips on fatherhood and dealing with your pregnant other half, experiences to expect and prepare for, plus all you’ll need to know to get through the next 9 months in one dad-shaped piece. So lets find out about his experience of pregnancy and why he's on a mission to get men talking about birth and parenting more!
Tell me about the moment you found out you were going to be a parent.
I can remember it like it was yesterday! It was the 4th January 2016, which happened to be exactly five years since my wife and I had our first proper date. Although we decided that we'd start trying for a baby a few weeks earlier over the Christmas break, I never imagined we'd be successful on the first go.
My wife had been unwell since Boxing Day so was on antibiotics (not a natural aphrodisiac) and she'd already impatiently taken a couple of pregnancy tests either side of the New Year, with each showing a negative result. So I was fully prepared for disappointment. But, as you can probably guess, we tried one more test on this fateful day, just to make sure. She emerged from the bathroom a minute later with a sad look on her face...negative again.
It was only a few minutes later when I noticed a faint second line on the test, that we realised that she'd jumped the gun and hadn't waited the recommended three minutes before calling the result! So we immediately took another test, and sure enough, we were pregnant!
Given the confusion, my instant reaction was surprise, followed quickly by extreme happiness and excitement (read more here). Not to mention a sense of relief and serious manliness to know that I haven't been shooting blanks all this time!
Why did you decide to start writing a blog? On discovering we were pregnant, I could hardly contain my excitement and wanted to tell everyone our big news. But being just weeks into the process, of course we couldn't…at least, not yet! So I immediately poured my attention into finding out as much as I could about pregnancy, the risks of miscarriage and what to expect week by week. But after scouring the internet and downloading all the pregnancy Apps I could find, I quickly came to realise how crap the online resources are for new dads. You see, everything is targeted at the new mums; understandable given they are the ones going through the most intense physical and emotional changes.
But of course, finding out I was going to be a father was, for me, probably the most emotional moment of my life. So I decided to set up my own dad-to-be blog, partly so that I could share my excitement about my impending fatherhood (albeit anonymously), but also to act as a source of information and real life pregnancy stories for dads in waiting; all from a guys's perspective, of course.
How have you supported your wife during her pregnancy?
I think us modern guys are generally much more understanding about the strains and struggles of pregnancy than, say, our parents’ generation. So I’ll do pretty much anything for my expectant wife to help minimise her pregnancy mood swings and generally ensure that she, and our growing baby, are as comfortable, happy and protected as possible.
Early on in our pregnancy, that meant ensuring that she got enough sleep by cutting back on any late night social plans, while helping her stay healthy and hydrated by reminding her to take her pregnancy vitamins and supplying her with a constant flow of drinks. One of the little things I was proudest of was helping her manage the inevitable morning sickness by leaving Rich Tea biscuits on her bedside table every morning before I left for work.
Later on, I’ve taken responsibility for most of the household chores, while regularly acting as her own personal masseur (although not as often as I should). Plus, I now make her a nightly hot water bottle to keep her and the baby warm, at the same time as soothing her aches and pains.
So far there’s only one thing I’ve refused to do, when, during the colder winter months, she asked me to warm up the cold loo seat before she sat on it! In the words of Meat Loaf, I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that…
How supported have you felt by those around you?
So much. I’m fortunate enough to have three older siblings who have gone through this numerous times themselves (I have nine nephews and nieces!) so they have been a great source of information and advice during pregnancy. Plus, they’ve given us a lot of the new baby equipment we’ll need to save us from having to buy everything new, which has been a great help.
On top of all that, my wife’s sister just had her first baby a few months ago, so it’s been incredible to have their support and insights (from the coalface) into what life is really like with a new born!
How are you feeling about the birth?
A mixture of excitement, anticipation and fear…but mostly excitement! We’ve already had a tour of the new birthing centre at our hospital (Chelsea & Westminster) and it looks incredible, kitted out with birthing pools, sound systems and double beds in every room. I have no doubt that we’ll be in safe hands there.
I also have every faith in my wife and know that she’ll be amazing during the birth. She’s strong willed (some might say stubborn!) and knows how she wants the birth to play out, so my job will be to make sure she is supported in every way possible during the labour. I just hope that I can keep it together on the day, keep her calm and focused, and not be just “another body” in the room.
What is important to you about the birth and the hours, days and weeks afterwards?
I think it’s going to be really important to maintain a calm and positive atmosphere at all times, both during the labour and in the days that follow, not only for the benefit of my wife but also our new baby.
As a man (and as nature dictates), I can’t physically give birth or breastfeed, so as much as I’d like to take some of the pressure off my wife during this time, there are so many things that only she can do. So I see my role as trying to keep her happy, relaxed and as stress free as possible, taking her worries away and putting my own needs firmly into third place behind hers and the baby’s.
How has your perspective on life changed since finding out you're going to be a father?
I don’t think my perspective on life has really changed that much, mainly because I feel like I’ve been preparing emotionally for fatherhood for so long. I’ve always wanted to be a dad and over the past 10 years I have taken huge pleasure in looking after and learning from my numerous nephews and nieces, who I think have prepared me pretty well for what’s to come (read more here).
Saying that though, as the main breadwinner of the family, I definitely feel a growing sense of responsibility, mainly around the need to prepare ourselves financially for the future.
What advice or preparation have you found most helpful and what have you found the least helpful?
The most helpful recommendation I’ve received so far is to act as my wife’s eyes and ears during the birth itself. I’ve heard that during the labour, there can be a constant flow of midwives, doctors, nurses, anaesthetists and health care assistants who regularly come in and out of the room, which can be confusing and sometimes scary for the mum-to-be, especially.
So it was suggested that at most times during the labour, I should try and engage with everyone on her behalf, and then feedback all the information to her calmly myself, so that she can focus on the job in hand without lots of distractions from relative strangers.
I’d say the worst bit of advice I’ve received was from a friend who had a long and painful labour, who suggested we throw out our birth plan and just request an epidural as soon as we arrive at the hospital! I know that the advice was given with the best of intentions, but it didn’t exactly put us in the most positive frame of mind ahead of the birth!
How often have you or your partner heard a positive birth story? How do they make you feel?
To be honest, not often enough! But fortunately my wife has been a massive fan of TV documentary One Born Every Minute (and she’s now got me hooked on it too), which is filled with positive and varied birth stories in every episode.
I used to watch each birth scene from behind the sofa, with a grossed-out expression on my face, but I’ve got to admit; now that I’m about to be in the same situation myself, each episode invariably brings a tear to my eye.
Since writing this interview, Giles and his wife have had a beautiful baby boy. Congratulations to them from us all at MGH! Mama Meets... will be interviewing Giles soon to talk about the birth, breastfeeding, sleepless nights and how he found those first few weeks of fatherhood.