Further to this Mad Sheila Musings post, and to an invitiation by Alyx to write my own personal Becoming a Father section, behold:
YOUR PARTNER IS PREGNANT
– Resist the urge to say “Boo-yah! My Sperm Is King!” or otherwise pretend that only your fertility and manliness had anything to do with this.
– If the pregnancy is accidental and unwanted:-
(1) DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES pretend like this is her fault. Contraception was not her sole responsibility and if you didn’t want her to get pregnant you should have taken precautions yourself; and
(2) Whether or not she continues the pregnancy is HER decision. Your rights over her body are precisely ZERO and you get precisely NO say over whether she has the baby or not.
– Find out what “supportive” means and start practicing right now. When your partner asks you to support her or to be a bit more supportive, DO NOT look at her with a confused expression and ask her what the hell she is talking about.
– Remember that her whole centre of attention will be the stuff that is happening to and inside her body. DO NOT look squeamish and start banging on about football when she wants to tell you something amazing she read today about her placenta.
– Remember, your penis is nowhere near big enough to hit the baby’s head.
– If you expect your partner to give up alcohol / cigarettes / drugs, or if you expect her to start eating better and taking vitamins, great. But DO NOT preach to her about this if you yourself come home and eat pizza whilst drinking beer and smoking a joint.
– DO NOT say “You’re getting really fat now” AT ANY POINT in her pregnancy.
– Go to ante-natal classes with her. DO NOT try to weasel out of them by claiming that you don’t need to know any of that stuff. You do.
– If you are privileged enough to be invited to share the birth experience then remember that you are there as a helper and supporter. In particular:-
(1) You will not be there as a spectator. This means that you will need to know in advance what you are expected to do. Therefore, if your partner wants to involve you in making a birth plan, DO NOT say either “I’ve done this before, I don’t need to do any preparation” (especially if the time you did it before was not with your current partner) or “You just tell me what to do, it’s nothing to do with me” or “Eh?”
(2) DO NOT whine about how you had to get out of bed at 4am for this. She was up with contractions for 3 hours before she even woke you, is she complaining? Nobody gives a damn how tired you are. It isn’t about you.
YOU’RE A DAD!
– Your partner has just been though a long, exhausting experience, possibly involving medical procedures or even major abdominal surgery. You may think you’re tired and emotional, but she is more in need of rest than you could possibly be, so quit moaning and start being supportive. (If you forgot to find out what “supportive” meant during pregnancy, do it now. And start practising. Now.)
– Change nappies. It isn’t hard.
– DO NOT whinge at your breastfeeding partner about how you want to feed the baby. You can’t. You don’t have breasts. You can, however, do everything else – so do everything else. Your partner is more in need of rest than you, however tired you think you are.
– Change nappies. This bears repeating. IT ISN’T HARD.
– Let your partner know that you still find her sexy, but UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES is it OK to pressure her for sex. A thing the size of a watermelon with legs just pushed its way out of her vagina and, guess what?, it’s gonna be kind of sore down there. And bloody.
– Which reminds me: when your partner asks you to go to Asda and buy yet more sanitary pads, just do it.
– Discuss openly and honestly how the two of you are going to arrange childcare if and when your partner is ready to return to paid employment. Do not balance her prospective wages against the cost of childcare because, guess what?, it’s your baby too and you are 50% responsible for childcare. So balance her prospective wages against half the cost of childcare. The other half comes out of your pay packet. Which means that if your partner does not return to work, or works only part-time, in order to care for your child, you should pay to HER the cost of childcare that YOU are saving.
– Do NOT assume that your partner is the only one who needs to take a hit on her career. You too could return to work part time. You too could arrange to leave work promptly to pick up your child from the childminder. This is not your partner’s sole responsibility.
– If you do decide to up and leave PAY CHILD SUPPORT. Do not wait until the CSA is threatening to put you in prison. Pay it without argument. This is not about your ex sponging off you and grabbing your hard-earned dosh. This is money that YOU owe to YOUR child, for which YOU are responsible.