We all know how dramatically a woman’s life changes with the birth of a baby. Everyone gives due credit to a mother for going through the pain, agony, stress and life-changing drama while bringing her child into this world.
What we rarely speak about is the “forgotten fathers” who go through a massive change too, most of the times being ignored and left to suffer in isolation. So the story starts with pregnancy. As soon as a woman is pregnant she starts feeling the changes in her body that gradually helps her to sync in with the idea of being a mother. She is already a mother when she starts feeling the movements in her womb, when she sees pigmentation on her skin, experiences nausea, weight gain and mood swings and a number of other things. The reality for the father hits in after the baby is born. He suddenly becomes a father. Until now he only had to look after his pregnant partner but dynamics drastically changes after the baby is born.
The pride and excitement that a father feels after seeing his baby come after he has seen his partner in the most intense pain of a lifetime. It is extremely daunting to see your loved one go through pain for hours and hours even if it has a happy ending. He has seen the love of his life in the rawest state of mind. Even if he is collapsing inside looking at what his partner is going through he has to carry on being tough on the outside to be a pillar of strength for the mother giving birth.
The sudden reality of the roles changing from just a husband to now a father hits hard with a thud inside him. The relationship with his partner also transitions to a great extent. The woman who was a partner is more of a mother now. There is the stress of how he will cope with the additional financial responsibilities. He has thoughts on how he can set an example of being a supportive partner and a supportive father and whether he will meet his own expectations.
Every one who come to see the newborn ask the mother how she is doing and whether she is looked after. We seldom hear of anyone having a conversation with a father on how he is coping with the changes. He too is going through sleepless nights, screaming infant needing constant care and attention, going to work exhausted. He is also dealing with an emotional roller coaster while dealing with his partner who is herself going through a turmoil due to her hormones. He is scared while handling the fragile tiny baby. He is nervous about what kind of father he is being. He wants to be on top of the things and be present at all the medical checks, vaccination appointments and baby milestones while juggling his work.
Society expects the man to be a certain way in the sensitive times and portray a responsible facet of himself as soon as he becomes a father. And while doing that we rarely realise that there can be anxiety, fear, stress and panic that he might go through.
But then he has to stay strong for his family. He does not show this vulnerable side to the society, sometimes not even to his partner. I decided to write this because I only realised what my partner must have gone through after a few months of delivering the baby when my crazy hormones started to settle. I feel today that I was so equipped with what was happening to me during that phase in life that I hardly spoke to my husband to see if he was alright too. I always looked at him as my support but never thought he might be wanting some too. It is very easy for men to feel isolated and alone in feeling while no one talks about it.
We have heard about a large network available for new mums to help them cope with motherhood and have strategies to manage things better. Society still is in the novice phase of accepting that new fathers need support too. It is very important to also pay attention to what a father is going through while paying attention to a mother’s health. It is crucial that the family members and friends of new parents have a conversation with the father to see how he is coping and to give him the assurance that he is doing well. We always find women sharing their motherhood experiences with new mothers on how to increase the milk supply, on how to handle a colicky baby, how to put baby to sleep, what to eat, what not to eat, how to stay healthy etc etc etc. When people came to see our baby, I never saw anyone sharing their fatherhood experiences with my husband to help make things better for him or to at least make him feel that its common to be overwhelmed. We as a society should encourage more support groups for new fathers just as we do for new mothers.
A child needs a happy family to blossom. If we have a happy mother but a rather stressed and depressed father looking after the child, we are not giving an appropriate environment for the child to grow in. He needs to be given a pat on the back once in a while just to say that he is certainly doing a great job by being a supportive father and partner.
For all those who are reading this, next time you meet a new father please don’t forget to ask how he doing and feeling. Do not forget to give a pat on the back once in a while just to say that he is certainly doing a great job by being a supportive father and partner.