What does it feel like to be a new Dad? I asked a few Dads about this and many of them said the same thing…
“I felt utterly useless!” “Newborns are so small and fragile” “My girlfriend/wife is always crying and shouting at me and I don’t know what to do.” “There’s love but so much fear at the same time.”
With the last one, I probed a little more regarding the fear factor. And again the responses were similar…they were worried about getting it wrong. They didn’t know what they were meant to do. But one thing that came through was all to do with the birth. Some had been to antenatal classes and they thought they were prepared. But most births weren’t heavy breathing and a bit of screaming.
One new Dad was sent away as he was “late” and missed the birth. One dad was told his wife had Sepsis and they couldn’t guarantee either the life of baby or mom as they wheeled them into the OR, where Daddy wasn’t allowed. One new dad had their baby whisked away to the corner as the baby was blue and the doctors were working on the baby in his sightline and all the while he had to stand there trying to pretend to his girlfriend everything was alright even though his whole world was falling apart in front of him. One dad had seen his wife literally cut open and ‘tools of torture’ (Forceps) yanked the baby out. Then there was the blood. THREE dads witnessed their wives/girlfriends haemorrhage severely and are whisked straight off to surgery. Days and days passed whilst the love of their lives was hooked up to “so many machines”. Some babies were taken to NICU and Dads didn’t know who to spend their time with – mom or baby? And this was their introduction to fatherhood.
Of course, they were shit scared!
And once they had figured out the car seat conundrum and got their little families home all safe, then they really struggled. All those emotions had to be kept in check as Mom was in pain or trying to breastfeed or both. And they had to make the tea for all the visitors and sit on the side as they were totally ignored. And then a short two weeks later just had to go back to work. And, every single dad said, who could they talk to? Some of the Dads were lucky and had mates who had kids. They could talk about it ‘a bit’. But most Dads had no one. How do you start a conversation with your mate about “all the blood” or the details of your Missus’ vagina after she’d had over a 100 stitches? At best they could moan there was no sex and that she wasn’t interested. Call it ‘Man banter’!
And then the tiredness. There was no way any dad would admit to feeling tired of their wife/girlfriend. But even though they seemed asleep ‘all night’, their sleep was disturbed (I think my eyebrows raised here when chatting to some of the dads about this). They had to go to work and carry on, both being tired but really missing their new little family. And then all they wanted was to come home and veg on the sofa.
Yet almost as soon as they walked in the door they were faced with tears and demands. They had to cook tea. And tidy up. And on and on it went. Relentless.
Almost all Dads were glad when the newborn stage was over. They were utterly overwhelmed with it all and didn’t have a baby group to chat to others about how they felt. And almost all Dads said those Baby groups were terrifying. A few of the dads who were staying at home dads or part-timers really focused on the loneliness of those days. And they relished going to the gym or the pub with their mates.
Interestingly, some of the comments crossed over from Mums and Dads regarding loneliness, tiredness, fear. And whilst there is much more these days about talking about it, couples rarely talk about it with each other. Everything is too raw, too emotional and often ends in some kind of blame laying or resentment arguments. As well as the advice to new Mums about talking to your Doctor or Health Visitor whether it be days later or even months later, the same goes for Dads. PND can manifest itself at any point in that first year. It can sideswipe you from nowhere or it can be a slow creeping thing. Don’t be embarrassed to seek help. The gamut of emotions are real and both particular to you and yet shared by many too.