Often dads refer to ‘becoming a father’ on the day their child is born. This is understandable, really. Mums go through so many physical and emotional changes during pregnancy, whereas for us men, things often pretty much stay the same. Dad.info talks about the changes you will likely encounter when becoming a father and how to prepare for it
If you are not in a relationship with the mother of your baby, then you may find therefore that you feel even more separate from what is happening, from bonding with your baby, making the transition to fatherhood, or getting ready for their arrival.
This is normal, but the good news is also that you can do something about it.
Bonding with your baby
If you are not in a relationship with the partner of your baby, some of the ways that dads bond with their babies may not be as accessible to you. However, there are always ways, so just focus your energies on the ones which you can do and put your all into those.
1. Talk to your partner about her antenatal scans and if she would be happy for you to attend those with her – seeing your baby on a screen is shown through studies to enhance the bond that dads have with their babies. If she doesn’t want you to go with her to her NHS scans, perhaps you could ask her if she would be happy for you to arrange a private bonding scan, so you could see your baby this way. You can now book a private bonding scan at various organisations around the country, and depending on where you are, these can cost from around £39.
2. Keep a copy of a scan photo, or ask for a copy of one, if you are not going to be at a scan. Then keep this photo to hand – in your wallet, on your phone, and look at it from time to time. This will help you start to visualise your baby and help start to think of your baby as a real person and start the bonding process.
3. Give your baby a nickname – this will make them more of a real person to you. It doesn’t have to be the name they will actually have when she is born – it’s just something you use.
4. If your ex-partner is willing, ask to spend some time with the bump! You could offer to bring her a magazine or some other treat to enjoy, while you have a little time to talk, sing or play music to your baby, or maybe recite a rhyme or read a short story. By doing this your unborn baby will start to recognise your voice and get to know you. What is really great about this is that not only will your baby recognise the story or song if they hear it often enough, but they will connect it to a time of feeling loved and content, and so, once born, singing this song or reading the same story you used during pregnancy, can be a great calming method!
5. Start a blog or something like an Instagram account, which charts your journey into fatherhood. These kinds of baby/parenting records are becoming very popular – and are a great way to meet other dads too and get some support. You can record details about the scans or appointments, how you are both feeling or specific milestones. This will all help reinforce the fact that your baby is another person in the family already, and such records are great to look back on and even show to your child as they get older. Do remember to respect the privacy of your ex though, and to not inadvertently share anything which might cause her upset.
6. Buy something for you baby. It might be an outfit. It might be a toy. It might be something which you keep at your house, or something you know your partner wants or needs for the baby at hers. You don’t have to be a prolific shopper, or get carried away, but choosing something especially for your baby is again another way of making their presence real and helping you mentally prepare for their arrival.
7. Go to antenatal classes and/or research. We discuss more about the options and benefits of antenatal classes below, and while a lot of these are very practical, doing this kind of formal preparation often also has the emotional/mental benefit of helping men start viewing themselves as fathers.
As well as the mental and emotional preparation, you will need to do a certain amount of practical preparation for becoming a dad.
If you are going to be at the birth of your baby, it is important to prepare for what that will mean. Read our article on Can I be at the birth of our baby? for more information.
If you are planning to have time alone caring for your baby, depending on your level of prior experience, you will need to prepare for doing this. Look for specific antenatal classes on baby care and which help you look through what you will need to care for your baby.
If you do not want to, or cannot attend a class with your ex, research what is available in your area and enquire about going to one on your own, or with a family member or friend. Some organisations will even come and run a class just for you in your own home, if you want to avoid being on your own in a room full of other couples – one such organisation to ask about this is Baby Natal who offer Practical Baby Care Workshops both in a group setting, but also as a private workshop in your own home.
Find out more about attending antenatal classes as a single expectant dad at Should I go to antenatal classes on my own?
Depending on what arrangements will be in place for when your baby arrives, there will also be equipment and resources which you will need to have. It is a good idea to take responsibility for sorting these out as a parent, rather than relying on your ex to always give you what you will need. Consider getting an appropriate car seat, a buggy or a sling, nappies and some clothes, a play mat or some toys, and maybe somewhere safe baby can nap or sleep (remembering that guidance says that for the first six months the safest place for your baby to sleep is in the same room as you which includes naptimes).