It is true that nothing can truly prepare you for the birth and arrival of your baby, but when you are going to be a separated new dad, any support you can get to prepare and build your confidence ready for when you will be responsible for caring for your baby, is really important, and antenatal classes are a great place to begin. They can help you to learn what to expect during labour and birth, if you will be there, as well as to learn some skills and explore expectations of what life will be with your newborn baby
You can attend classes on your own, but you don’t have to if you would prefer not to. You can take a friend or family member, or arrange to go with your ex if that is something which would work for you both.
If you and your ex-partner have agreed that you will be at the birth, it is important to make sure that you prepare to be there, even if you are not going to be the main birth partner. Research shows that birth partners affect the length of labour, the degree of pain your partner may or may not feel during labour, even the outcome of the birth – whether interventions are required or even whether she has a Caesarean section. In turn, this all has a potential impact on the wellbeing of your baby, so to give them the best start in life, make sure you know how to make your influence on birth a positive one.
If at any point your relationship with your ex-partner becomes strained or even adversarial, perhaps with her even questioning your ability to adequately care for your baby, being able to evidence that you have taken steps to be prepared and learn about caring for your child can also be very important.
What are your options?
Being a separated expectant dad may make you feel like it will be difficult to find a class where you won’t stick out like a sore thumb. In reality, families are now so diverse, and there are so many types of antenatal classes on offer, that if you want to do one, with a bit of effort, you will be able to find something that suits you and where you feel comfortable.
There are a lot of classes out there which are aimed at couples – and these classes are still an option for you, it just depends on whether you and your ex-partner feel that you can attend these together, or whether you feel comfortable going to them on your own, or with a family member or friend instead.
To help you make your decision, contact the facilitator of the course in advance to discuss your situation and make sure you feel comfortable with how you will be welcomed in class. If you speak to someone and you don’t feel reassured, or you can’t get to speak to the person who will be running the class, then try a different one. There are plenty of classes out there, and it is important you find one which will work for you.
There are also classes available that are geared specifically for dads, so whether you are in a current relationship with the mother of your baby or not, will be completely irrelevant. You can now even do classes on the specific skills and information dads-to-be need to know over the internet from the comfort of your own living room!
Whether you will be at the birth or not, learning about the skills for caring for your newborn is going to be something you need to know about if you are going to be a hands-on dad. From learning how to bath your baby, to change their nappies, and how to calm their colicky cries – specific classes allowing you to gain understanding and get hands-on experience with all of these skills are very helpful. Some organisations will come and run these kinds of sessions for you in your own home, and even show you how the equipment you have bought to use with your baby works!
There may also be breastfeeding workshops or support sessions on offer. While breastfeeding might seem like something which won’t have a lot to do with you, especially being a separated dad, studies show that all fathers have a huge impact on mum’s ability to breastfeed. So if breastfeeding is something your partner would like to do, and you would support your baby to get the benefits of it, understanding as much as possible about it is a really good idea.
It will also help you to consider how, if your partner will be breastfeeding, you can support her to do so, while also making sure that you both get to spend time with your baby. We look at the issues involved in more detail over at If my partner chooses to breastfeed, how might that affect me?
Check out www.daddynatal.co.uk for information.
Check out www.babynatal.co.uk for their Practical Baby Care workshops which are offered both in group and private settings, which enable you to learn about your options and practice your skills before your baby arrives.