Pregnancy has a weird way of making you pretty self-indulgent, as if you're the only person who exists in this world. Particularly on your first child, the all-consuming physical changes that you face, the mental changes that propel you forward to being a mother, and the feeling that you're part of a process that you have no real control of, begins the second you read that positive sign on the pregnancy test.
However, this isn't the same for Dads to be. As I near the end of my pregnancy (35 or 36 weeks depending on whether we go with the doctors estimate, or ours), I'm realising that reality doesn't kick in for Dads until much later. And it's hard for them to relate or to really feel part of it until that point. They're not experiencing morning sickness, their body isn't changing at a pace, even experiencing the kicks from a hand outside the stomach isn't quite the same as being wholly on the receiving end of each, alien like, little jab.
And on the whole, I think Dads get a bit of a bad rap in the whole experience. As slightly hormonal mums to be, we can expect them to read our minds, empathise with every change, and we're surprised when they're not quite as fastidious as we might be with the reading and preparation for the new addition. And as soon as you enter pregnancy as a Mum, you find entire support systems spring up around you, on Instagram, in groups geared to pregnant women, in friends who have been or are pregnant, you are immediately part of a club that has the empathy of having been through birth to unite it. But for Dads, this just doesn't exist in the same way.
The reality is, that Dads nowadays are an entirely different breed from the generations that went before, and I think it's bloody brilliant. In the past couple of months, my husband and I have been to a yoga birthing class, where you learn moves that will ease the pain and massage and breathing that your partner can assist with through the birth. We've been to an NCT alternative class in a bid to make friends in our soon to be permanent location of Worthing, and have been through all of the necessary learning on breast feeding and baby first aid in the process. And in the last couple of weeks we've been to hypno-birthing classes (more on this in a piece to come), in a bid to re-educate our brains on what the 'norms' of child birth are, and to get into a more zen state of mind ahead of the big day.
In every single one of these, Dads have attended (or in many cases been the ones who have researched and booked the class in the first place) with enthusiasm, written notes and asked questions, and its been amazing to see. I've heard them talk about how both parents are going to take equal compromises on their careers, how they're working out a lifestyle that enables them to be a more hands on part of parenting, and how they want to find any way they can support their partner through the birth and feel part of it, rather than a helpless bystander.
Of course, this should be the norm, but it's not a norm that prior generations of Dads necessarily experienced, and it's still in the process of changing. For my part, I'm lucky enough to have a partner who has come to these sessions and been as enlightened as I have, who rubs my feet pretty much daily, and faces the prospect of our new baby with more excitement than you'd think possible. Our conversations are about equal parenting, about supporting one another, and it helps no end to feel like it's not going to be a case of just me making compromises on life ambitions, and taking on the burden of how we're going to organise our lives with a new little one in the equation. As a result, it feels like an exciting time, where if anything, our life ambitions are being cemented, not compromised; where we're coming together as a team, not feeling like a baby will divide us; and where life is just pretty great.
So, here's to the expectant Dads to be...including the brilliant one in my life and beyond...they don't always get talked about, they're the constant, calm influence behind the scenes, and we should celebrate them that little bit more.