This was the thought that occurred to us whilst we read an interesting article published in one of our favourite father-focused magazines, Fathers Quaterly.
The piece talks about how fathers often feel powerless during their partner’s pregnancy and that in order to understand their partner’s experience better and to bond with their baby, fathers should engage in the nesting instinct.
It’s a really touching post, which looks to engage fathers in the Nesting phase of pregnancy, where women typically feel the need to clean, rearrange and prepare the home for the arrival of their little one. The central theme is enabling mum, and allowing her to Nest without doing the heavy lifting, fixing and building that is sometimes a part of this phenomenon. Enter dad with his screwdrivers, flat pack cot and electronic baby monitors…
This is a lovely idea, and a great way for both parents to get into the spirit of mummy and daddyhood, but it misses the point a little.
Fathers are not powerless during pregnancy, and power tools alone are not going to empower them. It’s a myth that women are in complete control whilst going through the many different phases of pregnancy. Despite playing host to the miracle inside their bodies, women have no control over their child’s development. It can feel incredibly frightening at times, not knowing whether your baby is alright in your womb, or suffering in silence as something goes terribly wrong on your watch. Just as alienating is the constant anxiety that you might have eaten or drunk something taboo which could impact on your baby’s development at any time. And those fears can leave women feeling just as powerless as men.
But the truth is, for all the reasons we have to feel powerless, there are many more that allow mothers and fathers to empower themselves during pregnancy and to develop a bond with their unborn baby that will last forever. Yes, getting in touch with the Nesting instinct, is one, but there are many others.
Talk to the foetus. That might sound strange, but it’s been scientifically proven to benefit babies. And the more you talk to the tummy the more familiar your unborn baby becomes with the sound of your voice, so that when they eventually enter the outside world, they will be able to recognise you by the sounds you make. It also helps to develop their language skills, so dads, if you speak another language, why not introduce your baby to it?
It’s all about the music. Research aside, and there’s plenty of it extolling the virtues of letting your baby listen to music in the womb, fathers can get involved by making music compilations and playing them to their babies whilst still in the womb. Besides the basic nurturing skills involved in picking music for your child and being aware of their development, it’s also a lovely way for dads to share their musical taste with their children (before they’re old enough to shake their heads and tell you you’re not cool :)).
Talk about the future. Talking with your partner about all the fantastic things you want to do with your child once they’re out of the womb is a great way to develop empathy skills further and start to explore the world of parenting. Talk for long enough, and your fatherly instincts will kick in so that parenting feels natural and a part of who you are.
And the beauty of these rituals? They are as equally applicable to mums as they are to dads. In a world where fathers are often made to feel like they don’t have a role to play during pregnancy, the opposite is in fact true. The more dads engage during pregnancy, the easier it will be for both dad and baby to develop that special bond that only fathers can have with their children. The only thing you guys can’t do is carry the baby in your womb, but that just means mums develop their own special bond, too.
Parenting is about sharing the experience, and bonding plays an important part. How you choose to share the experience is up to each parent, but there is no doubt that babies benefit from more love and attention, rather than less.
So go for it dads, and don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re powerless during pregnancy – it’s all about perception.