Article by Georgie Hutchinson
Father’s day is here – another year passes. It may be the first of many Father’s Days for many new dads and partners – I know my husband will be celebrating his 31st Father’s Day , marking the day as a Father with his first baby who was close to 10 months at the time.
I remember thinking at the time it was lucky that the day was coming closer to the end of the first year of our son’s life rather than the beginning. Things were calmer and the anxiety was dampened down for both my partner and myself in our household. We had had a bit of time to sort out how to support each other through our exhaustion and to start to reclaim and practice more open and direct communication with each other. The father of my first born was a dedicated parent. It seemed that for the first many months his main job was to walk and soothe a fed and changed but distraught baby.
In the early days – one foot in front of the other, soothing his son’s piercing cries and finding the right rhythm to sway the very hard to settle baby. In the later evening, ages after what felt like hours of nursing for me, he would take that baby son and pack him up in his snuggly (which in those days was a shoulder killer) and out he would go -pacing in the back lanes of Vancouver during the rainy Fall and Winter nights with his son tucked under his parka, looking like a strange lumbering apparition with an abnormal growth . He was stopped by the police one night and had to unzip his coat to prove he was not making off with some stolen contraband.
That is just one of my memories of him- this loving and tender side of him that started to emerge more strongly as a new father and continued on as he loved and tended to two other babies.
We don’t talk about those baby days often. He was either going to school or starting a new job during each of our three pregnancies and postpartum times. I don’t think I really thought about how tough it was for him. I was too absorbed in my own adjustment issues of feeling overwhelmed and anxious about Motherhood. I realized after the fact that his adjustment was huge as well and that he did not really talk about what was happening for him. He might just fall asleep in his soup during supper after getting very little sleep as he came home from a long day at work, helped me with the babies and then started fitting in studying time before he managed to get a few hours of sleep.
When I think about all the new fathers and partners who sometimes can feel like they are not as important in those days where the baby is breastfeeding I can see more clearly now how much of an adjustment it is for them as well. Those partners who might feel like they are not knowing where their place is in the whole new family system and may be feeling a bit anxious about how to handle and soothe their baby.
We know from evidence–based studies that Fathers and partners can experience postpartum depressive and anxiety symptoms as well as the birth and adoptive mother. The statistic for risk is close to 13% . So I want to salute new fathers and seasoned older fathers as well for your commitment to this huge job. We encourage fathers like we encourage mothers to be gentle and loving with themselves. This parenting gig is a huge and it takes time to find your feet and feel solid – reach out to friends and family and your partner. Talk about the issues that come up for you in this adjustment as a father. You deserve support and it is great modelling for your children to see you practice reaching out for support and it makes the world a better place.