How do things change? How do we see improvements? What is it going to take for dads to have space?
I’ve been lucky enough to be a new dad again, our new boy is now two months old. Just about enough time for us to begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel and regain some of our sleep and normality. He is an absolute joy, and my heart fills with love for him, especially when he throws me one of his wee cheeky grins. He just loves getting his nappy changed, I know with a lot of kids it can be a stressful moment, not with this wee boy, he just grins away.
Yes there have been frustrating moments when you struggle to figure out why he’s crying, but on the whole we have been blessed. As ever our health service has been wonderful, we’ve been well supported by local staff, and thankfully so far have not needed to take him anywhere near a Hospital (apart from when he was born!). I love just to look into his eyes and wonder what’s going on in that head, and how many times can I tell him I love him.
Our older son is eight years old, so it’s been really interesting to see what has changed with the maternity service. What’s changed is that there is more openness about different ways of being with your baby, and bringing them up. To me it feels as if there has been a softening of opinions, and on the whole there has been much less judgement on decisions around breast of bottle feeding. This has been great to see, now information is given on how to prepare a formula feed, eight years ago it was the elephant in the room.
The free health service antenatal classes were good, yes the group was larger than eight years ago, but it gave more space for debate amongst those present, and it was good to see quite a few more dads in attendance. I loved that one dad was ‘Googling’ whilst the midwife was talking to check on whether she was saying the right thing or not!
The big thing that has remained the same from when our first son was born, is the treatment of fathers.
It may be easier if I break this down between the different parts of the services that I interacted with.
1. Midwife appointments – Both my wife and I loved the midwife we meet each time we attended the local health practice. They were informal, relaxed and gave tons of practical guidance. The care that was given to my wife was second to none. It would have been helpful for even just one dedicated segment of an appointment to be about how the dad to be was feeling, and to talk about what’s common for dads to feel.
2. Labour suite and ward – Simply ace! The midwife who was in charge of delivery did everything she could to help me feel part of the process. Likewise when we went upstairs to the ward, the staff and treatment was great.
3. Health visitor – Personally our health visitor was lovely, really down to earth and laid back, but professional when she needed to be. As for me, although I was at virtually all of the visits, I might as well have been elsewhere. Again just once it would have been helpful if the health visitor had said, ‘and how are you dad?’ or ‘now I’ve some questions for you dad’. Just those simple statements would have opened a door, to give me space to think, right this is for me and I matter here.
I know it will improve, it simply has to for all our sakes.
In Scotland we talk a lot about wanting to make it the best place for our kids to grow up, it makes me think of when my boys are grown up, and when they (if they) are lucky enough to become dads. What will they think? What do I want for my boys?
I want them to be central to their child’s life, I want them to be good men, respectful, loving and kind.
I’ve been working with dads for five years now, I know others have been working with and for dads for longer. There have been a lot of small steps along the way, small improvements. We’re all part of it, and together as dads, men and boys, we can make the change.
As the song says, it’s been a long time coming…but I know a change is gonna come.