Learn about the Fathers Role during Pregnancy

Learn about the Fathers Role during Pregnancy

Fathers today are generally much more involved in the process of rearing children than they were a generation or two past. Most (but not all) fathers want to have a voice in all decisions regarding their children. Many want equal partnerships with the baby’s mother, and are willing to shoulder equal division of the chores. Many people, women and men, have preconceived ideas of how child care should be organized. It can be hard to realize that different styles and approaches may be equally workable and beneficial. Prospective parents need to talk about these issues without either being judgmental of the other’s ideas.

Single mothers will need to decide if possible how much a part of the child’s life the biological father will be. Some biological fathers want to have a large part in their child’s life, others to remain anonymous, and a few will be completely unaware of the child’s existence. The mother will not necessarily have any choice in this. A woman who finds herself pregnant from a casual encounter, or who chooses to become pregnant in that way, or who conceives by artificial insemination from a donor or a sperm bank should not underestimate the importance of the male role in bringing up her child. This was a concern for Angela and her partner Vicky. Angela arranged sperm donation from a friend, Joel, who wanted to have a role in his child’s life; so their daughter Mandy grew up with patenting from two mothers and her biological father, Joel. It was mostly harmonious. Another lesbian couple we know, who have a son and a daughter, both conceived through artificial insemination, make sure that their children have regular contact with the fathers of two heterosexual families they are good friends with. They believe that this contact benefits all concerned. The men in a child’s life should be stable presences, so a longtime friend or a brother might make a better surrogate father than a boyfriend.

Fathers are also eligible for paternity leaves under the Family and Medical Leave Act if they work for a company employing more than 50 people, for more than 25 hours per week, and have been doing so for at least one year. Most paternity leaves are unpaid, so the family’s need for income must be balanced with the need for time together. Most fathers want some time with their newly expanded family just after the baby is born; others may need to take more time when the mother returns to work. After a woman has had a Cesarean birth, the father’s presence at home at least in the first week may be essential. Adopting a baby also entitles a father to family leave.

As for involvement during the birthing itself, not all partners, male or female, want to be present. The pendulum of custom has swung from completely excluding fathers from the labor room, which was the situation when we were medical students in the 1970s, to expecting that partners will be present at prenatal classes, prenatal doctor’s visits, and throughout labor and birth. Although many people enjoy such participation, not all men and not all women have the emotional reserves or the personal traits needed to cope with it, even though they may be hugely supportive in other ways. If a husband or partner expresses reservations about his ability to help with the birth, these feelings should be taken seriously; a better choice as birth partner may be a sister or friend. Also, we have met a few women who felt more comfortable giving birth without their husband or partner present. If you feel this way, say so; don’t feel pressured to accept a situation you are unhappy with. It’s the long-term relationship together that is important for all of you as a family. Of course, if the partner does want to be included, this should be encouraged as much as possible.

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