Antenatal classes – thoughts for dads
It might be hard to envisage a time when to even think about attending an antenatal class would have been considered emasculating for a large portion of the male population. We have come a long way from those days.
Nowadays, most dads-to-be make their presence felt in antenatal classes as much as they reasonably can. This includes attending the introductory classes early on in pregnancy (where available) to attending the more critical sessions typically occurring around 8-10 weeks before the baby is due, or, in the case of twins, around 15 weeks before the expected date of arrival.
In fact, six in ten dads-to-be in the UK attend antenatal classes. Any partner who doesn’t go is in the minority.
Listen and learn
Above all else, antenatal classes present expectant parents with an opportunity to listen and to learn. Unfortunately, just as with any situation in which we are uncertain and unfamiliar, anxiety can get in the way of why we are there: to derive benefit from others with experience and to make a meaningful contribution to the group.
By showing your enthusiasm for attending antenatal classes you are setting the tone for the years to come. Simply showing your commitment to sharing the parenting process is a symbolic as well as practical act. By doing this you are saying to your partner “you may be carrying the baby alone but I am here beside you every step of the way to offer you my full support and engagement”. Begin as you mean to go on.
Although antenatal classes do inevitably include moments of embarrassment – what with all those discussions of breasts, vaginas and dilated cervixes – as a group of responsible adults, you will soon get over it. What’s more, you will learn through the process.
And though it is true that we all have innate parenting skills to some degree – learned through our parents and the process of evolution – it is also true that skilled guidance can bring real benefit. Practice and training is what makes people good at things; it’s no acc
ident that Roger Federer is winning grand slams at the age of 35 or that David Beckham used to so reliably score long-range free kicks they, it took years of dedicated training. And the same is true of childbirth and parenting: why embark upon the most momentous event of your life blindly when by attending a few simple classes you can shine a little light on how to prepare for the process.
What to expect when you’re… attending an antenatal class
Some dads seem more overwhelmed by the thought of attending an antenatal class than they do by the actual thought of labour and childbirth.
Try not to think of it in terms that overwhelm you. Instead consider it practically, you just need to be there to listen, not to make an impression and the content of the classes, although very important, is actually very simple and very to the point.
You will learn about the workings of your partner’s body during pregnancy and how to support her, whether it is through massage, breathing exercises or supporting he in pre-birth dietary adjustments –
You may not be suffering from pregnancy anaemia, but don’t complain about the piles of spinach you are now expected to eat.
You will also learn about your partner’s options regarding pain relief, your role during labour, some of the challenges of breastfeeding and how to confidently get through the early weeks.
And because you will be learning all of this in a group setting, you will get a strong sense of community – you may even make an enduring network of friends. So go ahead and give antenatal classes a go. They’re provided to help you and what’s more (in most cases) they’re free!