Here’s what you need to know about the Black fatherhood journey from Mama Toni
You’ve heard it before, but it’s true, becoming a dad is one of life’s most rewarding experiences. While you’re not the one carrying your child, there’s so much you can do to support mom and baby leading up to, during birth, and after delivery that will prepare you to step into the role of dad. Despite what damaging stereotypes have to say about Black fatherhood, according to a CDC report, Black dads are more actively involved in the lives of their children than dads of other races. Here are a few ways to get involved and take on the roles and responsibilities of bringing a little one into your life. Remember, everyone and every family's experience is different, but you can make the most of your fatherhood experience and succeed at being an excellent dad!
Supporting Your Partner During Pregnancy
Welcome to fatherhood! It began the moment that you and your partner confirmed that you will be welcoming a child into the universe. Even before the baby is physically present, you foster a deep connection between you, your partner, and your child. One of the best ways you can do this is to offer support both physically and emotionally. From taking the initiative to educate yourself, helping out around the home, to providing emotional support and advocating for your family, you are an integral part of this beautiful journey. Both your baby and partner are so lucky to have.
Learn more about pregnancy and what your partner is going through
From reading books (we love “Dear Black Dads: Wisdom for Your Journey to Fatherhood” by Jamal J. Myrick Ed.D and “New Dad's Playbook” by Benjamin Watson) to taking classes and participating in Virtual Birth Village webinars, there’s a wide variety of resources to help you learn more about the pregnancy and Black fatherhood experience. As your partner is carrying your child, cultivating an understanding of what she’s going through during the various stages of pregnancy can be a great, supportive experience that bonds you together.
Provide emotional support
In addition to physical changes, your partner is likely going to experience emotional ups and downs throughout the pregnancy, whether due to hormone fluctuations or processing the changes to come. Growing a baby is hard work—and it’s also life-altering. You can provide emotional support by actively listening to your partner’s joys, fears, and worries. Finally, being sensitive to your own emotions as you go through this new journey and sharing with your partner is helpful too. You two are in this together and she has your back as well!
Help around the home
Once your due date nears, your partner may need more assistance with everyday tasks. Even tasks as simple as tying her shoes start to become difficult, if not impossible, during the third trimester. From chores to lifting heavy objects, taking over more responsibilities lets your partner relax as your child is growing and developing in the womb.
Another amazing way to foster a connection with your growing family is through meditation. The benefits of meditation include lowered stress, improved sleep, and for your partner, reduced risk of postpartum depression. By focusing on your breath and your body, you become hyper-aware of the energy that you and your partner created in the womb and begin to acknowledge that connection with your child. This connection is incredibly life-giving to your partner and is a huge encouragement as they carry baby.
Advocating for Your Partner During Labor and Delivery
Before the due date, make sure you are on the same page about the birth plan with your partner. A birth plan outlines the family’s desires and wishes before, during, and after delivery. Going over the birth plan in advance will help you make informed decisions —like insisting on skin-to-skin right after birth and signing off on any medical intervention. That way you are prepared if you run into situations that might force you to make decisions for both your child and your partner.
During labor, your role as a dad is to be supportive, attentive, and most importantly, an advocate for your partner and child. This means listening and observing everything that’s happening, especially when it comes to the actual delivery. Birthing is empowering, but it can also feel incredibly vulnerable. Advocate for what she needs and speak up if something doesn’t feel right. Raise any concerns to your doula, nurse, or doctor—or all of the above. You can do this dad!
Helping Out After Delivery and Postpartum
The postpartum period—generally the first six weeks after birth—is one of the most important stages in your journey toward fatherhood. During this time, both baby and mom will need you in a completely different capacity. Especially those first few days as your baby is feeding almost around the clock, you will need to help mom and baby wherever and whenever they need it. You and your partner should work as a team to handle the demands of early parenthood including everything from taking care of diaper changes and picking up on hunger cues to managing early visitor requests and more.
Additionally, after nine months of carrying the child and then the changes that happen during delivery, mom will also need to focus on caring for her body. Be willing to jump in so she can take care of herself. If she has to ask you to hold the baby so she can take a shower—you already missed the boat. But it’s NEVER too late to try again! Your partner is going to need you every step of the way, and you can still do this!
When it comes to baby, postpartum is the ideal time to begin establishing a strong bond with your child. Spending skin-to-skin time, in the early days of your baby’s life, is crucial. Skin-to-skin, or kangaroo care, involves holding the baby on your bare chest while the baby is just in a diaper, and benefits both you and your child. Benefits include: helping baby regulate their heartbeat and temperature, supporting the immune system and brain development, reducing stress, and helps form an emotional bond between you and your child. Plus, engaging in skin-to-skin also gives mom a well-deserved break.
Becoming a father and supporting your partner may seem overwhelming, but just as the changes in your partner are happening gradually over nine months, similar changes are happening in you. With each stage, as you step up to offer your support, care, and connection, you are beginning that transformation into a phenomenal father. Though the journey isn’t easy, the destination is a reward in itself.
This content was originally created in our Virtual Village by co-founder and doula, Mama Toni. If you would like to access more content, education, and join an engaged community of Black fathers and families, check out our Virtual Birth Village membership. We cannot wait to see you there!