Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

100 Ways To Be A Better Father

I love reaching out to other fathers/parents! Back in May I discovered Derek Markham’s blog NaturalPapa.com and I re-posted his great article about how to be a better husband.

I find Derek’s blog very inspirational and I love his writing. He talks about attachment, natural parenting, co-sleeping, natural living and so much more. Please visit his site and enjoy reading his awesome stuff!

Today I would like to share his post about 100 Ways to Be a Better Father. I agree with most of the points Derek has made. But when he talks about praise, I see that issue in a different way and refer to Alfie Kohn’s work on ‘Unconditional Parenting’. Have a read yourself and enjoy!

Fatherhood: 100 Ways to be a Better Father

100Fatherhood is a tricky proposition. We all want to be great dads, but chances are, our fathers never sat down with us and taught us how to be one.

And we don’t necessarily want to be our fathers. I mean, we want to emulate their positive influence on us, but we also want to do it our own way. And because children tend to spend more of their time with their mother, not being the greatest dad ever isn’t as obvious. No matter who we are, though, we can always improve our relationship with our kids and our spouse, and we can redefine the meaning of fatherhood each and every day.

There’s not as big of a movement toward better ‘fathering’ as there is toward better mothering. No big fancy fatherhood magazines, no Oprah for dads, no real exchange of fatherhood improvement programs. There’s just Natural Papa. (I’m kidding. There’s a bunch of great dad blogs out there.)

I’m a crappy dad sometimes, yet I hope that I’m always learning how to be a better father, so I felt moved to put some of my thoughts on fatherhood down in words to share with you.

I read a post called ‘Tackle Any Issue With a List of 100′, by Luciano Passuello, a couple of weeks ago, and then later I came across ’100 Ways To Live A Better Life, by Dragos, which was inspired by ’100 Ways to Be a Better Leader’, by Mike King, which was inspired by ’100 Ways To Show Boldness’, by Armen, which was originally inspired by…  You guessed it, Luciano’s post about lists of 100. Whew. Got that straight?

Anyway, after reading those, I thought I would format my ideas on fatherhood into my own list of 100. If you have something to add, I’d love a comment about it.

100 Ways to be a Better Father

  1. Be present with your children.
  2. Heap lavish amounts of praise on your kids.
  3. Focus on the positive when speaking to your children.
  4. Say I love you. A lot.
  5. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions to your family.
  6. Work on improving your relationship with your wife or partner.
  7. Take time out from work for family time.
  8. Laugh at yourself. All the time.
  9. Listen to your kids with all of your attention.
  10. Learn new things by teaching your children about them.
  11. Start a personal journal.
  12. Hold your kids accountable for their actions and words, but don’t use punishment to teach..
  13. Leave your watch and daytimer on your desk sometimes.
  14. Make a meal for your family.
  15. Do something wacky and unpredictable in front of your kids.
  16. Spend some time one-on-one with your child.
  17. Get moving. Have a fitness plan in place and get your kids to join in.
  18. Take more walks, and leave the car at home.
  19. Fall in love with your wife. Again.
  20. Admit you’re wrong when you are.
  21. Forgive your dad for any grudges you hold against him.
  22. Teach a new dad what you’ve learned so far.
  23. Take time for yourself, so you can bring that sense of fulfillment with you to the family.
  24. Remember what you hated to hear from your parents as a kid and vow to be different.
  25. Read out loud to your children.
  26. Leave your work issues at your job. Don’t dump on your kids because your day was bad.
  27. Drop your change in a jar each day. When full, open a savings account for your child.
  28. Once in a while, ask your kids what you can do better. Then do it better.
  29. Hugs and kisses are golden. Be generous.
  30. Let your kids make their own choices.
  31. Get out in nature with the family.
  32. Count to 10 before you react to your children’s actions.
  33. Remember that kids mirror our actions, so watch what you say to or around them.
  34. Parenting is a shared responsibility. Jump in and do something mom normally does.
  35. Learn from your elders – ask them what they’ve learned as fathers.
  36. When a child does something not so nice, separate their actions from them in your mind. A child is never bad, even though their actions may be.
  37. The next time you feel like giving up on something, do it anyway and use it as a teaching moment.
  38. Remember that everyone is somebody’s child.
  39. Listen to yourself. Do you sound like your dad? Is that a good thing?
  40. Give yourself a break. I haven’t met a father yet who doesn’t make mistakes.
  41. Unplug the TV and pretend it’s broken once in a while. Or hide it.
  42. Go with your child to school once in a while. Meet the teacher and ask how you can help.
  43. Make your health and fitness a priority so you’ll be around for your kids for a long time.
  44. Teach the value of service to others by volunteering in your neighborhood, church, or school.
  45. Write love notes and leave them for your kids to find.
  46. Read a book about fatherhood.
  47. Write a book about fatherhood.
  48. Make some snacks for the kids as a surprise.
  49. Speak as one with your wife, so your kids don’t play you off on one another.
  50. Do you say yes all the time? Use no when you mean it, even if they don’t like it.
  51. Do you say no all the time? Say yes once in a while.
  52. Snuggle with your kids.
  53. Show your wife respect always. Make sure your kids do also.
  54. Take the time to really explain things to your children. Don’t just say “because I said so.”
  55. Ask for help if you need it. Don’t suffer from excess pride.
  56. Accept who you are, but don’t settle. Strive to improve yourself every day.
  57. Smile at your children and your partner.
  58. Make amends when you’re wrong or grumpy or harsh with your kids.
  59. Periodically assess your life and change course if needed. Don’t be unhappy just because you think you can’t change.
  60. Take a class or learn a new skill with your kids.
  61. Act as if you’re the best dad ever.
  62. Imagine you’ve only got one week left to live. How would you treat your kids? What’s stopping you from doing that right now?
  63. Let your kids see you cry.
  64. Explore every park in your town.
  65. Once in a while, take a day off just because, and spend it with your family.
  66. Find out about your family history and start sharing it with your kids.
  67. Give high fives for each tiny accomplishment they make.
  68. Get out of debt as quick as you can, and teach your kids about the value of being debt-free.
  69. Take a big leap when you see an opportunity, and show your children about trust, faith, and the virtue of following your dreams.
  70. Get down on their level and try to see things as they do. Chances are, you’ve forgotten what it’s like.
  71. Learn some really corny kid jokes and use them often.
  72. Hold a family meeting and get your kid’s input on important decisions.
  73. Don’t just give your kids the answers to questions. Show them how to find the answers.
  74. Remember, they’re never too old for piggyback rides.
  75. Have patience with your children. Don’t expect them to be perfect.
  76. Don’t insist on conformity. Let your kids follow their dreams, not yours.
  77. Hold their hands, literally.
  78. Remember to let your children save face. Embarrassing them in front of their friends is not cool.
  79. Keep your relationship issues between you and your wife. Don’t let your kids take on all your crap.
  80. When your children were babies, you gushed over them. Do the same thing for them now.
  81. Don’t gossip around your kids.
  82. Stand up for the weak, the oppressed, the underdog.
  83. Grow a beard. (Actually, I just put that in to see if you were paying attention.)
  84. Take your child to work with you and explain what you do for a living.
  85. Make something by hand with them. Don’t worry about perfection, just enjoy the process.
  86. Once in a while, give them a “get out of jail free” card.
  87. Tell your children how much they mean to you.
  88. Follow through on your promises to them.
  89. Give your kids responsibilities.
  90. Speak to your children as your equals. Give them the respect you ask for.
  91. Plan surprises for them and keep them guessing.
  92. When speaking to other adults, act as if your kids were listening.
  93. Play games with your children. Let them win sometimes, but don’t make it obvious or easy.
  94. Before you walk in the door from work, take some deep breaths and leave your work outside.
  95. Give mom the day off once in a while, and get the kids to help you pamper her.
  96. Be generous with your time, your energy, and your money. Give freely to those in need.
  97. Cultivate your fatherhood Superpowers.
  98. Don’t let other adults get away with unacceptable behavior around your kids.
  99. Remember the Golden Rule. It does apply to your children as well.
  100. Find your center and define what truly matters to you. Make that your inner retreat when life throws you a curve ball, and share that with your kids.

What have I missed? Please leave a comment with your addition to this list.

 

About Derek

Personal, Parenting and Natural Living Bio:

I’m a husband, a father, and a carrier of things.

I think peanut butter on anything is great.

I love big mountains and little kids, ’cause they make me smile, and I drink a double americano almost every day.

I’m a nature boy, a tree-hugging dirt-worshiper. I try to live with reverence for our web of life.

I like big trees and large boulders, cold mountain streams and redrock desert, the smell of pinyon and sage. I’d rather be sitting in a canoe in the wilderness than the backseat of a Rolls Royce.

(As long as the canoe had an espresso machine and a wireless connection…)

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, composting (sawdust) toilets, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues.

In my life I’ve been a factory worker, a farmer, a grocery clerk, a handyman and jack of all trades. I’ve worked at fast food joints and car washes, for temp agencies and day labor hire, for moving companies and landscapers. I’ve driven forklifts and bobcats, and I’ve installed solar panels and sold fruit at the farmers market. I spent 10 years in the natural foods industry, most recently as the general manager of a natural foods co-op.

I support local food production and am a regular at the farmers market and our local food co-op. The dream of a sustainable homestead is still alive for us, and our self-sufficient zero-energy input green home is being planned. Our permaculture oasis is a sustainable small-scale village. Single-speed bicycles, drumming, and DIY anything can really make me grin.

 


 

Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

Being Close to Your Partner through Active Listening

loving coupleHow often do you argue with your partner and you feel misunderstood? How many times do you respond with anger, defending yourself or becoming cross when she or he doesn’t get you? Close connection comes through really seeing our partner, understanding who he or she is. Essential for that are active listening and empathy.

What is Active Listening?

“Seek first to understand, and then be understood” (Stephen R Covey)

• We are used to listen to ourselves in response to what the other person is saying. That means we ‘listen’ to our reactions of what the other has said, judging, commenting it in our mind and formulating a response, waiting only for our turn to speak

• We jump in, give opinions and possible solutions, before the other person has really finished

Active listening, however, is when we stop focusing on our own agenda and thoughts and focus fully on our partner’s words, intonation, body language and facial expression.

When we truly want to understand we need to listen actively, that means:

• Give our full attention, this can be shown by moving our body towards the speaker, nodding our mirroring their body language

• We can repeat and summarise key words and phrases. Be careful to use their words, so that you don’t change the meaning of what they said.

You show that you are really listening when you do that and it reaffirms the speaker, that you understood.

• Reflect back the emotion that you hear them express. Like: ‘You sound very sad…’ However, if in doubt, leave the emotion. You don’t want to make the speaker believe he/she is sad, for example, if they are not.

• By paraphrasing what the other has said you encourage him/her to carry on and when you feel you have come to a point in the conversation where it would be helpful for you to interpret what has been said, this can be useful for the speaker, as it clarifies his/her thinking.

The aim of active listening is that you are able to truly understand and therefore feel yourself into his/her position and are able to respond with empathy and compassion.

To practice active listening, arrange a special evening, order or cook some special food and have a candlelight dinner or anything that you know your partner will find romantic or will appreciate your efforts for.

Have a “listening” evening. Each person has time to talk without being interrupted for five, ten (you decide what feels best) minutes. The other listens. Make sure you really listen and don’t let your thoughts drift off (if they do, make sure you come back to listening actively). Take what you hear as feelings and thoughts of your partner, rather than “the truth”. This means you won’t get into justification mode (“she always accuses me of this”, “I never said that…”). Active listening means you look each other in the eyes, you can nod, you might want to clarify points (but not question what the other has said!).

Start your sentences with “I”, if that helps you talk about yourself, rather than accuse your partner of something.

Get closer. Listen to your partner. Become (re)connected. Enjoy!

(Based on Stephen R. Covey’s work* and other researchers, I have summarised in this post how their work can support your communication with your child(ren) and partner.

*Steven R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Simon & Schuster Ltd., 2004

 

 

P.S. I still run my campaign AWESOME WORKSHOPS for AWESOME DADS at Indiegogo. I raise funds in order to offer workshops for fathers (on a low or no income) in my community. Wanna help me? Awesome. Click HERE.

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Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

Father, I’m Longing For You

My dear Father,

It’s Father’s Day, again. I know it has very little meaning to you and me, though we’re both fathers ourselves. Where we grew up and where we lived, Father’s Day didn’t actually exist. But that’s a long time ago. That country, called GDR (East Germany), has gone; more than 20 years ago. But the memories and issues have survived. So have mine.

When people ask me today how life was in that time, in that country, I often say: good. Yes, childhood was good. I had everything I needed: food, clothes, shelter, education, friends, toys, fun, the good and the bad moments – a pretty normal childhood, even when life was shaped by the so called socialist ideology.

But, when I look back I also see that emptiness. It’s grey, foggy and sad. It’s that time you weren’t there. If I could look into your face right now, I would see that big question mark: what do you mean? You would say: I was there.
You worked. You worked a lot. Long hours and often weekends as well. Yes, you would tell me now how important work is and that you wanted the best for my sister and me – the family.

schwarzweiss

But I was missing you. Couldn’t tell you then because I was too little. You missed so much. I missed so much. I had so many questions (and I still have) and was looking for some answers. I was looking for you to hold me but you were busy. You know what: we never talked. You heard me right: we never talked. You never asked me about my dreams and I didn’t know yours. You had expectations of me, but didn’t take a moment to check whether they match my hopes and dreams. I know so little about you and you next to nothing about me.

I’m not cross or angry. I’m just so incredibly sad. So many missed opportunities, so many lost moments. Sometimes I wish to go back: To look for you in the woods where we gathered mushrooms or to smell the sea of our short summer holidays. Where is that sand gone? Where are the memories? Do you still remember me as a child?

No, I’m not here to blame you. I’m not here to judge you. No demands, no expectations. I’m just opening my heart: to you, for you, for me.

Our lives are so different and we don’t even speak the same language anymore. But it doesn’t matter. We would understand each other. But would we be brave enough to reach out for each other? Would you make the first step? Would I? I don’t know.

Time is running out. You are there, far away. But I could get that ticket to come to you. Shall I? What do you think? Will we really talk? Will you really hold me?

I hope.

It’s Father’s Day. I’m thinking of you.

Love,

Your son

 


 

Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships, Society

Our Obsession With ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’

IMG_0391You hear it wherever you go with small children: playgrounds, supermarkets, nurseries, playgroups – you name it. And it always follows the same structure. A child wants something – a certain food, a toy or even just the permission to go on a swing. You can actually often see and feel the vibrant excitement in that child awaiting the parent’s/adult’s response or approval. And then, the child is just bursting for impatience, the parent bends down, raises an eyebrow and shoots that one arrow straight into a child’s heart: ‘What DO YOU say?’ or even sometimes in decrypted adult language and with a cunning smile: ‘What’s the MAGIC word?’ Watch that child again. The excitement has gone. The bubble of curiosity has burst. One question can destroy so much.

Instead of looking forward to a nice food/drink, a toy or an activity, the child is caught in a guilt trap. Observe that child again. You see them thinking hard. One, two, three…. Damn, what is it Mum wants? What is the magic word again? Sometimes the child is near a crying breakdown or just emotionally blocked to say anything. Some adults then say ‘SAY Thank you’ or ‘SAY Please’ as a ‘reminder’.

Forget it. The adult knows the answer already, but he/she won’t give in until he/she gets her f***ing ‘PLEASE’ or ‘THANK YOU’. And you know what, they call it ‘teaching manners’ or ‘being polite’. I call it bribery, blackmailing, emotional manipulation or short: rubbish.

We don’t teach children anything by enforcing so-called manners or made-up rules by society. Yes, I want my children to be kind and polite people and I tell you what, they’re lovely, kind and caring boys. That’s without any pressure or blackmailing.

The secret (not sure if it is a secret, actually) lies in the way we role model. Children (especially the younger ones) WANT to copy us. The way we live, talk, respond is our children’s ‘classroom’. They watch us and will integrate our words and habits into their daily play and interactions. So, you want polite and well-mannered kids? Well, set the example yourself. Be friendly, don’t shout, be polite, say ‘Please’, say ‘Thank you’, don’t f***ing swear (never!). Easy, isn’t it?!

 

Recently I talked to a very experienced speech- and language therapist. She and various brain development researches confirm, that kids at the age of two or three (but I have actually seen parents who tried to train even their 18-months-old toddler) are not ready at all to understand or to follow our codex of manners. What they really want in that moment is that apple, toy or attention. ‘Teaching’ them by enforcing ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can have an damaging impact onto their self- esteem and confidence (and speech development).

Children won’t learn gratitude and respect that way either. A ‘Please’ or ‘Thank you’ should come from their and our hearts, not in order to get praised or to please anyone. That’s why it is so important for parents and other key adults to be positive, friendly and polite. Let’s create that warm, nurturing environment and atmosphere for our kids. No bribery, no punishments, but unconditional love.

So, my wife and I never asked or forced our kids to say ‘Please’ or ‘Thank you’. But, in our home we are friendly and polite to each other. When we have dinner and I ask my wife or my kids for the butter, then I use ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’. Again, I role model. Maybe not all the time, but most. Guess what, it works! My eldest, now six, says very often the not so magic words. Because he’s seen it many, many times and has now understood, that it’s actually quite nice to be nice to each other. Awesome, isn’t it?! Sometimes, he forgets, but I’m not worried (and certainly won’t remind him), I trust that he does what feels right to him in our family (and outside) culture.

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Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

How to be a Better Husband: Find Common Ground

I love reaching out to other fathers/parents. Very recently I discovered Derek Markham’s blog NaturalPapa.com
I find Derek’s blog very inspirational and I love his writing. He talks about attachment, natural parenting, co-sleeping, natural living and so much more. Please visit his site and enjoy reading his awesome stuff!

Check out what Derek says about himself:

I’m a husband, a father, and a carrier of things.

I think peanut butter on anything is great.

I love big mountains and little kids, ’cause they make me smile, and I drink a double americano almost every day.

I’m a nature boy, a tree-hugging dirt-worshiper. I try to live with reverence for our web of life.

I like big trees and large boulders, cold mountain streams and redrock desert, the smell of pinyon and sage. I’d rather be sitting in a canoe in the wilderness than the backseat of a Rolls Royce.

The post today comes from his blog and you can find the original post HERE. Now, enjoy reading it:

People grow apart. It’s as natural as people growing closer – they develop different interests, have different time or money demands, or they may begin cultivating new habits or dropping old habits. And in friendships, this may not ever be a concern, as we’re much more likely to still retain a friendship even if it’s only a fraction of the interest we once had. However, in a marriage, growing apart can be fatal to the relationship.

There exists a perfect couple somewhere in the universe, a couple whose marriage is always in a smooth strong upward swing. And then there are the rest of us… Our relationships swing wildly from hot to cold, from spending-every-minute-together to hoping-you-don’t-argue-today, from “true love” to divorce court.

One big factor in the strength of a relationship is the existence of some common ground and a shared dream between the people. It’s a no-brainer, really. We like and admire and love and want to be around people who share similar experiences and want to achieve similar goals.

As a new couple, we spend lots of time together – talking about the things we love and care about, attending events that we both enjoy, and participating in each other’s lives through mutual interests and friends. We may dream of a future together, and may look to build on each other’s strengths for a common dream.

But at some point, perhaps after the birth of your first child, or after one or both of your careers kick in, or you relocate and lose your social group, the common ground you once shared begins to be washed away, right out from beneath your feet. And if your shared dreams get neglected by one or both of you, you may find yourself in a relationship which has no magnetic attraction for you anymore.

Let’s face it, if:

  • You want to disappear into a book each night, and she prefers to watch romantic movies
  • You enjoy Farmville, and she wants a backyard farm
  • She’s working out three days a week and you’re polishing off all of the leftovers
  • Talking about your work bores her to tears, and talking about her day is something you try to avoid
  • Your version of cooking for her consists of picking up takeout, but she’d rather go to the farmers market

then chances are, you’re growing apart.

couple 1And if you both begin to always choose your favorite over theirs, then you’re not going to be growing closer anytime soon. You’ll be on autopilot, going through the motions in your relationship without any of the passion or excitement or shared experiences which add spice and flavor to a marriage.

The simplest place to look for common ground between you is in the past – what did you both really enjoy doing ‘back in the day’? Revisiting some of those things together might help rekindle something of interest between you. It may also simply trigger a nostalgic desire for ‘the good old days’, so looking to the past might not be very successful for you – especially since we want a better relationship right here and right now, between you in this moment and her in this moment. And that means accepting that she isn’t the same woman you married, and you aren’t the same man that she married.

You can build common ground again, though. It takes time, effort, and openness, but who ever said relationships are easy? In my experience, the effects of a stronger, closer marriage greatly outweigh the work involved to get there, and the following are a few ways which can help you begin.

  • Ask, listen, learn: Ask about her day and how she is, and then let her speak freely. Just listen and pay attention, asking questions if you want, but not trying to ‘fix’ her problems or minimize her issues. Make a habit of opening that dialog whenever it you can. You’ll learn a lot about what makes her tick, and with any luck, you’ll also find some common ground.
  • Ask her to share something with you: Make a point of trying to get her to share some of her interests with you regularly, to show you something new and interesting in her world. Be attentive and attempt to see how those things enrich her life, which in turn enriches your shared life.
  • Share something new with her: Be willing to take the time to let her experience some of your world, through you, by sharing something which excites or energizes you. Maybe she’s bored to tears with your interests because you expect her to understand how you feel about it. She probably doesn’t, so show her.
  • Do it together: Go with her to something she really enjoys, but which you avoid. Pretend you’re new around here, and approach it with an open mind. Leave the jokes and criticism at home, please, and instead look at how her face lights up when she’s talking about it. Next, invite her to something you enjoy and share your passion for it with her by explaining what appeals to you and how it affects you. Look for an aspect of it that you think she would appreciate.
  • Dream a little dream: Start setting aside regular times when you both can talk about and plan for the future. Where do you want to be in five years? In ten years? As individuals? As a couple? Start forging a plan which includes both of your dreams, and look for those pieces of it which complement each other – those are great places to start collaborating and doing things together. Don’t just write the dream out and then shelve it. You need a living dream, not some words on paper, so revise and refine and chip away at it as a shared project.

 

Wanna read more stuff by Derek? Check out his blog NaturalPapa.com, connect with him on facebook and follow him on twitter!


Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers

The Story of a Dad’s Miscarriage (Guest Post)

This Guest Post was written by Al, who is running The Dad Network (www.thedadnetwork.co.uk). You’ll find his bio and more info at the end of his post.

I have written an earlier post about my experience of miscarriage but I left out more of the details. I figured that it would be helpful for dads to read about another dads experience of miscarriage. There are a lot of mums sharing their stories, so why not me.

photo 1We had planned to get pregnant and when we did, we were over the moon. Excitement doesn’t do it justice. We had decided not to tell anyone that we were pregnant, for no reason, other than we enjoyed it being our special news that no one else knew. (We did tell my sister in law…) This proved to be the best decision!

It was around week 6 when Jen found a small amount of blood. We quickly googled and found out about spotting. Perfectly normal bleeding during early pregnancy and very common. We put it down to this, but still booked for a scan just to be on the safe side. We went to the emergency scan department of the hospital and sat in the waiting room. This was a weird place! You’re sitting in a corridor, opposite the sonographer’s room. Women, (some with partners, some without), go into the room with an anxious look on their face and come out either crying or gleefully holding a baby scan picture. We sat there and wondered how we would be coming out. Overjoyed or distraught! Bizarrely, we felt neither… The sonographer examined, and came to the conclusion that it was too early to tell and booked us in for another emergency scan in 2 weeks’ time. That way the heartbeat would definitely be seen. (Or not).

So, we went away with no questions answered, still anxious, still hoping it was just spotting. The bleeding continued, slowly and irregularly. It was a long 2 weeks. We tried not to get excited, but tried not to think the worst too.

This time, it was a very brash lady coming out the sonographer before us. She came out with a string of scan photos, a loud voice and huge smile. We went in. Still no heartbeat, but the embryo had grown… How can it grow without a heartbeat? This meant that the sonographer, again, couldn’t tell us for sure if the baby was viable or not. They made us another appointment for 2 weeks’ time. The questions we had were unexplainable. Google had nothing to say on the matter, so it was just another long, anxious wait.

All the while this was happening we were planning our wedding for the end of the summer. What should have been an exciting time of preparations, was overcast by a huge cloud of uncertainty and potential devastation. We had planned our honeymoon 2 weeks before our wedding day. (Unconventional I know, but worked for us.) We were due to fly to Rhodes at 3am of the Friday morning. The Thursday morning was the 3rd scan… Still no heartbeat but more growth! The doctor spoke to us this time and said it was rare and she had never seen it before. Because of the growth, they couldn’t definitively say to us that we will lose the baby. They gave it 95% of miscarriage at any point, but unable to offer us the SMM, surgical management of miscarriage. So what should we do? Fly to Rhodes just to arrive and have a miscarriage? Start the miscarriage 10,000 feet in the air? What happens if it does happen on honeymoon? Should we stay home and loose the money, or go and risk it?

We decided to go. Considering the looming, imminent happenings, we had a lovely time. We didn’t move from a sunbed and just read, not leaving each other’s side. It was hard to try and think about anything else. Our plans to have a baby were out of our control and falling apart at the very time when we are supposed to be having the best time of our lives. Sometimes you just have to make the best of the situation you’re in, no matter how hard it is.

On our return, we had 1 week remaining before our wedding day. General wedding stress levels were non-existent for us. The Tuesday before saw us, yet again, in the emergency scan waiting room. This time we were hiding ourselves from the others, knowing that it’s more than likely our news will be bad. This time, there was still no heartbeat and it hadn’t grown. They told us that it is just a matter of time before the body rejects the unviable foetus and the miscarriage starts. We hard 2 options:

1) Let the miscarriage happen naturally over the wedding? Or

2) Opt for the SMM on the Friday and cancel the wedding on Saturday?

Ever been between a rock and a hard place?

We decided that we would crack on with our wedding and if the miscarriage started, we’d cross that bridge as and when. It put everything in perspective. It helped us focus on us, and ironically, in among all the sadness, we had never been so close. We got married with such an intimacy between us. In a way, perfect.

We have wedding photos now of both of us holding the ‘bump’ subconsciously. These are sad photo’s but in a way a nice to have. No-one knew at the wedding, except the bridesmaids who had emergency “women things” just in case. That was brilliant though, it meant that no-one was upset for us or preoccupied. Everyone was able to just celebrate our love and our future.

Following the wedding day, we went away for 2 nights to a hotel. It was in the middle of no-where and just what we needed. Still no bleeding. We returned on the Tuesday night and the following morning the miscarriage started. It started off as a pain in the stomach. She knew it was happening, so we called for our 5th emergency appointment. They invited us in the following day. The bleeding was pretty constant and she had a permanent pain. What could I do to make it better? I tried! But, there isn’t anything. The helpless feeling of inadequacy was fraught and very real. Something no man should have to feel. But equally, something that makes you stronger. I draw on that feeling to help me in new situations now, and I’m sure it will benefit me when it comes to labour.

Although it was happening, it was a touch relieving to know that 7 weeks of uncertainty hope and despair had come to an end. Having the question of a viable or non-viable baby looming over you for that long is a big deal. At the scan we were booked in for an emergency SMM the following day. We didn’t know much about it, and despite the good reviews, google sometimes makes things worse. It didn’t sound like a nice procedure and it varied how long the recovery time was. Some said they came straight home and others said they spent the night. It was unknown territory and we were worried. We arrived at the hospital and got prepped for the procedure. It was really scary and as they wheeled Jen out the room it felt like my heart was being pulled out on a trolley too. I couldn’t go with her when she was scared, I wanted to comfort her, hold her hand and be there for her. Instead, I was in a cold room with just my thoughts as company. The slowest 2 hours and the loneliest 2 hours went by. When Jen came back into the room, I felt my eyes fill with water. I was relieved and elated to be able to see her. Frightful experiences really do bring you together. I think that in that moment my love multiplied to numbers unknown.

The next few hours were tough. Jen was woozy from the anaesthetic and needed help getting around. She was sore and uncomfortable. I just wanted to make it better for her. After lunch we felt it was OK to go home and get into our own bed. She would be more comfortable there and I could look after her better. We got home and it really was awful seeing Jen in such discomfort. She tucked up in bed and tried to rest. (McDonalds saved us from the hunger which had accumulated through the emotion!)

It was so hard to know how to be. Obviously I was vastly upset, but I didn’t want to be in front of Jen. I wanted to be strong and look after her. I knew that she already felt terrible, like she had done something wrong, so me crying would just add to that pain for her. In actual fact I thought I had done something wrong. Truth is though, no one had, and it’s just part of life. It seemed to go that when I was upset, Jen was fine and when she was upset, I was fine. It worked well for a while and we were able to comfort each other, but the moment that we both hugged and felt upset was something quite extraordinary. I think it was that moment that a new, unspoken connection/bond between us grew. I suppose that it is in these difficult, overcast situations that relationships can really develop. For that I am thankful, although I wouldn’t choose to reach it through this way.

Jen went back to work on the following Monday, hindsight says she probably shouldn’t have gone back so quickly. She was still in a lot of pain and not particularly mobile.

The whole thing was awful and something that will stay with me forever. It was a time of new, hard emotions and incredibly difficult decisions. The only comforting thing is that particular baby was obviously not well enough to survive, and this is a better way for us to understand than the awful traumas others go through.

Once we started to share what had happened with people, it is amazing to see how many people have been through miscarriage, including dads! I really believe that we shouldn’t hide these things that occur in our lives, but share them in safe environments. I hope that this will be an encouragement to any dad reading.

The last thing I want to say is that through all of this, my wife and I have drawn closer and closer together and are now appreciating, nurturing and experiencing a very special pregnancy.

 

Al is 26 and lives in Kent. He has baby boy on the way and a beautiful wife to share him with. Al runs The Dad Network, showing a dad’s perspective on parenting and becoming a father. He hopes it will promote fathers and encourage them to take active roles in family life.

www.thedadnetwork.co.uk

http://www.facebook.com/thedadnetwork

Twitter: @thedadnetworkuk

 

 

Parenting and Empathic Fathers

The First Weeks and Months – What Fathers Can Do

After writing a Letter to a Father-to-be, I gonna look at the first weeks and months of emotional, fantastic, confusing, sleepless, energetic, awesome fatherhood. What is it, that new fathers can/should/could take on their journey once the little one is there?
Here are some awesome tips:

• Make an effort to learn the language and feelings associated with the motherhood mindset. It is important for you to understand that you are witnessing a natural and almost inevitable change shared by most new mothers (Daniel Stern).

• The opposing demands of work and family can feel stressful, as there isn’t enough time for either and you end up being tired and exhausted. It is important for you as a father to take some time to recharge too. Once your child is in bed, can you go out, once a week, do something you love? Don’t feel guilty doing it, your partner needs you fully recharged.

• You might feel that no-one at work quite understands how you are feeling. Men need to off-load too. Some find it difficult to ask for help, especially with emotional issues, but please do, find someone you feel comfortable with (a friend, a relative or a professional) and let go, it will be a great relief.

• Spent as much time as you can with the baby and don’t be offended by your partner when she suggests you do things differently (she might be totally right, and then you’ll find out for yourself anyway or you invent “your” way, that she has not tried yet, that’s fine and could work equally well – just give it a try!). The more you do it, the more confident you get!

• Don’t ever underestimate the importance of you being around, especially in the early days it can seem like you are not “needed”. You are, every time you interact with your baby you are building a bond. Every time you support your partner, you are strengthening the family bond and therefore your child’s secure and safe “nest”.

• Acknowledge your partner’s work and appreciate what she does, formulate it in a clear and precise way. “When a father expresses his understanding and appreciation of his wife in her new role as mother, it moves her profoundly…fathers speak from a unique perspective, and their praise is dynamic” (Naomi Stadlen)

• Enjoy it!

I’m sure you’ll be fine. Be authentic and take in as many magical moments of fatherhood as you can.

 

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