Our son, Oscar, was conceived on a third try, using a donor, in the comfort of our own home. That’s not to say we didn’t experience months of gut wrenching missed ovulations and negative pregnancy tests. The two-week wait is absolutely the hardest two weeks you’ll ever experience, and that’s the perspective of a non-bio parent. I don’t know how my wife managed to keep her cool during these periods, granted she wasn’t particularly good at waiting! We are now expecting our second baby and making the best of the lockdown.
Being a non-bio parent...
Being a non-bio parent is amazing. I selfishly get all the benefits of the baby, without giving birth! Sometimes, I wonder what it must be like to feel a kick, but I can’t say I would change my position. I’ve never really had a desire to carry, so it works for us. Although there’s been points when I feel a little on the outside. It can be difficult when we update the donor on the progress of our son, or the progress now of our second baby. It’s in those moments I feel at my most obsolete. My wife is very conscious of this and does her best to make sure I’m involved as much possible.
I find the balance between work and home very tough sometimes. I think it’s the hardest thing about being a parent. I remember when our son was around 6 months old, I would come home and notice that he was doing something new every day. It was lovely to witness the changes, but so hard knowing I wasn’t there to teach him or see it for the first time.
Coping with pregnancy after a traumatic birth
Although we are grateful for this second pregnancy, we have had to manage a lot of anxiety about labour and birth. When it came to giving birth Oscar, it was a long and problematic labour. A series of serious complications meant that he had to be born via emergency c-section, the whole experience was incredibly traumatic. Going into our second pregnancy, the trauma that our first pregnancy caused still sticks. The first couple of midwife appointments this time around were full of fear.
Our anxieties were made worse during a recent appointment with a consultant. We felt they didn’t listen to us and our concerns and this left us feeling scared about this pregnancy and birth. We informed our midwife that we did not want to receive further care from them and another consultant was assigned. They were incredibly positive. Natalie's hoping to give birth in a midwife-led birth unit and has a list as long as my arm of things she would like to take with her to make the environment as relaxing as possible.
Supporting one another
I’m learning to be an advocate for my wife. I’m learning to understand her wants and needs, and to be her voice when she’s unable to do it for herself. I want to give her better protection this time around – I don’t feel I knew enough about labour and birthing practices to do this before. I would encourage anyone who is unhappy with the care they receive to speak up. It’s your pregnancy experience and it can help so much to feel listened to and supported.
The birth scares me more this time around because of what happened last time. I feel terrible saying that when we have a perfectly healthy little boy, but the whole experience was so hard to cope with. To cope we try to talk. I write pretty well, but verbally I struggle. I rely heavily on my wife to open the discussion about what’s on her mind and this has helped me be able to talk. Sometimes I feel it’s more important for her to air and I always just try to listen. This isn’t always easy, I’m the kind of person who wants to fix everything! I try and have a solution to it all!
My encouragement to others would be to know that you’re not alone in anything you’re going through. I’d encourage everyone to talk about their mental health during and after pregnancy. It’s very easy to fool yourself and avoid the proverbial elephant in the room, but ultimately to give your best to your child you must give your best to yourself. I wouldn’t like to give advice; I feel that parenthood is a minefield that differs from person to person. Everyday I’m learning.
Tommy’s midwife Sophie says…
“Pregnancy is a huge life event for all couples on their journey to growing their family. We support both the pregnant woman, as well as their partner in any way that we possibly can as midwives, especially when they have to cope with complications. When you become a new parent, it can feel like there is a whole lot to learn. But you don’t need to know it all! Lean on your midwife, they are there for you. They will answer your questions, reassure you when you are feeling vulnerable, refer you to the obstetric doctors or the Perinatal Mental Health Team when there are additional needs both physically and mentally. They should be there for you in any way that you need.”
If you have experienced a traumatic birth, it is important that you receive any support you need. Some people may suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder or experience struggles with their mental health. There is more information about labour and birth on our website which can help you feel better informed and reassured. We also have information for anyone who feels they may be experiencing a fear of childbirth, this is call tokophobia.
We also have information on what to do if you are concerned that you are not being listened to.