Congratulations on the birth of your child and welcome to your new life as a dad. At the moment your head may be spinning a little as you try to take everything in and get to grips with the realities of parenthood, if so then you've come to the right place for advice and reassurance on starting out.
Your role as a 'dad'
Even in this day and age, many men feel that their role as a father is largely restricted to one of provider, but this is a shame because not only do they risk missing out on enjoying time with their babies, but their babies miss out on the special input a dad can have in their development. While your baby might not appear to be able to do much right now, in fact s/he can very quickly recognise you and your partner by your voices and smell and is capable of recognising your faces as early as two weeks' old. Your baby's first months are a period of intense and rapid development that forms the building blocks for later years. So don't underestimate the importance of spending time caring for and getting to know your baby from the start: If you do want to develop a healthy and close relationship with your child then the best time to start is from day one.
If, on the other hand, you've already decided that you want to play a very active role in your family's home life then you might be searching for the right work-life balance. And the competing demands of modern work and family life might leave you wondering how on earth you're going to cope with the pressures of expectations on all sides. The answer is usually to focus on what you and your partner want for your family, rather than on what outsiders expect from you, and to work towards a compromise or solution that you're both happy with.
Part of the team
While much of the attention is usually focused on a new mum and her baby, as a new dad you do have a very strong and positive role to play in your new family life, and this starts in the earliest days.
If you are keen to be a very hands-on dad, but you're not sure where to start, or how to best support your partner then don't be discouraged. Remember that your partner will be learning on the job just as you are, and she'll only end up becoming a more capable parent than you if you don't roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. If you're anxious about being isolated as the spotlight is on your partner and child then read up on how you can involve yourself and feel part of the team from your baby's first moments.
Besides spending plenty of time cuddling, talking to and caring for your baby, you can play an important role in successful breastfeeding by offering your partner the right support.
Seeing things from your partner's point of view will really help you be able to support her well right now, and play the fullest role in the parenting team that you can. While every new mum is different, you can get an idea of some of the challenges and the physical and emotional turmoil she may be experiencing by having a read of our support section for new mums. This covers everything from the baby blues to partner relationships to sorting out money worries.
One of the most important aspects of your relationship with your partner is your ability to communicate with one another - particularly when the going gets tough. This often requires a bit of extra dedication when you're both so busy and experiencing such big life changes, but it's well worth making the extra effort for a smooth relationship. If you are having difficulties communicating well at the moment, then setting aside time specifically for this purpose and have a go at developing your active listening skills.
Sex and intimacy
Your sex life may well have undergone changes during your partner's pregnancy - often one or other of the partners - usually but not always the woman - will experience a fluctuating sex drive, or will lose their interest in sex altogether. On the other hand, some couples report that pregnancy sex was the best they'd ever had. Whatever your experience was, you might be looking forward to things 'getting back to normal' after your baby's birth. But if you're expecting things to settle back down after a week or so then think again. Not only will your partner need a good six weeks to physically recover from birth, and in fact doctors recommend that you wait until after the six-week check before you have sex, but there are plenty of other factors that may make the idea of sex unappealing to her, and quite possibly to you, for some time after the birth. You can find out more about resuming sex after childbirth here.
Of course, even when you aren't having sex, there are ways that you can maintain physical intimacy, and it's important that you both do try to keep this avenue of communication open in your partnership. The ideas might not be quite what you had in mind for intimacy with your partner, but they will help you both feel appreciated and desired, and can help with a smooth progression when you're both feeling ready for sex again.