When we speak about pregnancy, we tend to focus on the mother and the baby and we tend to “forget” about fathers.
However, fathers’ role is essential for a healthy development of the baby since the beginning of pregnancy and for the wellbeing of the carrying mother.
It’s very important that fathers are not excluded from the symbiosis between mums and babies: from the beginning of the pregnancy fathers should be involved and they should have the possibility to share the “possession” of the baby. Of course they won’t experience the physical sensations of pregnancy, however mothers can tell and describe this unique whirlwind of sensations. This will allow fathers to experience a “paternal gestation”. It is a mental gestation, hosting the baby in their minds; the mind can become another welcoming “uterus” for the baby who is growing in the mother’s womb.
In order for this to happen, fathers should be present during ultrasound scans, especially the first one, so that he can somehow experience the concrete and real presence of the fetus.
Furthermore, fathers can also relate to their babies during pregnancy through different senses. They can touch the belly, feeling and following the baby’s movements; they can put their hears on the belly and play with the baby, who is actually able to respond to external situations. Fathers can also speak to their baby and establish a first important bonding, as the baby can distinguish voices.
Fathers also have a “containing” function for their partners during pregnancy: mothers can share with them worries and concerns abut their new role or about the changes their body is going through.
So, when we speak about bonding during pregnancy we should not just refer to the relationship between a mother and her baby, but we should include the father and refer to a trio.
Bonding is, in fact, a physical as well as en emotional, hormonal, spiritual and caregiving process. It starts during pregnancy and it creates the basis for the relationship of attachment that babies have with their parents and for all the others relationships they will have in their life.
What can pregnancy counselling do for this trio during and after pregnancy?
Counselling should focus on the relationship between these three people in order to improve the wellbeing of parents as a couple as well as their ability to create a safe environment for the baby.
Parents are supported through this incredible, though challenging, experience: they become more aware of their role as parents and how they feel about it. They find access to their internal resources and feel empowered. Parents can also improve their skills as caregivers.
What if there are couple issues?
Becoming parents and maintaining a good balance in the couple can be difficult. Parents are exhausted, don’t sleep enough time, have lees time to spend together as a couple, intimacy and sexuality are now different; on top of this, emotions usually blow up more easily and this also challenges the couple.
It’s then important for couples to find a non-judgmental environment where they can freely express and regain balance. This is also a chance for couples to explore their new role of parents and at the same time their new role as partners in a triad.