© Copyright R Evison 2005
Who should read this book
Anyone thinking about having children or currently on the way to having children should read this book. I do not say this because I wrote, but because I actually believe it.
I wrote this book specifically for men who wanted to understand what goes into making a child and what they could and should do. It was also written for men who wanted to know about becoming a father so that they could decide whether now was the time to have children, or even whether they wanted to have them at all. It was written for these men just as much as those who are already trying. Finally it was written for men whose partners were already pregnant and wanted to ensure the best chance for everything to go well.
I have written information for all types of men, because there is so much that a man needs to know. No one seems to tell us any of these things.
A note for women
This was written so men could understand everything about becoming a father, including what their partner is experiencing and how she might feel. Jack O’Sullivan of Fathers Direct tells us that a woman with a supportive partner present at birth is likely to need less pain relief and have a less traumatic time. I have not found the research he cites to support this, but it makes sense and all the professional and all the couples that I have spoken to agree with him. It was in my mind that men can want children and the miracle of birth as much as, or in some cases more than, women do.
What I did not think of when I started was that women might want to understand a man’s experiences too. Some women are interested in how their partners might feel. This really became apparent when I first got people to start looking through the manuscript and some of them started using it together as couples and discussing it.
If you are that sort of woman, or part of that sort of couple, then you will want to understand the worries your partner might have. This will help you to appreciate how he is coping with them and why he is behaving the that way he is. If this describes you, then buy the book for your partner, but read it yourself. This will help lower the stresses involved in pregnancy and could even be good for your relationship.
As stress can have big effects on a pregnancy anything that helps promote calm and reduce stress is good, both for you as a couple and for your potential unborn child.
Do not read the bits about romance and about things he can do to help you feel loved if you are a woman! It can be so much nicer for both of you if those bits are a surprise. Do not be surprised however when he knows what you should not be eating, knows what he needs to do to be more fertile and knows how to help produce a healthier child.
As well as reassuring a man the right information allows him to behave like someone who knows what he is doing and some of us find that important.
How to use the book
Many of you will not have started looking at books until your partner is pregnant; you will want to start with the second read through described below.
If it is not already too late, read through the book before you decide to start trying. This will give you an understanding of what pregnancy entails. More importantly it will allow you to do the many things you can do to make conception easier. Many of these things need to be started 3 months or so before the sex that produces the baby, so reading it afterwards is a little late. The other advantage of reading this before you start trying is that it encourages you to think about what you are doing. Once your partner is pregnant you will find it reassuring to know that you considered everything while there was no pressure, and to know that you have made the right decision.
Read through the book a second time once you are ready to start trying. Make sure you and your partner talk about the interesting bits. If you are going to be bringing up a child you both need to agree about how or you will undermine each other at all stages. The same is true about what you are doing throughout the pregnancy. In different countries their attitude to what you should and should not eat is very different . You need to decide how you are both going to feel about the sacrifices and any lapses that may happen along the way. This needs to be a shared understanding or it will add to stress. Remember stress is bad for you, bad for your partner, and bad for the baby.
Finally use the book for reference; it is after all a handbook to help you along the way. There is a timeline for what might be happening week by week, a list of warning signs if you are worried by anything and details on many of the things that can occur and what they mean. Any time you are unsure refer to it. If something comes up that is not there that you would expect to find then feel free to email me at “BecomingAFather@evison.co.uk”. I cannot promise I will be able to answer every query I receive. If I can answer I will try to do so, if I cannot it will still be valuable feedback for a later edition. Equally, where I do not know an answer, I will try and point you to another way to find out.
Less clumsy language
I am going to talk about ‘trying’. By this I mean trying for a baby, trying to conceive, trying to cause conception, or whatever other term is popular amongst the experts at the moment. I am also, occasionally going to refer to you conceiving; clearly what I mean is you managing to make your partner conceive. It is just much easier to talk about managing conception, conceiving and so forth, and simplifies the best way of putting things.
I am going to talk about Sperm and Semen pretty much interchangeably. It should be clear from context which I mean. It is not that I am not aware of the difference (see Glossary) simply that I am using them colloquially for greater understanding. Equally I am going to talk about ‘boy sperm’ and ‘girl sperm’, rather than ‘sperm which if they fertilise the egg will result in a male foetus’ and ‘sperm which if they fertilise the egg will result in a female foetus’. Anything else is much too clumsy.
In the same vein I may well mention you becoming pregnant. This is a great oversimplification and I try to avoid it. There are places where it makes what I am saying easier to understand, so I use it, but always bear in mind you are not the one who is pregnant. It would be difficult to overemphasise this as it is a problem with the way some men think about having a baby. They announce to people ‘we are pregnant’ and so forth, and talk as if they are going through the hard part. Believe me, once you have read the rest of this book you will appreciate that while we have stress, worries, doubts and lifestyle changes to make, we still have the easy bit.
There are some times when the technical term for something makes it easier to explain. When this is the case I use the term, and try to make it a little clearer from context. In case I have failed to make a term clear in this way, I put it in the glossary in the reference section. This keeps the text from getting too cluttered up with explanation. Sorry for using technical language, but this is a guide to the real facts and so, sometimes, there is just no avoiding it.
Why I wrote this book.
I wrote this book because it did not already exist. I wanted a sensible book that told me what I needed to know without jokes, comparisons with a game of football or patronising anecdotes to make me feel I was doing something worthy.
Being a father is a real change, and with falling sperm counts, high pressure jobs and an alcoholic culture, conceiving is a genuine challenge as well as an achievement to make a man proud. Despite this all the books that I could find aimed at men were ashamed of what they were. Those books seemed to try to find excuses for themselves by saying that they were really all about humour. I did not want a book of jokes I wanted to know the facts about what I was going to do and how I could best do it.
While there were a few books that were not too badly laddish, they did not contain the same level of research and reassurances that I found in the books for women. I was faced with literally hundreds of books for the person bearing the baby and none for me trying to help all the way through and to make it happen in the first place. I had to go off and do a lot of research.
I tried everything, from getting the brush off from our family GP and grilling the friendlier midwife, through to reading medical articles and searching the Internet. I read more female books on pregnancy than you can shake a stick at; I went off, I researched and I learned. Having done that, I felt the work should not be wasted, but recycled so that others can benefit from all that I have seen heard read and experienced. Then my partner suggested I write it as a book and this is the result.
I do not claim to be a professor of gynaecology , but if you are trying to conceive without doing all the things that can make it easier then this book is for you. If you have conceived and want to understand what you can do to make things go well, there is information in this book you may want to read. If you are finding it all a strange and confusing mass of expectations which you do not really know how to meet this book may help. Finally if you are an old hand at this sort of thing, and want to understand what you have achieved or pass on advice to those finding it all new and exciting, then the information here may be just what you are looking for. If it is not what you wanted to know, or you have any other tips you think should have been included, please write to me at:
A journalist wrote, in an article on preparing for fatherhood “Perhaps there are women who feel that, come the big day, their partners were just as prepared as they were. I just don’t happen to have met any of them.’ Given the likely correlation between having an informed partner and having a successful pregnancy culminating with a good experience at the birth I would like to help men to go out their at least as well informed as their partners. Men can make a difference, and I think the time has come that we are ready to do just that.
Many thanks to the following who have agreed to read this and provide feedback on what is useful, what is not and anything else they feel like. I will acknowledge in the real thing if it ever happens, but if I list them here it makes emailing it for review much easier and this is just the inside cover so no harm if I am a bit careless re-writing it.
These people have reviewed from three different perspectives and provided feedback that has been and still is essential. They include amongst others a midwife, a nutritionist, a doctor and fathers both actual and potential.
The Reviewers Hall of Fame
James Day, Levon Pettrous-Terzakhian, Howard Meadows, Jane Le Maux, Steve Price, Marilyn Evans, Sam & Ana Mackrill, Adam Renton, David Jessop, Andrew Mckerrel, Murray Morrison Carine Henry, Eliot Marshal, Lindsey O’Donnell
Also thank you to the author of “What not to name your baby” which I included in the cover picture, thank you to Judy our midwife and the Rosie maternity hospital for their help with our child, and finally to my parents who made me possible.
Who should read this book 4
How to use the book 6
Having a baby 13
Making the decision to try. 14
Towards conception 36
A man can make a difference. 36
Sex: timing, effectiveness and gender 66
Viagra, IVF and fertility 102
Throughout the pregnancy 109
Pregnancy what a man experiences 109
What to expect while she is pregnant 112
What happens during pregnancy 115
Things you should help with / manage 120
Joint experiences 129
Shopping for the baby 143
The birth 160
What to expect 161
Summary of Nutrient Sources 176
Pregnancy timetable 180
Things that can go wrong 190
Warning signs to watch for. 195
Frequently asked questions 201
Things she must avoid 202
The law and your rights 205
Pregnancy related books and web sites 209
Shops and web sites for baby related shopping 210
Becoming a Father 227