A couple of weeks ago Tom went back to work after an incredible, tiring, amazing, hard, wonderful two and a bit weeks together as parents of a newborn. The night before his first day back I was a little bit nervous but mainly sad. It’s just not fair that our working partners of new mums don’t have more time with their precious new bubbas. I start missing our wee fellow when he naps for slightly longer than usual and can’t imagine having to leave him for a whole day yet.

Yes it’s tough going at times (relentless is a good word to sum it up) but it seems like the little guy is changing so much every day that neither of us want to miss a second of it. Unfortunately needs must. Thank goodness for iPhones and the ability to baby spam all day long. It’s actually amazing how paternity leave varies so much from country to country. I found this interesting/slightly depressing article comparing the top countries for parental leave and it’s fair to say that NZ is lacking. As with a lot of these type of lists, the Nordic countries are clearly where it’s at. Let’s take Sweden for example, new parents there get 480 days of leave at 80% of their normal pay. As well as that, new mums also get an additional 18 weeks so the parents can split the rest however they want.

Sweden is pretty much the greatest place for partners as they also get 90 paid paternity days. Personally I think this should be standard as there is so much focus from healthcare professionals on mums during pregnancy and after the birth that often dads and partners get left in the background.  They are just as much in this as the mum right? I mean I’m pretty lucky that Tom is so invested and pretty much does everything except for breast feed. I know a lot of mums aren’t so lucky and if I had a hat on I would be taking it off to you right now. Once you have a baby you totally understand the phrase ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.

It does make you wonder whether our dads and partners would feel as if they could be more involved if they were actually included as much as the mum from the get go. From my experience we have a top notch system of care for new mums in New Zealand but what’s not so great in my opinion is the treatment of newborn dads and partners. Take our first night in the hospital after the birth. I was exhausted, it was 3am and we were told that Tom had to go home until visiting hours in the morning. Maybe this was their way of trying to give him some sleep but in reality was he ever going to sleep having just met his son?! I was also feeling incredibly anxious as I had very little experience with a newborn and didn’t even feel confident picking him up. I wanted my husband there for support and he wasn’t able to be. Then I felt sad for him when our fresh little person was doing all the cute things during the night like sneeze and vom (everything is cute when you’ve just given birth k?). Tom was missing stuff already and it didn’t seem fair to me.

The paper work surrounding a new baby also reminds you just how much dads and partners are left by the wayside… and my god there is a lot of paperwork. You remember the plunket books that we all had as kids? Now they’re called ‘Well child’ books and the sticker on the front of ours says ‘Gordon McKenzie – baby of Amanda’. What about Tom? I know it may seem like a small thing but it struck me as odd. What was even stranger was how when Tom asked a question of the hospital and Birthcare staff the answer was almost always directed to me.  Tom was virtually ignored even though he was the one who was more with it at this stage – those first few days I was running purely on adrenaline and was definitely in recovery mode whereas he had the ability to absorb information and think straight.

Another thing that bothers me is how little post natal depression amongst partners is spoken about. As mums we have the early symptoms drummed into us and all have to take a quiz to make sure that we’re not at risk. When I asked my midwife whether she had seen many cases of PND in fathers she admitted that it’s actually really common. And why shouldn’t it be common? Some might argue it’s even more difficult for partners given that they are more often than not the one that has to go back to work, leaving their precious bubba at home. Another thing we’ve noticed amongst our ante natal group is that the babies tend to play up just as the dads get home (aka the frickin ‘witching hour’). They arrive home from work no doubt tired and then have to deal with an exhausted wife/girlfriend as well as a crying baby. Because of this you’d think there’d be some sort of support network for newborn partners but if there is we weren’t given any info about it along our pregnancy journey.

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Tom came to every midwife appointment with me throughout the pregnancy but I’m sure that’s not always the case. Personally I think that his involvement with every step of the pregnancy process and his crucial role in the birth thanks to our hypnobirthing strategy has made him the best father he could possibly be. He is informed, invested and above all interested. This should be how it is for all partners – our babies are so precious that they need all the parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles and other loving adults in their life that they can possibly have. It’s unfair to put all the pressure on mums and it’s also unfair to leave the other person who created this new being out of the picture just because it’s not physically growing inside them.

Hopefully now that our Prime Minister and Minister for Women are going back to work after 6 weeks while their partners stay home, we will see more awareness and support for newborn partners. As a new mum I have a whole new respect and love for my husband who has absolutely risen to the challenge (and it bloody is a challenge at times!) This one is for you my love, Happy Anniversary and thank you for everything you do and for giving me a new person to love this year – best present ever.



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