Today my daughter is twelve days old, and already I have come to a very disagreeable conclusion: as far as the various organisations of state go (ie health services) I might as well not exist. This was brought dramatically home to me when the Health Visitor was taking the medical history of my daughter, and she asked for my wife’s family history, but when I offered my own family’s medical history she said that was not important.
Not important, because apparently as far as the NHS is concerned children only get their genes from their mothers.
Today also we had another visit, and the Health Visitor basically ignored me almost the entire time, except on one or two occasions when she realised that she was being impolite.
It seems that we won the midwife lottery – who right from the start made me feel a valued part of the process of pregnancy, and who spoke to us both. Of course, she asked my wife various questions, but she also asked me questions to (such as how I was doing, and the like) without giving the impression I was an after-thought. Unfortunately she went on holiday shortly after the birth, and in the post-natal care both midwives we have dealt with, and the Health Visitor, have not managed to make me feel included at all.
To be fair, the fault is not entirely theirs, but the system in which they are working. After all, as regards the medical history above, it is not the Health Visitor’s fault that apparently the form she was filling in does not require to know the father’s details.
All of which I find more than a little upsetting. Indeed, after today’s visit I felt so small and insignificant I will admit I cried. I just held my daughter and whispered to her “Du har en far” and “You have a father”. Being a father is, along with my marriage, the most extra-ordinary and wonderful thing to have happened to me. I adore my daughter, and want to be the best father I can possibly be. However, my impression thus far is that the British state doesn’t want that, in fact it doesn’t want me to exist at all.
On the other hand, it is not just the state but our entire culture. I wonder if people realise how “Mother and Baby” groups sound to fathers who do wish to take a more active part in what their children are doing. Apparently Equality legislation only works one way – and by that jibe it is fair to say that along with being upset I am more than a little angry.
The sad thing is, I don’t expect it ever to get better, especially since on Monday I go back to work.