Personal: Superfluous

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.

  1. Bernard said:

    That’s rough, but not uncommon. Despite the emancipation of last century most of the ‘pomp and circumstance’ surrounding childbirth rests still very much in a woman-exclusive atmosphere. Things are getting better though if you take into account that today fathers may actually be present at birth.
    Not that this helps you much of course.
    Still, don’t be afraid that your daughter doesn’t know (in so far a baby this young can know things of course) you exist. She does. But you have to help the imprinting a bit since neonati are not only very dependent on mommy, they’ve also been attached to mommy. So have her sleep on your chest or belly (preferably skin on skin if the temperature allows) on occasion (if you haven’t already). It’ll help the bonding between you two (it’s a big change for the dad too, one you haven’t been actively experiencing during the pregnancy. At least, that was how I felt now that I have some hindsight).
    Once Melian acquires the ability to follow you a bit with her eyes, and recognition dawn, the bond will be strong enough that they’ll smile when she sees you.
    And it’ll melt your heart.

    So hang in there, cause the system -and society- have forgotten that emancipation was necessary for men as well as women. And rectifying that omission has only just begun.

    Regards and Best Wishes,

  2. Bernard said:

    addendum: stupid grammar and spelling mistakes 😦

    • Bernard said:

      addendum two: smiling and recognition starts at 6 weeks!! And a few months later it’s time to play peekaboe, probably the most popular game in the baby-segment of humanity. πŸ˜‰

      • Melian has been sleeping on me quite a lot I am happy to say, and snuggled into me. It is a glorious feeling. She is also clearly recognising me somewhat – by sound and smell I think rather than vision. I have to say that I am very much looking forward to the visual recognition – I don’t think it will be too much longer as she is already looking around at lots of things.

        Also, thank you for the kind words. They help πŸ™‚

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