11 Dec 2019
Richard Gilfillan, a qualified midwife currently working as a Midwifery Educator, knows more than a little about the journey into parenthood - for dads as well as mums.
Recognising that fathers can often be left out of parenting conversations, starting from when their partners fall pregnant, Richard developed the Engaging Fathers initiative through Nepean Hospital’s antenatal clinic.
The idea came from a previous project working with male nurses in the Solomon Islands which encouraged men to attend the antenatal clinic along with their pregnant partners.
"We translated the Solomon Islands project idea into something more local, and we also wanted to tie it in with the work we were doing around White Ribbon; towards better awareness and prevention of domestic and family violence,” says Richard.
The initiative is also the result of collaboration between Nursing and Midwifery staff and the Men’s Culture Change working group, a multidisciplinary team of local Health workers that helps promote strategies for men to challenge gender stereotypes and reject violence.
“We want to engage dads-to-be about what it means to be a new father, strategies for being a supportive partner and how they can find help if times get tough, because they may find it difficult to reach out for emotional support,” explains Richard.
“How do we cope with looking after a newborn? What words do we say to children as they grow? We’re asking men to reflect on all these things, as well as what it means for their relationship and to be an integral part of raising a family, equal to that of mum.”
While in practice the project is simple, inviting men who visit the hospital with their pregnant partners to share their expectations and concerns about fatherhood, Richard knows the conversation is a valuable one.
“Some of the comments that the dads have made is that they want to be the best they can be,” says Richard.
“There’s already lots of really positive statements the men have made themselves about the contribution they can make – about the father they want to be.”
Men and their partners who participate in the project also receive a range of resources helpful to new parents in times of stress, including information about mental health support and a range of local services.