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This Pregnancy Is Happening to Him Too

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A pregnancy book we bought ahead of the birth of our first child begins with the heartwarming ancient indian proverb: "At every birth, two people are born - a baby and a mother."

As we enter seven or eight months of closely monitoring the Duchess of Cambridge's progress with her pregnancy, how her morning sickness is going, how many week's she's 'gone', how she looks, whether she'll have a natural birth and whether she's too posh to push, we should remember one vital thing: This pregnancy is happening to a father too.

We like to think all fathers are modern dads these days. Hordes of men, we're told, amble through parks with Baby Björns strapped to their chests, dutifully getting up in the night to bottle feed baby, and row-row-rowing the boat gently down the stream at playgroups the length and breadth of the country.

Except, where are all these guys? I call it the new fatherhood myth.

In the eyes of the media, in maternity services and for most of the British public too, pregnancy and birth are still something that happens to the mother. Men are bystanders, the bit players who deliver the sperm and blush with pride when his wife delivers the baby.

At an antenatal appointment with my wife, the nurse wordlessly pulled a curtain in front of me so that she could take her trousers down for an examination.

At antenatal classes, everything was aimed at the woman. The only comments reserved for the lads were to know where our car keys were at all times, and that we might need to cook for ourselves from time to time.

During labour of both of my children, I wasn't spoken to once by a midwife. I wasn't consulted (despite my wife being away with the fairies on remifentinil) when there were some complications with the delivery. After the birth of our kids, I was sent home because 'visiting time' was over.

This was 2008 and 2010, not decades ago. And by the way, midwives, my name is not 'Dad'.
The most recent strategic plan for the Royal College of Midwives makes clear just how much of a priority fathers are for their profession: "We hope that whether you are a researcher, a midwife, a student, or a woman using maternity services, that you embrace the challenge contained in this document."

In other words, fathers aren't important at all.

Where half-hearted attempts are made to engage men with pregnancy and birth, it's made very clear that those efforts are to benefit the mother and her baby, not to benefit fathers in their own right.

That men might have our own needs in the pre- , during and post-birth experience is not even considered. And if our opinions differ to those of our female partners? Forget it.

With such an attitude to men's role when it comes to babies, it's no wonder men excuse themselves so early on, only too happy to return to work after taking our two week's paternity leave. In fact, just under a third of men don't even take that.

This subtle separation at birth soon grows into a far wider gulf, leading to the mother as primary childcare and the father as breadwinner (even if both parents had earned the same before baby came along). It also leads to the huge pay gap between professional mothers and fathers, as well as reduced opportunities for promotion and responsibility for women with children, that men with children simply don't face.

It's time to turn this attitude to men in pregnancy and birth on it's head.

If we're really to make the new fatherhood myth a reality, then media, maternity services, women and men's own attitudes to our role with babies needs a radical overhaul.

While we're wondering very publicly over whether Kate will have a c-section, or breastfeed or take maternity leave, we should subject William to just as much scrutiny: Will he attend every antenatal appointment? Will he go to every antenatal class? Will he demand to stay overnight in the labour ward? Will he take his statutory two weeks paternity leave?

Most significantly - since the law now allows it - will he and Kate split equally the 26 weeks of parental leave they have to share? Will Kate go back to her work of being the future Queen, letting the future King stay at home with the baby? At least William and Kate can't claim - like most men do - that they can't afford to equally-split their parental leave entitlement.

There's very clear evidence that active involvement of fathers with their babies, right from the very earliest hours of their birth, makes a positive difference to the baby's future, the mother's health and wellbeing, and yes, the father's own wellbeing and life-satisfaction too.

The pregnancy and birth of the new royal baby offers a great opportunity to demonstrate to men and women the potential for parental equality and really involved fatherhood. Fathers need showing that men are just as capable as women when it comes to babycare.

And role models don't come much bigger than the future King.