Steven Kennedy was finishing up a graduate diploma in renewable energy engineering when his career pathway – and personal life – took a dramatic turn. At 49, he became a father to Rory, now three years old.
His newborn was given an Apgar score of 1/10, meaning he wasn’t faring too well. Neither was his father, who experienced post traumatic syndrome and spiralled into a web of mental health challenges in the following 12 months.
“I witnessed him being born almost dead,” remembers Steven. “I thought he was going to die.”
A participant of Beer ‘n Bubs in Melbourne, described as ‘birth ed for men in a pub’, Steven threw himself into researching everything about becoming a parent, in particular the perinatal stage, and what a could expect throughout the intense transition to parenthood.
There wasn’t a lot to lean on in terms of education and support services; most of, it he felt, was geared to the female. He continued to research the subject avidly and volunteered to help out at Beer ‘n Bubs classes for 18 months, again gaining a deeper understanding of what expectant dads were going through.
In 2019, he decided to turn his research and learnings into a full-time venture, moving to Wollongong with his partner in NSW to be near family.
“I just needed to do this with the information I had. I thought, ‘what’s happening isn’t fair for men. Our birth culture doesn’t give us any information.’”
“Because I went through such a struggle, I couldn’t just sit on it, other men needed to know about it.”
Steven set up the Prepare Foundation Charity in late 2020 and launched https://birthingdads.org/ - to ‘help fathers support themselves through pregnancy, birth and beyond.’
His vision is that Birthing Dads will help expectant fathers "cultivate confidence in their ability to make a positive impact on the perinatal support they are able to provide."
Due for release in April is a four-and-a-half hour video training program for new dads based on interviews with 20 perinatal experts, as well as a shorter series about ‘what to expect when you are expecting’, which he is developing in partnership with The Fathering Project.
The Prepare Foundation Charity (which is yet to have an online presence) is a health promotion advocacy for men, to help them build a strategy before their baby arrives, and learn how they can support themselves and their partner. He is in the process of converting all content on these platforms into culturally appropriate material for a diverse audience.
Steven is also involved with Healthy Male’s Plus Paternal campaign announced last September, which calls for seismic changes in the way the health system prepares both parents for the transition to parenthood.
“Non-birthing parents, most commonly men, are not systematically engaged or supported from preconception to parenthood,” states Healthy Male.
“They are often treated as secondary to fertility, birthing and parenting processes — welcome but not active-partners.”
Plus Paternal: a focus on fathers Case for Change is a 20-page document developed in response to the National Men’s Healthy Strategy 2020-2030’s call for a more inclusive approach to parenthood and expansion of maternal and child health infrastructure to include fathers.
CHECK OUT THE DAD FILES ON AMHF