So here I am. Not even a full three weeks in to fatherhood and I’m creating my first top 10 list.
I must admit, if I waited any longer, this list would be MUCH larger, so I figured, why not strike while the iron’s hot and propose a list of my findings over the course of the last three weeks and, of course, the nine months leading up to it.
So without further ado, here are my top 10 tidbits of wisdom to potentially help you through early fatherhood.
1. Expect the Unexpected
I still find the fact that there is a book called “what to expect when you’re expecting”, laughable. Our approach to pregnancy and parenting has been so methodical and planned, yet regardless, countless times, the best laid plans go awry.
Therefore, our new mentality has been to simply expect the unexpected. Recognizing that on one hand, you cannot control everything in life, and on the other hand, the likelihood of you coming across a situation that has never been encountered before in the history of man is so unbelievably unlikely, that you sometimes just need to rest assured that everything will be ok.
2. Midwives, Midwives, Midwives
I’m sorry folks, but for a moment I need to direct my comments to my Canadian audience and reiterate to them the fact that our tax dollars pay for a service that we should all capitalize on; Midwifery.
Even the vision statement of the Canadian Association of Midwives is that midwifery is fundamental to maternal and newborn health services, and that every woman in Canada will have access to a midwife’s care for herself and her baby.
This is a free service.
Let me repeat that: THIS IS A FREE SERVICE.
By signing up, you potentially could have up to three dedicated midwives, who themselves are registered nurses. They will be there throughout your pregnancy, hands on through your labour, and then provide postnatal support until they are comfortable to discharge you to your family doctor or paediatrician. We were blessed to have the most fantastic midwife team, and even when plans changed and we scheduled a C-section, they were still involved in every step, including in the operating room for the procedure and were literally second to have hands on Charlee after she was born.
For more information, you can go to the Canadian midwives website here: http://www.canadianmidwives.org/ and of course, please check your provincial college of midwives for more detailed information.
3. While she’s pregnant, you may struggle to connect
It’s a tricky principle, but totally logical. One day you have a pregnancy test resulting in some great news and almost instantly she begins (or has already begun) feeling the changes that are happening within. Meanwhile, Dad is thrilled with the news (hopefully), and then goes into a stage of waiting… months and months of waiting. During that time it can be extremely difficult to keep the same levels of excitement. Your partner changes. Hormones can run rampant. Intimacy levels change, and social activities are down to a minimum.
My recommendation: Keep yourself as involved as possible. Help out with setting up the nursery. Attend the doctors appointments (all of them!). Communicate with your partner and try and share in the feelings that she’s having. Most importantly, put yourself out there. Tell her that you’re there for her, whenever she needs you, for whatever she needs from you.
4. When baby arrives, you again may again struggle to connect
As if getting through the waiting game wasn’t difficult enough, all of the sudden you are officially a new dad. Baby arrives and she is just the image of perfection, looks like the mrs (thank god), and in every way has stolen your heart. But over the course of the next several weeks, your role, again, becomes uncertain.
If baby’s being breastfed, there’s not much you can do in terms of providing nourishment or sustenance . You tend to the housekeeping chores, make meals, and walk the dog so that your partner can rest when she needs to, feed when she has to, and recover from labour.
The worst tease is that the baby doesn’t even genuinely demonstrate an emotional bond with you or affection until around 2 to 3 months old, if you’re lucky!!
So what to do?!
As mentioned in a previous post, the Dunstan Baby Language was a great tool that I’ve been using, giving me an opportunity to understand what Charlee needs and when she needs it. Also, I’m up and in the room for every feeding. I’m doing a good share of the housekeeping, and I’m keeping strong communications with Becca.
A combination of all of these things seems to genuinely help me feel as much a part of Charlee’s upbringing as can be, and as the days go by, I’m sensing more and more of who she is and how she and I can connect.
I’ve done my fair share of reading in preparation for Charlee, books that I figured would come in handy regardless of what you can find online or what you hear word of mouth. However, I’m still shocked when I read blogs and articles from people who are flabbergasted when they realize how little sleep they’re getting, or how ill prepared their home is, or, my favourite, how they assumed that things would just come naturally to them.
There are literally thousands upon thousands of books for expectant parents, some better than others, but each should highlight some fundamentals of having a baby.
In the future I’ll be using this blog to review many of the books I’ve read, so do stay tuned.
6. Be weary of Dr. Google
When I mention reading, I recommend that you refer to published books and the odd website (like a babycenter.com or the like). However, as you should know, it can be very frightening to refer to Dr. Google, and downright dangerous to rely on it.
My most recent example is with Charlee’s belly button. It hadn’t quite healed, so I took to the internet to see what I could find. There is so much paranoia built in to all of these medical links, that I was truly overwhelmed and frightened, especially as a first time father.
My next move should have been my first – I had our midwife paged and spoke to her on the phone. She answered all my questions and put my mind at ease!
Bottom line – always refer to a specialist in their field before losing your mind referencing the interweb.
7. Talk with other Dad’s
Many of my very good friends are Dad’s. In fact… my Dad is a Dad. If you want to hear advice and guidance from folks who have been there and done that, ask a Dad. Remember, they are not trained medical professionals, so tread lightly. Stick to questions like “what did you find to be the most effective technique to calm baby down?” vs. “what kind of medication works best for my wife’s pain from a C-section but won’t be dangerous while breastfeeding?”
8. If possible, take time off work to be with your partner and child
It’s a very hot topic right now, especially in the United States, but if you have the ability to take parental leave, do it! I’m fortunate enough to be on paid leave for 4 months to be with Becca and Charlee at a time where quite frankly I don’t know how people do it solo.
I mean, I understand that you have to do what you have to do and in such a situation, we would ensure Charlee is cared for appropriately, but the amount of things that I help out with which otherwise would need to be done either when I get home from work, or somehow for Becca to do it all during the day, is insane.
For what it’s worth, it really makes you respect and admire the single parents out there. Kudos to you all… this ain’t easy!
9. Buy some stuff, but don’t go nuts
I’ll be the first to admit that the moment I knew we were having a baby, I wanted to spoil the crap out of this kid. We bought everything under the sun.
First and foremost, Charlee rarely uses her room. Granted she will soon, but so far she’s been between the change table, the bassinet, her stroller and a cool little Baby Bjorn rocker we got for the living room.
Clothing is a whole other story. Charlee was born 7 lbs. 14 oz. – already way too big for the majority of newborn clothing we bought or had handed down. It’s crazy to think that she outgrew things before even being born!
I will add that there is no shame in taking hand-me-downs, as a matter of fact, I recommend it … whole heartedly! Why bother spending money on clothing that otherwise is just getting crapped on and spit up on. Sure you should splurge and buy some outfits for your little one. But don’t go nuts – they wear them for such a short time anyway.
And lastly, buy Diapers… LOTS of Diapers. I read the other day that you should expect baby to go through 10-12 diapers a day, or roughly 320 diapers in her first month.
Let that sink in for a second.
Most diapers are sold in bags of 40 or so…. you’ll blaze through nearly two of those a week!
Think about this, especially if you’re going organic or even cloth – the prices can get up there and you need to do the math to see if it makes sense.
10. Don’t forget about YOU
With all this craziness going on, it’s easy to forget to eat, sleep, rest, and stay on top of your own health. Remember, your baby needs you now, but also needs you for the long haul. Keep healthy and it will help you be there for baby and wifey alike.
On that note, don’t forget Movember is right around the corner!! Get yourself in for a physical sooner rather than later.
Articles and fundraising to follow 🙂