PART 2 –
Last week, we touched on preparing for the months leading up to the greatest day of your life – the birth of your child.
You have done your reading, supported mom, attending all the appointments, enjoyed a hospital tour (if going that route – as more than 95% of all births do) and now you are hours away from being a dad. And while it might be your first child, babies are being born every second all over the world so don’t throw up, you can do this!!
Remember, your role is somewhat minor to what mom is going to experience in the next few hours – so whatever is going on with you, ‘suck it up buttercup!’ as one mom friend so eloquently put it.
So when the contractions start getting closer together, and when mom can’t talk or laugh through the contractions, it’s go time! I always imagined a hectic “pedal-to-the-metal” red-light running drive to the hospital with the greatest excuse ready to give any police officer, but the truth is, the drive to the hospital should be quite boring and uneventful (and that’s good!).
At the hospital, you need to shine as mom’s greatest advocate, voice, and comfort item. Whatever she needs you to do, you DO it – cheerfully. Period. No questions asked. Have blankets ready, have water or food ready, and have every answer ready. Be attentive but not hyper. Talk if she wants you to talk or zip it if quiet is what she needs – she is likely in more pain than you have ever experienced (remember how you cry when you trim your nails too close).
Try to be helpful, anticipate her needs, be cool, and not annoying… be as involved as you can. I helped deliver both my children but if you get queasy at the sight of blood, best step back and let the pros do their job.
Oh, FYI, here is a simple truth from the birth – nothing she says can ever be held against her. The same is not true for you. She might be having a baby, but her memory and mind memory are still razor sharp so be supportive and helpful throughout. Her comfort is paramount. And become BFFs with all the nurses, they play a huge role in your successful birthing experience.
And then its all over and you have a baby. When a child is born, a father is born. I remember standing at the automatic doors leaving the hospital, terrified, with my tiny son in his tiny carseat. I distinctly remember thinking, “They are letting us go? They are really letting us leave with him.” That is when all your research and reading will pay dividends. You can both do this.
But dads soon learn that mom is a baby’s number 1 for obvious reasons; a new baby needs mom. As I have written before, the hierarchy is simple; MOM, then everyone else in the world (the “not-my-moms”).
But fear not dads, there will come a glorious day when your baby recognizes you from all the other ‘not-my-moms’. You smell different, talk different, and sing terribly, but you are cool.
If you want that day to come sooner than later, get INVOLVED right away! Change every diaper you can, go for every walk you can, and give every bath you can. You can’t breastfeed but you can do everything else. Do IT! Get off the sidelines and into the game.
It’s easy to sit back and assume that ‘this is mom’s territory’ and she knows best. She might, but she learned lots from trial and error and so will you. You must take the time and get to know and read your baby. Moms, please give dad the time and space to learn, make his mistakes, and build his confidence.
In the early days, you may both be operating in ‘survival’ mode. As the sleep decreases, the irritability of the household can increase dramatically. Be gentle with each other – please. You are both doing the best you can…
A few final points… Moms are much better at networking (ie. baby groups), so Dads, you need to reach out also to other dads, either in your friend circle, at work, or even online (the Dad Vibe:), and find other men that have been where you are now. You are in a wonderful, interesting, and sometimes puzzling place; perspective, tips, and ideas are very helpful.
And after the baby, while your desire for physical intimate relations does not diminish, that is not the case for mom. And I guarantee you, after a long day with little or no sleep and a baby hanging off her all day, the LAST thing she needs from you is the 10 o’clock shoulder tap.
What may get her in the mood is if you pick up the vacuum, clean the kitchen, massage her feet, or take the ‘neglected’ dog for a walk – do things that make life easier and the household run smoother. I assure you that life does get back to normal and you will both thrive in your new roles of mom and dad!
When you are proudly walking your new child in your pimped out stroller, and some older person stops you and declares how wonderful it is that you are “babysitting your child and giving mom a break”, you can look them in the eye and say, “I am not babysitting, I am being a Dad – the greatest job and privilege I have ever been given! And I love it” – because, trust me dude, you will!
Until next time…
What other tips can we pass along to new dads?
Moms, what are one or two things that new dads NEED to know?
Please share your thoughts!
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One thought: If we moms say something just downright mean and cutting to you – the new dad – chances are WE are the ones who feel overwhelmed, like we are a failure for not knowing what to do to make this baby sleep/stop crying or how to get out of our pjs, clean the house, or accomplish ANY other task we could have done BEFORE BABY! When we are weak, sometimes, we say mean things, cuz in the old days, when we were kids, that was how you survived … pick on someone else to hopefully make yourself feel ‘better/bigger’. It isn’t right, but it might explain the monster you are now living with!
Hey Leanne! Great insight! Thanks so much — I always look forward to your interpretation and ideas! Merry Christmas to you and the Hopegood crew!