You’re going to be a dad for the first time? This is for you. A four part series documenting things that may just come in handy.
There’s so much to share and us guys have short attention spans (or so I’m told. I think. I drifted off). For this reason, I’ll write this guide over a few posts. The topics covered will be Pregnancy, The Birth, I’ve Got A Baby and Toddling. There will be loads of links throughout to help you learn as much as possible.
Disclaimer: This is aimed at Dads. It’s not meant to be too flippant, condescending or demeaning. It is what it is. One Dad documenting and sharing what he has observed and learned. I would be interested, however, in hearing Mum’s views on these posts.
Here, then, is the
Looking for the Postman Guide to Impending First Time Dadhood
[Part 1] : Pregnancy
One of the things expectant first-time Dads are concerned about is the birth itself, and understandably so. It doesn’t matter how many classes you go to, the fact is that at some point, a living creature is going to emerge from your wife’s holiest of holies and you have to deal with it.
I don’t have a magic solution. There isn’t one. What I do have is the wisdom gained from experiencing the births of all three of my children. There’s no point reinventing the wheel. I have gained this gruesome knowledge the hard way. It’s only fair that I share it and you benefit from my trials.
You are not an equal partner in this process. Let’s just get that out of the way at the beginning. This is not about you. Attempts to deviate from this can only result in bad things. This is about your partner and the baby. You are little more than the driver / dogsbody / shoulder to cry on.
Books will attempt to convince you that a father has just as an important role to play as the mother. These books are evil. Your purpose can be summed up very, very simply : to support and survive.
Things you can do to support
Accept that at some points your partner will be subjected to an unimaginably horrible river of hormones that will have an inevitable effect on her. I’m not being condescending, truly. I am having to tread carefully. No blog topic has ever required so much tip-toeing as this one. One wrong sentence and I could get lynched.
The effects of hormones are real, they exist, and you both need to be prepared for it.
There can be sickness, stress, outbursts of tears, maniacal violence and attacks against roommates over butter. These can appear to have no logical origin or cause. Don’t try to figure it out, just be there and reassure. Greater minds than ours have tried to figure it out and have failed. If you ask why your partner is crying, you way well get “I don’t know” as a response.
What we must understand is that being influenced by hormones isn’t a character flaw. It’s not a gender flaw. It’s how we work. Humans do have design flaws. Our own hormones produce side-effects. These are inconsistent, uncontrollable and can’t be rationalised.
HOWEVER, this does not mean that it is the root cause of anything that upsets your pregnant partner. Don’t get blindsided because you put an issue down to hormones and it was something else. Be attentive because this isn’t about you. It’s not your job to manage your partner, just yourself. If you’re the sort of person who is attentive, responsive and considerate then you’ll be fine. If not, then you’re going to have to change because you need these qualities to fully support your partner.
2. The Stuff
You cannot underestimate how much you’re going to have to do before that first child comes along. The second is a doddle. You just need two days to prepare for them. The first, though, is a big deal.
You will need to get The Stuff. The Stuff is basically everything you need for bringing a baby into your house. Well, it used to be your house. It’s the baby’s now. By being prepared, you’ll prevent any unnecessary stress which is a Good Thing.
Here’s what you need.
Clothes / Bedding. Well, vests, cardigans and body-suits to begin with. Some plain, some fancy for when the relatives come around. Gloves, because they like to scratch themselves with their wee sharp nails. A hat too. Booties as well. A ski-suit type outdoor body-suit. Honestly, these things look amazing. They’re like a cross between a sleeping bag and a onesie. Sheets for the moses basket, cot sheets, blankets and bibs.
Hygiene. Holy hell, you have no idea how much mess you’re going to be dealing with. Right, for a newborn, you don’t usually use wipes. Use cotton balls with warm water at first. You’ll probably want to get a baby bath too. Baby wash and shampoo. Get wipes anyway because you’ll need them for cleaning crap of yourself and the nappy mat. Get nail clippers too.
Nappy stuff. A nappy mat, a nappy box, sudocrem, metanium, more cotton balls, disposable nappy bags and a metric ton of nappies. You’ll need a changing bag for when you’re out and about with duplicate supplies.
Big things and gadgets. A moses basket and maybe a cot. You don’t need a cot from birth but you can get it if you have the space. Mattresses. A car seat – use google for advice. There are loads of pointers and reviews about car seats. A baby monitor. We had a BT monitor which worked ok for a while but then the LCD display went and couldn’t be replaced. Very disappointed. Get a bouncy seat that’s suitable from birth. You can rock them to sleep anywhere. Also, get a contraction counter app for your phone. It’ll come in handy. A pram. That’s going to cost you a fortune. Get a relative to get that for you. 😉
Feeding. Bottles, a steriliser, cleaning brushes, sterilising fluid. Different types of teat because it’s just not worth the hassle of not buying them. Formula, if you need it.
Entertainment. A musical mobile. A teddy. Whatever toys you like. The baby won’t care. For the first few days it won’t be able to see the length of itself and won’t be able to hold anything for a while. They’re basically still in shock.
What you don’t need. A room or nursery all ready to go on day one. I never understood the TV programmes where the parents stood together in a fully painted nursery with a cot in it. From my experience, the baby will be sleeping in your room for the first six months. Do it if you’ve loads of time and you’ve got cash spilling out your pockets, otherwise put it on the back burner. If you’ve got a bedroom for the baby to eventually move in to, use it to store all the spare stuff you get as presents. It’ll be a baby store room for a while. Like I said, it’s their house now.
If this is also your partner’s first child then what better way to support her than by reading about the developing baby together. There are loads of books and websites that give you a week by week guide of what is happening to the bodies of the foetus and the mother. Read them, follow what’s happening.
Go to the scans and pay attention. Hold your Mrs’ hand when she’s having the scan. Don’t make jokes. It’s a bloody magical thing, meeting your wee one at an ultrasound scan. It’s wonderful.
Massage oil into your wife’s growing belly. Sing to your baby in the womb. I’m telling you – I sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to my wife’s expanding bump and when the baby was born, I swear it would calm her down when she was crying.
Give the bump a name. We called our bump Wilbur. Spending time with the bump helps to bond and to experience things together. When you first see a knee or fist shaped bump move across your wife’s belly, your jaw will drop.
Buy The Stuff together. Discuss names, of course. You will never be short of baby related things to discuss. And that, Dad-to-be may also be an issue to consider.
All being well, when the baby is born, you’re going to be a Mum and Dad for a long, long time. Your relationship with your other half is going to change completely. It’s no longer just the two of you.
With that in mind, take the time to schedule some alone time with the Mrs. Who knows when you’ll get that again. Have date nights as often as plans and finances permit. Ok, she can’t drink, but you can still go to the cinema, have a great meal or have a romantic break before the wee one arrives. You won’t regret it, plus it’s more bonding time.
Be ready for the big day. If you’re the one who will probably have to drive your partner to the hospital when things kick off, have the route mapped out in your head. Make sure you know where the bags for the hospital are kept. Bring a phone charger. Being prepared will reassure your partner and help prevent anxiety.
When Emma was pregnant with Jenny, we lived in a small village not too far a dual carriageway. To get to the hospital, we had to go onto this busy road. Naturally, as an expectant father, I often had daydreams about driving on this road at 100+mph when my wife was in labour, pointing out my baby-pushing wife to the pursuing policeman who would then provide me with a high-speed escort to the maternity ward.
Honestly, guys. Who hasn’t had this cross their mind? Well, if you drive, the odds are that you will be the one running your partner to the hospital. Drive safe but also, drive like you’ve got a woman in the car who’s about to give birth. It’s the stuff of dreams but it’s recommended to not drive like a lunatic.
Things you can do to survive
1. Be alert.
Seriously, think before you speak. Your partner has a shedload of stuff going on, not least an awareness that she is putting on weight. It’s tremendously common for insecurity to set in. How could it not? One misplaced remark, even in jest, could trigger a tsunami of heartbreak.
2. Never, ever moan.
Bear in mind that, whatever you’re going through, your partner is growing a creature inside her that is wrecking her mental balance, pushing haemarroids out of her arse and stretching her skin like when you put a football up your jumper. Unless it’s life-threatening, suck it up.
3. Eyes open to the future.
Things aren’t going to be the same. The earlier you accept the full repercussions of this, the better. If you’ve got a social life that involves you being out several nights a week, you’re in for a shock if you think things aren’t going to change.
If I absently hummed or whistled a tune in my younger days, it would be a song I liked from a band I loved. Nowadays, it’s more likely to be a theme tune from a CBeebies show. You’ll do yourself a huge favour and help yourself survive by realising that your life is changing direction. Go with it. Embrace it. Don’t fight it. It’s happening and that is that. Once you’re at peace with what’s happening, you’ll be in a much better place to assist your partner and become a great dad.
4. Talk to other Dads.
Talk to friends who have already been through this. If you don’t have any, there are plenty of online places where Dads congregate and share experiences. Check out A Dad’s View podcast. If you’ve got particular fears or a question you want answered, you’ll find that other people have been in the same position before. Google Slackdads for details of Dads who chat about Dad stuff.
Don’t worry. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to do anything horrendously wrong. A quick walk around any supermarket will show you that any idiot can bring children into the world. If you’re happy that, when the time comes, you will be giving it 100%, well, at least 80%, to bring up your kid the best that you can, then you won’t be that guy in the supermarket. Hopefully.
I guess the final word for this topic is communication. Talk and listen. Every couple’s needs are different but what’s universally required is an ability to talk to each other.
You’ll do fine.