Fatherhood is not rocket science, but it’s also not the simplest thing in the world.
This is a guest post by my husband, Jason. Edited by Josh Perlow.
When Barbara and I started trying to have our first kid, it was a lot of fun and felt more like a dreamy haze. Was I ready to be a Dad? I honestly don’t know. I might have said yes while shaking my head up and down and putting on a huge smile…but really, I was kind of numb to it. I hadn’t really processed that my entire world was about to be rocked.
When I found out we were pregnant, it was an amazing moment. Imagine a slow-motion reaction where a million thoughts go through your mind all at once as the camera zooms in on your wide-open eyes. What do babies eat? When do they sleep? How will we split responsibilities? What if there’s another miscarriage? What do we need to do to prepare the house? How do I hold a baby? Should I be reading something, talking to someone, doing something? Those are just a few of the questions that instantly flooded my mind…and I didn’t know a lot of the answers. Plus, the answers I thought I knew, turned out to be wrong.
Knowing nothing about babies is scary but isn’t the worst thing. Thinking you know something about babies when you really don’t—that’s when you get into trouble.
A father’s fears during pregnancy
This fear I was feeling forced me to suppress my excitement and tuck it away in the back of my mind. What should have been the most wonderful time of my life—finding out I was going to carry on the family legacy—was actually filled with stress, anxiety, and fear. If you’d like to know more about why I felt this way, read Barbara’s extremely vulnerable and brave blog post about our miscarriage experience. Going through those ups and downs made me hesitant about celebrating too early this time.
I was frightened everyday wondering if the baby was viable, what we would do if something bad happened, and what we should be doing to prepare. A pregnancy should be a time of joy and happiness, which it is, but I’ve learned that dad’s still have a lot of responsibilities. We are the timekeeper, scheduler, sanity-keeper, encourager, coach, and supporter—among countless other responsibilities. There is no doubt in my mind that all the credit goes to the moms, and they deserve every bit of it, but recognizing our role is just as important. I’m not saying that I believe in old-fashioned patriarchal roles, but it’s important for the dad (or the non-birthing partner) to be a steady and supportive rock.
Preparing for the baby
As time flew by and the impending due date got closer and closer and Barbara’s body began changing, it became clearer than ever that I needed to get caught up— and fast. Luckily, Barbara had done an amazing job preparing for the baby, so she picked out a few things for me to read and watch.
We watched the “Taking Cara Babies” Newborn class videos about creating good sleeping habits when the baby is 0-12 weeks. Then, we read “Expecting Better” by Emily Oster which debunks many pregnancy myths and the age old “What to Expect when You’re Expecting” by Heidi Murkoff. Finally, we read the 100 Keys to French Parenting in the back of “Bringing Up Bébé” by Pamela Druckerman. One book I didn’t get to, but recommend, is “The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be.”
22 Things I’ve Learned as a First Time Dad
If the thought of reading all of those books is making you feel overwhelmed, here are a few of things I learned from reading them, and a few things I learned on my own as a first time Dad.
- It’s normal for dad to stress. Even though your partner is actually delivering the baby, it’s normal for a dad-to-be to feel anxious about the ordeal.
- Relax and ask your friends and family questions. They want to help, so let them.
- Regarding viability: At 28 weeks, there is between 80-90 percent survival. Babies born at 28 weeks old only have a 10 percent chance of having long-term health problems. At 32 weeks, survival rate is as high as 95 percent.
- No one gives birth on their due date. Well, about 5% actually do, but it’s very common to be early or late.
- Babies don’t drink water. They drink breastmilk or formula (unless you’re my grandmother who swears she gave my mom and uncle water and left them outside in the sun to get their vitamin D)
- Not all formulas are the same. For pretty much the same price as formula from the US, you can get a really high-end European formula that is specially formulated based on the baby’s age. Isn’t it odd that a baby would drink the exact same mix of nutrients for 2+ years? We thought it was weird too, which is why we went with a specialty formula. We use HiPP Dutch, but also heard good things about Holle. Interested in trying it out? You can get $5 off your order here.
- There’s no need to panic or freak out about becoming a dad. If you’ve had a puppy, that’s good practice at being responsible for a life. Just remember to breathe. A baby is durable and has incredible instincts to survive. They will tell you (by screaming) when they are hungry, need a diaper change, or are too hot.
- Babies are humans too. That means they like the temperature about the same as you. Just remember, for sleeping, they don’t have a blanket so sometimes you might need to double wrap them in swaddles.
- Practice swaddling. It’s easy, so just pull up a YouTube video and start working on it. Or you can do what we did and buy an Ollie Swaddle. This amazing thing will save you 5 minutes each time you wake up in the middle of the night.
- Set a schedule and stick to it. Plan and schedule with your partner to decide who gets up in the middle of the night to put the paci in, rock the baby back to sleep, or bring the baby to your partner to feed them. Even if you have work in the morning, it’s important to take a turn waking up.
- Don’t stress about developmental milestones. Every baby develops at different speeds and they all catch up before you know it.
- The baby shouldn’t run your life. Make time for yourselves—take some vacations or trips. The baby will fill up most of your car with stuff, but during the early months, they really just eat, sleep, poop, be cute, repeat.
- Go to bed early. Noone’s judging you.
- Force yourself to maintain your workout routines. This is part of finding time for yourself. The human mind needs those endorphins, and it will make a huge difference in your mental state. Need some motivation? Check out my favorite motivational sayings from my favorite Peloton instructors.
- Change as many diapers as you can. Your partner will thank you and brag to her family how great you are for helping. Changing diapers isn’t that bad. Our favorite brand is Coterie (here is a full review of Coterie Diapers). Changing diapers is easy: First, take off their pants or unbutton their button onesie. Next, put the clean one under the baby with the Velcro part on the bottom facing up. Then, cover the top and bring the Velcro part over and stick it to the front. Lastly, and most importantly, to avoid blowouts, flip the wings under the baby’s butt. Pro tip: Ask the nurse in the hospital to show you. They will be happy to teach you and will even change the diaper a few times.
- Learn from the nurses at the hospital. You can pretty much learn everything you need to know about the baby in the 2 days you are at the hospital. Ask lots and lots of questions.
- Mom can actually eat sushi. Turns out sushi is actually ok to eat if it’s from reliable places and in moderation. Mom can also have alcohol (like a glass or drink occasionally), and with the exception of deli meats, can have pretty much everything. I am not an expert and these were our own personal choices, but after going through it, I learned that being extremely strict isn’t as important as I thought.
- Don’t overfeed the baby. Your baby’s stomach is tiny, and they don’t need a lot to eat at one time since they will eat frequently. Don’t forget to get a burp in the middle of and after each feeding.
- You’ll need a lot of diapers. A baby should have at least one wet diaper by the end of the first day of life, and this should increase to five to six wet diapers by the end of the first week. Dirty diapers are going to vary, though, depending on whether the baby is breastfed or formula-fed. If you have any doubt, just change the diaper.
- Get ready for different color poops. Baby’s poop starts out blackish and tar-like and then eventually turns to a more brownish-greenish-yellowish color.
- Babies crawl between 6-12 months, walk between 8-14 months, and start babbling around 6-9 months. If your baby is a bit on either side of these estimates, that’s okay. Unless they begin playing drums before they hit 12 months, they are probably just on their own track.
- Get an easy to snap in-and-out car seat. We really love ours, the Uppababy Mesa, but it is on the heavier side. If you plan on removing it from your car a lot, consider the nuna PIPA Lite.
And when in doubt Google it and then YouTube it (such as how to close up your stroller).
– Jason (New Modern Dad)