The first time that you are told that you are going to be a father means that you will soon be bombarded with advice on what it is like to be a dad. You will hear that it will be the best thing to happen to you and it will change you for the better and this is true. You will also hear that you need to sleep as much as you can now because once your son or daughter arrives your lack of sleep puts you into a zombie like trance that is difficult to escape. My son Flynn is now 3 months old and there are a number of things that I feel I need to share with any soon to be first time dad that would have been good to know during my wife’s pregnancy, labor and these first three months.
1. Don’t Be Afraid To Show a Little Humility
There is nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t know everything and that the fear of the unknown scares the crap out of you! The endless resources available everywhere you look are there to help prepare new dads as well as new moms. Read as much as you can and take as many of the classes that are available to you at your local hospital or community center to help you be as prepared as possible. Now you know and knowing is half the battle!
2. You Will Be Her Rock During Delivery
Every first time dad is terrified of the birthing process, whether they admit it or not, but compared to what your wife or partner is going through you soon discover that you feel selfish for thinking about how you are feeling instead of focusing on how she is feeling and what you could be doing for her. Once your attention is focused on her the rest of the birthing process is as easy as staying in the moment and making sure you are there for her in every way possible.
3. Your Emotions May Be Different Than Expected
I have to admit that in the months leading up to the birth of my son that I would shed some tears just thinking about what a happy day it would be when we finally got to meet our little man. These feelings only grew stronger as the big day got closer and closer. When the big day finally arrived and I get to see and hold my son for the first time I may have shed a tear or two but I wasn’t the emotional wreck that I envisioned I would be. The birth of your child as a father pales in comparison to what a new mom goes through but it is still an emotional roller coaster for dad so it is okay for any emotional expectations to fall short. There will be plenty of time in the weeks and months to come for you to fall in love with your new bundle of joy and to feel the emotions you may have expected sooner.
4. Things Have Changed Since You Were Born
There are so many things that have changed since you were born and you are going to have to teach everyone who watches your baby. One of the biggest changes is that it wasn’t that long ago that it was recommended that babies sleep on their stomach. This is a big no no now as having babies sleep on their backs is the norm. I won’t go into the reasons why this is here but this was one of the first instances where we heard the, “You grew up okay.” phrase. People who say this have the best intentions but it can get a bit irritating when you hear it. Just because you survived growing up as a child with the norms of the past doesn’t mean that the new rules are invalid. I use the fact that wearing your seat belts wasn’t required not too long ago and I “Grew Up Okay” not wearing it but I wear it every time I am in a car now because I know it saves lives. You will be amazed at how many times you will hear this and just how much things have changed.
5. Parenting Advice Flies At You From Every Direction
Now that the world knows that you and your wife/partner are going to be parents, the advice on how to raise your child will fly at you from all directions. Taking parenting advice that seems absurd from close family members is a little easier to roll your eyes at but when it comes from complete strangers it can be difficult not to become a bit cynical, especially if you are a smart ass like me.
Now I am not saying that all the advice that you will get bombarded with is bad advice. In fact, most of it is really quite helpful but it is important to understand that you and your wife/partner will eventually take all this advice into consideration but will ultimately choose what both of you feel is best for your child.
6. Pregnancy Brain Is Real
Like most men who have not spent time around pregnant women I had never heard of the phenomenon called “Pregnancy Brain”. The Mayo Clinic states that there isn’t enough evidence to prove that pregnancy exists but I know better now than to tell a pregnant woman that. There are extreme hormonal changes happening in a pregnant woman’s brain and this combined with all the new thoughts, worries, questions and anxiety that going along with being pregnant make it easy to understand how the normal, everyday items that one would easily remember may not be a top priority for your wife/partner.
7. It Is Tough & It Will Wear You Out
Being a new father, especially for the first time is hard and you will not get nearly as much sleep as you would like to. For the first couple of weeks your new baby will eat and sleep 90% of the time. Doesn’t seem so bad right?? Except for the fact that newborn babies eat about every two hours for the first couple of weeks. Even though you don’t have the breasts to feed your child you should do as much as you can to help her out. Getting up with her to make sure that she is comfortable, change dirty diapers, get her something to drink or anything else that she may need will mean the world to her.
Once you get into a routine and start feeling good about yourself, the routine will change as your child goes through growth spurts. Transitioning into a new routine can be a challenge but in most cases as these changes happen so does the amount of time your child will sleep at one time. This added sleep will start to make things much easier and by the age of 3 months old a regular sleeping pattern can be established.
8. Low Man on the Totem Pole
As a first time dad you will realize that you are now the low man on the totem pole when it comes to attention and recognition. I know this sounds egotistic and self-centered but it can get a little discouraging when everywhere you go and everyone you meet can’t wait to see the baby and ask the new proud mom to be how she is doing. Once they realize that you are actually in the room you will hear, “Oh yeah, how are you doing?” quite a bit. The sooner that you learn to shake this off and understand that this isn’t intentional the better of you are going to be. Plus, there it doesn’t do you any good to complain about it because you can’t change it.
9. Be Prepared To Talk About Things Like an Adult
There are a number of words like penis, vagina, breasts, sex, intercourse and many others that will make your inner child want to giggle when you they are brought up in certain conversations with all kinds of people, including your doctor or midwife. when you go to all the doctors appointments be prepared to talk to the doctor and your wife about anything and everything and don’t be afraid to ask questions about things that you may not know about. When you attend the classes that many first time dads should attend be prepared to talk about these things in front of complete strangers. As much as you may hate to admit it, it is now time for you to do some growing up.
10. It Is All Worth It
Not that anyone wouldn’t think that all the hard work(mom does 99% of the hard work) and preparation getting ready for your baby to arrive wouldn’t be worth it, but rest assured the minute your baby arrives and you get to hold him/her for the first time and your heart melts you will understand what I mean. You are now a father and until you become a father there is no way to explain how this feels. The best thing for me to tell you is to remember that when times are tough and the fears and doubts that you will have that keep you awake at night worrying about all the things that you can’t control is to remember that it is all worth it and then some!