I wrote this post originally in November of 2015, a couple of weeks after Zach was born, but now with two kids and almost three years experience, I’ve revisited and revamped this a bit. Here’s my wise, sleep deprived, words of wisdom.
- Be in the room with her!
If you’re not sure if you’re going to be in the room with her or not, BE IN THE ROOM WITH HER. This isn’t 1953. She needs you. She needs your soothing voice. She needs to hold your hand. She needs you to be there to comfort her when she’s scared. She needs you. So be there.
- You’re Going to See Things You Can’t Unsee
I stand by point #1, however, when you’re in the room with your wife, you’re going to see things you can’t unsee. My goal since day one was to be in the room with Gina, but to not to witness things I couldn’t remove from my memory. “I want to be able to go back down there at some point and not have PTSD” was the ‘joke’ I said to my friends. I’ll tell you now, the setup is not like the movies. There’s no divider blanket or mini wall to protect you from the sight and the doctor doesn’t go under a blanket to deliver the baby, it’s all out in the open. You see everything. And as much as I swore I wasn’t going to see my two boys coming out of her most sacred of areas, I’m glad I did. Seeing them being born is the greatest moment of my life.
- Cut the Umbilical Cord
For no other reason than to say you cut your child’s umbilical cord. It’s kid of scary, but very fucking cool!
- You May Feel Overwhelmed
This is completely normal, there’s lots of new shit to learn. You probably don’t know how to change a diaper. You don’t know how often to feed him/her. You don’t know how to swaddle. You don’t know if that noise they’re making is normal or not. You may not even know how to hold your baby yet. But don’t worry. You will learn, and you will be fine, and so will your baby. Nurses are amazing and they are there to help you, and teach you how to do things properly. And if they show you and you still don’t get it, ask them to show you again.
- You May Feel Overwhelmed Pt 2
Did I mention you may feel overwhelmed? Did I mention there’s a lot of shit to learn? Did I mention don’t worry about it, this is normal?! It’s OK not to know why your baby is crying, why your wife is crying, why you’re crying… This is all normal. Between the baby not being able to communicate and the onslaught of hormones, crying will be a part of your life for a while. The thing you need to remember is not to over (or under) react. If you are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated or upset, or all of the above at once, take a breather. It’s OK to ask your wife to manage on her own for 3 or 4 mins, to go outside and take a deep, deep breath and to calm down. This is more than OK. Regroup, get your shit together, and then handle things like the man that you are.
- Take Care of Yourself
Something I felt immediately was that it’s no longer just about me, it’s about him. My health isn’t just about me anymore, I’ve now got this little human who depends on me to keep him alive, so I need to keep myself alive. Eat well. Workout. Get a physical. In the words of the great Canadian musician Bryan Adams: “Everything I Do, I Do It For You”. Yes, I just quoted Bryan Adams.
- Ask Questions
If you have friends that are dads, ask them stuff. Dudes are dudes and don’t usually give advice or have heart to hearts unless asked upon, but I guarantee your friends have lots of experience and have been there before. You’re not the first dad in the world, so don’t be scared to ask for advice.
- You’re Going to Get Puked On
And shit on, and pissed on, and probably get some breast milk on you at some point. I know this sounds terrible, but it’s not that bad. I got shit on three times during our newborn photoshoot, and I didn’t think twice about it. Three weeks ago if you told me I’d have baby shit running down my arm, chest and onto my sock, I’d probably be grossed out and pissed off, but I wasn’t.
- Yes, Newborn Photoshoots are a thing
You’re going to be introduced to tons of new baby things you didn’t know existed, and your wife is going to want to do a lot of them. Deal with it. Support her. And do them.
- You’re Going to Be Tired
But that’s OK. They tell you to nap when your newborn naps, but you’re going to find that hard at first. I was terrified to sleep the first 40 hours Zachary was born, so I didn’t. I didn’t think anything bad was going to happen, I just didn’t know what was going to happen or what to do, so I just stayed awake for 40 hours. I’m glad I spent those 40 hours holding my son, but it caught up to me and kicked my ass. And now that I’m back to work, I want to nap all the time, but I also want to hold my son more. I know I should be napping when I can, but I just can’t not hold him when I see him. He’s amazing. So, I’m just going to deal with being tired. It’s worth it.
- You’re Going to Be Bored
While I was up for 40 hours straight I watched a lot of Friends, and I was bored! Don’t get me wrong, I love that show, but I kind of felt like a zombie and I don’t really remember much of what I watched in those 40 hours, or the other 3 days we were in the hospital. I tried to read, but again, zombie brain prevented that, so I just kind of sat there. I wanted G. to sleep as much as possible, so I was awake, with the baby, holding him. Holding him makes my heart melt and it felt beyond amazing, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world, but it can be a little boring just sitting there, doing nothing, while he sleeps.
- You’re Going to Become Emotional
Two weeks ago, you would never have heard me use any of the terms in point #10 before, but now I do. It’s how it goes. And I love it.
- You’re Going To Be A Dad
And it’s amazing.