Part Two – Brand New Life
I would love to start by telling you all that babies come with a manual, or that everything you hear from others about how hard parenting can be is an exaggeration. But I can’t. Maybe Paul from your college days got off fairly easy with a quiet content little angel, perhaps yours will be too. I learnt from having two sons, no two babies are the same; I sometimes think my first was a good baby to trick me into giving him a brother so soon.
So, with no time to get over the horrors of watching child-birth, no time to take in that truly magical moment you witness your child embrace this world, no time to understand what any doctors or midwives are telling you, no time to decide whether or not you even wanted to cut the umbilical cord, as a pair of surgical scissors are thrust into your palm before you’ve had a chance to close your gaping mouth. You are then left literally holding the baby. Everyone has left but your partner, or in my case, even my partner left to go down to surgery. Left to hold my son, watching in fright as his tiny mouth opens and closes around my chest area, I think I even remember a passing (tired) thought that perhaps I could try giving him some milk, obviously feeling helpless when my brain kick-started and told me that was impossible, you idiot.
I remember some of my first feelings were like that of someone who had convinced a security guard that he was in-fact the bank manager and wished to withdraw all the banks money and getting away with it. ‘Don’t these fools know that I have no idea what I’m doing?’, is what I’m thinking as I gingerly walk out with my new-born son to the car, occasionally looking over my shoulder in fear of being caught out. Having been there twice, my advice would be this: Stay calm, or at the very least conduct an appearance of calm, your partner will probably be just as frightened as you are. Avoid going home to ‘get some things’, you will be tired and you will quite possibly lie down for just a second and then you will (like me) wake up five hours later to 27 missed calls and a couple of not so friendly ‘Where are you?’ text messages. Lastly comes the breast-feeding advice; For her it is an extremely stressful and emotional time, especially given that she can barely keep her eyes open from child-birth. Some babies will naturally latch on and gulp up that milk, others may struggle, some may not breast-feed at all. Whatever the outcome, it is paramount that you support your partner no matter what. It is important to remember that although breast-feeding is naturally better for baby, there is no harm in bottle-feeding and what’s important is that baby is fed.
We all love a bit of attention from time to time, it will come as no shock that arriving home bearing a brand new life may just cause everyone, including the neighbour’s dog to arrive at your doorstep hoping for a glimpse. As a father you may take on a small role in door-man, you will need to be prepared to say ‘No’. Even better still, would be to explain to close relatives and friends, your partner and yourself need a couple of days alone to get used to baby. You will both be exhausted, more so your partner, the last thing she is going to need is ‘Grandma, five kids, seven grand-kids’ telling her ‘how its supposed to be done’, you don’t want her thinking she is a terrible mother from day one. Once you have both settled, organise the visitations; you wont want a pile up of people all pulling at a limb each for a hold, it’s best to remember the ones who probably feel most worthy of a visit first, you don’t want to be the reason for a family feud because you invited cousin Tim round before your partner’s mother.
Name That Cry
I bet we would all love a baby to arrive with the intellect and vocabulary of Stewie Griffin, unfortunately a baby’s only way of communicating is through the ear deafening art of crying. You are now a slave to this young ones every need, if they are crying it’s because they need something, usually being hunger, comfort or Dad I’ve soiled myself. This brings me onto the nappies, like the rest of us your baby is going to poo and wee, a lot. As shocking as the smell is and as gross as the first time your head is literally urinated on when grabbing another wipe is, you will get used to it, you will learn to embrace it, you will never love it. To begin with you are going to have sleepless nights, it’s something you can never fully prepare for, but to make things easier before you nod off make sure you are all ready for lift off for whatever your baby might need. It can also be a huge help to get a couple of hours down while your baby does. As baby starts to grow older, even into the toddler stage, I can’t stress enough how helpful a routine is. My wife and I began with ‘shifts’, she would go to bed as I did a feed at 9pm, then I would stay up as baby and wife slept, catching up on Breaking Bad, then at 1am I would do my last feed before going to bed. The next feed would usually be around 4/5am meaning my wife had managed a decent seven hours. This wont always work as well as it did for us, as we found out with our second.
To round off the early stages of parenthood, never lose sight of your relationship. Guys that doesn’t mean sexual intercourse, I’m afraid that may just be off the table for a little while, the sooner you take that on board the better. What I’m talking about is your partnership, work as a team, you are both going to need each other. Constantly stress how well you she’s doing, a mother will always worry she’s not any good. Talk to her, tell her how you feel about being Dad, confide in her about worries or concerns. Listen to her, she may still be an emotional wreck, crying, tired and excited all at the same time. Show her you love her and support her whatever she or the baby needs, do this and you can do no wrong, you’re not an expert but you will make a super Dad.