I have multiple friends who are set to become fathers in the next few months, which has me thinking about when Z was born and the things I wish I’d known then. Here’s my advice for expecting fathers.
- Don’t worry about changing diapers.
- I was worried about it. It was a stupid concern. Changing diapers isn’t that bad. You’ll do it. It’s not always fun. It’s not a big deal. Don’t worry about it. If you’ve never changed a diaper, maybe ask a nurse at the hospital how to do it. One of the biggest benefits about being a first-time father (#maleprivilege) is that nobody judges you for not knowing how to do things. (Your partner does not get the same benefit of the doubt, which you’ll soon learn, possibly from your own mother)
- Install the car seat and learn how to adjust it.
- It’s common during the so-called “nesting” period for mothers to get nurseries set up perfectly (for Instagram); buy lots of blankets, toys, and other gadgets; and stress about the perfect stroller/crib/changing table. One of the few things that’s actually important, however, is to have a safe, functional car seat. It’s important to install it importantly (most fire stations will check the installation if you’re worried about it) and know how to adjust it. Despite your doctor’s (or midwife’s or doula’s) best guess, nobody knows how big your baby will be and it’s important that you can adjust the straps so your baby is tightly secured. We didn’t do this and had to FaceTime my sister-in-law as we were trying to leave the hospital (a benefit of having relatives with the same baby gear). Don’t be like us. Be better. Figure it out beforehand. Even if you’re planning a home birth, you never know if you’ll end up at a hospital/birthing center or how soon you’ll need to use the car seat (and learning new skills after the baby arrives will be between 8 and 47 times more difficult than before).
- Go out and sleep in now
- These may seem contradictory, but not necessarily. After baby comes your ability to see friends, the inside of a bar, or a concert decrease dramatically. Do fun things now. But also sleep in. You’ll miss social adult interactions and sleep greatly once your little bundle of joy arrives.
- LABOR and DELIVERY:
- Support your partner because it’s going to be hell.
- Lex’s labor and delivery was one of the most difficult, terribly, and exhausting things I’ve ever been through. And I can promise it was between a million and billion times worse for her. If she wants something, get it for her. If she wants encouragement, channel Tony Robbins. If she wants silence, shut the hell up. If she yells at you, respond like the pledges in Animal House.
- Don’t worry about being grossed out. Yes, you may see, hear, or smell some unpleasant things (#miracleoflife). If you were able to become a father, I promise your libido is strong enough to recover from whatever you may experience (especially if you’ve already seen Knocked Up). In fact, given what your partner goes through physically, mentally, and emotionally, I’d bet lots of money you’ll be ready to knock da boots long before she is.
- When the baby comes
- Congrats! You’re a father. It’s incredible (and incredibly difficult). Pray for a healthy, happy kid who loves to sleep but prepare yourself for a petty, moody tyrant who loves to party in the middle of the night. Before Z was born I asked a friend with a young baby how his experience had been. He responded, “I was expecting it to be absolutely terrible but it’s only been bad.” So he was pretty happy, all things considered. I think that’s a wise move. Expect the worst, hope for the best.
- Help out as much as you can and then help more. Your partner has essentially had an IED go off in her southern hemisphere. Her body is pulsing with crazy amounts of hormones. She may be trying to feed your spawn via very sensitive body parts. Change diapers, get food (for you and her), clean up the inevitable messes. This is not fun or easy. Do it. Hopefully you have grandparents, friends, and/or paid help. Regardless, you’ll be on a roller coaster of emotions. Ride it out. Support each other. Enjoy your precious baby. Pretend they don’t look like an alien (they’ll grow out of it soon enough).
- Remember: Things get better and easier
- Having a young infant is amazing, but it’s also very difficult. Odds approach 1 that you’ll be sleep deprived, frustrated, angry, and/or depressed at some point. Try to remember that things will improve. Babies learn to eat and sleep better. Sick babies recover. It’s really hard to imagine how much better life will be once baby learns how to sleep through the night (and they will).
- Stay united as a couple
- Babies are not just hard on parents as parents; they’re hard on parents as romantic partners. You’ll likely fight more or be more frustrated with your partner because of a severe lack of sleep and a moderate-to-extreme increase in time spent together. Keep your bond strong. Take turns taking the baby so the other person can have some time alone (or to sleep). It’s a lot easier to deal with exploding diapers and screaming babies if you have a partner that’s on and by your side. Communicate as best you can–if for no other reason than shit talking about your own kid isn’t super socially acceptable.
Good luck. You’re about to go on quite the ride.