Advice For Expecting Fathers

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.
    • 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.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Yesterday wasn’t great and today started off rough.

Z woke up early.  He barely ate breakfast.  He was fussy.  He cried.  A lot.  Much more than his somewhat usual whining, he was loudly sobbing for large chunks of the day.  Anything or nothing would set him off.  He cried more today than since he was a little baby.

He’s been getting over some sort of sickness, but his mood was sour despite a lack of other symptoms (no cough, congestion or fever).

He fought us during lunch.  He took short naps.  Taking him outside, which almost always cheers him up, wasn’t much of a help.

It was a long, rough morning and afternoon.

We took turns trying to cheer him up.  We took turns trying to feed him.  We took turns walking away in frustration as the other one held him while he cried.

We resorted to gallows humor, noting that Z clearly wanted to be an only child.

We had a beach picnic dinner planned and for some reason we decided not to cancel.

There was uncharacteristic traffic on the way there.  He howled as we noted that we’d barely have time to eat before we had to leave to get him home around his bed time.  While traffic was at a standstill during a green light, Lex ran from the front seat to the back to try to comfort Z.  It didn’t work.  He cried and screamed the entire ride to the beach.  My ears were ringing as I tried to park quickly and safely.

A funny thing happened once we got out of the car.  He calmed down and didn’t fight us as we walked to the beach, met up with the group, and spread out a blanket.  We had Thai take-out and he let us feed him some chicken, tofu, and noodles.  He didn’t even try to eat sand.  There was a beautiful sunset and even offered a smile to a camera.

We departed quickly, thinking it could have been a lot worse.

He wasn’t happy on the way home but also didn’t scream the entire time.

As is normal, he was happy in the bath.

After Lex fed him, I came in his room for our nightly reading of “Pajama Time.”  Lex was sitting in our rocking chair and he was standing in her lap hugging her.  I came over to give him a hug and kiss and let him know we hoped he’d feel better tomorrow.  We had a nice hug for one second, two second, three seconds.  Z was completely still.

Lex and I looked at each other and whispered, “Is he asleep?”  He hasn’t fallen asleep on either of us in a long time.  Two seconds later, he started to giggle, causing us to laugh.  He continued laughing and smiling through the rest of the bedtime routine.

It was a very rough day.  The kind of day that makes you wonder how siblings are a thing or overpopulation is a thing.  The kind of day that makes you think horrible thoughts and want to run away.  The kind of day that makes you think wistfully about the days when taking care of an infant was not a responsibility of yours.

But, in seemingly an instant, it became a great night.  One deep hug.  One enthusiastic, mischievous giggle.  One nearly toothless smile.  That’s all it takes.

All’s well that ends well.