Last month I celebrated five years since first becoming a dad.
Wow, time flies when you’re in the trenches clawing at the dirt struggling for air, eh?
It feels like just yesterday, I was one of the first of my friends to become a dad. I was scrambling around, trying to install car seats and pack a duffle bag for the hospital. I really made an effort to find ANY kind of information on how to actually be a dad. I tried to find something to read that wasn’t just dull, boring scientific facts – something that I could actually laugh about, while getting some take-away.
I never found it. The closest thing to it was something written by Jenny McCarthy.
My friends didn’t really know what to say and the advice from my elders was simple: “Good luck, get some sleep NOW, while you can.” Huh? What in the hell did that mean?
Delivery day found me sitting in the hallway outside of the operating room, clammy, shaky, sweaty and nervous as hell.
The whole process before, during and after was uncharted waters.
Now that I’ve been through this three times, I feel like it’s my obligation and responsibility to offer up some of my observations, tips and advice on becoming a dad for the first time, as well as staying active and involved with your kid’s as they continue to grow. A lot of this may seem like common sense, so by all means – take it or leave it.
BE INTERESTED – I made it a priority to go to every doctor’s visit with my wife during her pregnancies. With her family being 700 miles away, I think this was a great source of comfort, plus I got to see the ultrasound images and have that surreal experience of hearing a heartbeat and seeing the baby move. As an added bonus, when the tech squirts the goop on her stomach, it makes a cool farting noise. I know that not all of us have the luxury of making every visit, but even if it’s possible to attend a few, it’s a moment that you get to share together.
SWITCH SIDES OF THE BED – This might sound crazy, but I’m pretty obsessive compulsive. Ever since my wife and I met, I ALWAYS had MY side of the bed and she had hers. I’m not sure why, perhaps I’m a creature of habit, but it allowed me to sleep better at night. When we moved into a new apartment together and Jen got pregnant, we started to realize that my side of the bed was closer to the bathroom. After 30-something years on the same side, I offered to switch with her because I knew it would make things easier.
TOUCH HER STOMACH – If she wants you to touch her stomach or ‘feel the baby move’, do it EVERY time and act like it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen or experienced. Act like you’re seeing E.T.’s finger light up for the first time. Even if it’s the 112th time and 4am.
CONSIDER THE ‘PUSH PRESENT’ – I think this is a stupid name for it, but my opinion rarely matters. This may not be for everyone. Maybe it’s just a small token of affection like a York Peppermint Patty or perhaps it’s a special piece of jewelry. Once the baby comes, you’re both yesterday’s bagels…it’s 100% about them. Maybe there’s a special way that you can make your wife feel appreciated and loved as well.
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU – Always consistently and unwaveringly put her needs and comfort before yours. I don’t think we can begin to imagine the physical and emotional toll that delivery takes on the body. I can only imagine that it’s worse than that one time I took a charter bus to the Eagles game and filled my bladder with a 12-pack before realizing that there wasn’t a bathroom on board and they couldn’t pull over and it hurt really, really bad.
HOLD HER HAND – I cashed in my high-fives and fist-pounds for a nice, soft, loving hand-hold while Jen was giving birth all those times. You’d be surprised how far words of encouragement and a comforting touch can go.
PICTURES – Don’t forget to take them. I made sure to get tons of pictures of the clock during the moment of birth, the scale showing the weight, my wife holding the baby, me cutting the cord. A lot of hospitals no longer allow you to shoot video of the birth (which I don’t understand AT ALL, if Knocked Up can do it why can’t we), so make sure you document every second with a picture so you can look back on it together.
DON’T PASS OUT – Eat a cracker, swallow a piece of gum – get SOME sustenance into your body. Just don’t eat a full meal in front of her while she’s having contractions and prepping for labor.
No one needs to take time-out to flop you onto a stretcher and put you on an IV too.
DO YOUR PART – It’s been said that a woman bonds with her child the moment she finds out she’s pregnant and a man bonds the first time he holds the baby in his arms. Right or wrong, it’s important to bond. Don’t feel like you’re in the way. Offer to bathe your baby and change diapers. I was recently surprised to hear how many guys I know that have never changed a diaper. HUH?? If your wife is nursing in the middle of the night, when she’s done, offer to work out the burps and put the baby back down to sleep – you’re both parents with responsibilities.
UNDERSTAND YOUR PARTNER – Understand the labor and recovery process and what to be aware of. She’s probably not going to want to have sex next week, or next month. In fact, it’s probably going to be six or eight weeks before the doctor clears her and you hear Barry White sauntering into your bedroom.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET A DIAPER BAG – At first, I was very hesitant to commit to carrying a man-purse around town with a bunch of wipes and breast milk. I used to wear cargo shorts and try and stuff each pocket with everything I needed…that is, until winter arrived. I finally caved in and bought a camouflage messenger bag. Wrong move. Hated it. I felt like a soldier with a purse. So I eventually switched to a backpack and I love it. It’s so much easier than trying to stuff three diapers in my back pocket. You’re a dad, which is something to be proud of – embrace it!
EDUCATE YOURSELF – I’m extremely interested in going to my kid’s pediatric well-visits. I have to admit, I think it’s super cool to watch them get measured and weighed. I like to hear if they are on par with other children their age and if not, I want to know what we, as parents, can do to assist. I want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to champion their development.
Be aware of terms like co-sleeping and child-proofing. Do your own research on vaccines and the recommended schedule that your pediatrician suggests. Make informed decisions for your kids, as they can’t yet do it for themselves. If you disagree with something that you’re putting into your child’s body, talk to your pediatrician about it…and remember that pediatricians are there to offer opinions, not dictate the healthcare for your baby.
GET INVOLVED WITH BUYING TOYS AND ACCESSORIES – Play an active role in deciding what types of gear is best for your kids and easiest to use. For older kids, I’ve already talked about the 3-in-1 Bounce, Stride and Ride Elephant, but there are also toys like the Roller Blocks Play Wall (Mason loves this), the Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Chair and Puppy Train. And if you’re just starting out, consider the Kick & Play Piano Gym or Newborn Auto Rock n’ Play Sleeper if you need to take a break for a minute. Another great item, that debuts next month (December 2014) is the Fisher-Price Playard.
I got to check this out while I visited HQ a few weeks ago and it’s pretty awesome. This thing is a 2-fer. It’s got an inclined sleeper/changing station up top, which can be removed, revealing an enclosed play yard beneath…and folds up into a carry bag. This thing is perfect for road trips, an outdoor Metallica concert or visiting friends.
So there it is…my advice on making the move into fatherhood. Like I said, some of this is common sense, but I’ll admit that I didn’t know half of it five years ago – hope it helps!