Alrighty, you’ve been through the prep, and the birth, but that was just the beginning. The next step is life with your newborn! The first few weeks are admittedly the most difficult. The next few weeks seem like forever – and soon enough it will be several months later (which is where I’m at with my second son – time really has flown!) Anyway, I’ve got a couple of pointers to share with you in the hope that you’ll be a step closer to being the awesome dad that you’re striving to be.
Part 3: The dad life!
Coming home from the hospital – and beyond!
First few days:
- On the way home from the hospital, drive super carefully. You’re carrying precious cargo. That’s a no brainer. No matter how tempting it is to zoom off from the lights, focus on getting home safely. Although you probably knew that. Also, fines suck. It might be worth putting up one of those Baby/Child on board signs, which may or may not work. We’ve had some douchebag in a RAV4 tailgate us at the 80km/h speed limit on the way home from the hospital, and it was extremely unsettling. Actually, it was quite rage-enducing. Video games and action movies from days gone by can do strange things to one’s mind; I can admit to wishing I had a trio of red shells or a string of bananas to fire at suckers tailgating me.
- Be strict on visiting hours. There aren’t many things that become more stressful than having guests over when you’re too tired or too busy to entertain them. Although they mean well, you’ll need a lot of time to rest, recouperate, and do things without interruption. You could say this is most relevant during the first few days or weeks of having a newborn, but it’s a good idea to curb visiting hours/days during the all-important home-ecosystem-building-time for new parents. If you’re staying at your parents’ or in-laws’ place, then you might want to kindly ask them to reduce their number of regular visitors during the first few days back at home, at the very least.
- Get into Participating early. Don’t be shy. They won’t bite. Well, not until later when they grow teeth. Help out the mother of your children with whatever you possibly can. Don’t be lazy. Give you partner a break by taking on some of the baby duties. Remember, as a team you should share the myriad of parenting chores and duties. As an example, you could endeavour to be the designated bath giver or self-proclaimed bottle master. And besides, you don’t want to miss a second watching your little one grow up. You might miss their first smile! And missing that would suck harder than Steve Tyler’s freakishly giant mouth attached to the end of a twin-turbo vacuum cleaner.
First few weeks
- We had a community nurse/midwife visit us at home, which was arranged for us through the public health system. As with the nurses and midwives in the hospitals, these visits can feel very helpful or intrusive. Be aware that in this vulnerable state you or your partner may feel uncomfortable, offended, or even ashamed as you may begin to question your own parenting skills.
Remember they are there to help, just take in as much information as you can but with a grain of salt, and try to see things as constructively as possible. If you have any concerns at all, now is the time to ask.
- Know your emergency contacts. Grab the contact details of your GP, obstetrician, pediatrican, local hospital, after hours doctor, 24/7 nurse hotline (our private health fund has one available), key friends and family, or any other important contact numbers (for example, we also had a number to call if my wife had any issues relating to her epidural). Put them all together on a page, print it out and stick it on the fridge. This can be useful for yourself or any babysitters in case of emergency.
- Organise some kind of ‘date’ time. This is crucial as being a parenting noob can be overwhelming. I wouldn’t advise new parents to go cold turkey without some time to reconnect as a couple. If you’re lucky enough to have your parents around, they may be able to help you – it’s well known that grandparents love taking care of their grandkids! Even if you’ll end up getting into the parenting habit of constantly talking about your kids when you get out of the house (and believe me you, will develop this whether you like it or not), at least you’re out and about and hopefully able to breathe a little better for a short while. Get creative and keep up the magic, but take it easy or you may find another +1 on the way sooner than you expect.
First few months
- Hack some time back into your day. If you can afford to automate or delegate some of your daily tasks and chores for action by others, go for it! The energy required to perform the infinite feed-burp-change-feed loop can be just as infinitely draining. And when you’ve got ever-growing, couch-climbing, fluid-expelling, food-throwing little humans under your roof, it can be hard to stay on top of everything needing to be done. One of my workmates swears this does not stop until these creatures are well past 18. You may want to try a couple of things to ease the stress, at least sometimes if budget permits:
- Order takeaway food every now and then. Try to make it decently healthy (is there such thing as healthy takeaway?) or at least limit your portions. Be responsible and reasonable, or sooner or later you may find that the weight of your wallet has magically been transferred to your tummy.
- Use the dishwasher more often. More power to you if you have more cutlery and dishes to get you through the week, less dishwasher runs means less water and a smaller electricity bill.
- Watch your favourite series on DVD (or mp4/avi) while doing the laundry. I’ve consumed several seasons of Futurama, 30Rock and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes in this way.
- Be fluid. This is a tip for the control freaks out there (please tell me I’m not the only one!) Keep your cool! Try not to stress when things don’t go to plan. Take it from the legendary Bruce Lee:
Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
It’s quite an experience: learning to let go of a bit of your rigidity and structure, and re-working your life schedule, especially if you’re usually super organised. You have to remember that your baby relies on you heavily at this point in your lives, so try your best to adapt to the chaos and work with them.
- Get as much sleep as you can. The parenting experience is pretty much summed up in this comic by The Oatmeal. Being a parent for almost two years with two little ones, I can confirm this IS a thing that happens. Apart from the excuses I made up about why I haven’t blogged in a while, the reality is that parenting can be tiring. Extremely rewarding, but at times, really. Freakin’. Tiring. You think you’re a mad clubber? Try going clubbing all night, every night. Except the music is the wiggles, your best friend throwing up all over you is your baby, and there’s not a comfort kebab in sight. We’re blessed that our second son isn’t as demanding as our first, in terms of feeding frequency. Our first born was feeding every two hours, day and night. Our second little guy has been sleeping through the night by 3 months. I’ve got couple of suggestions for things you can do to counter sleep deprivation:
- Tag team / Co-op mode. Take baby duty shifts with your wife / partner. Warning: It is absolutely imperative that you discuss exactly what is expected of each other to be done during these shifts. I suggest a whiteboard checklist of baby tasks to keep things in, erm, check.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps. Just do it. Feel free to call me a hypocrite because I didn’t really do this, and now I will tell you – I’m regretting it. There is no catching up, ever. You don’t want to look and feel like this guy.
- When it’s time to go back to work, use public transport if possible. Parenting is no easy task, especially for first timers. One afternoon, I had a microsleep while driving home in slow traffic. I didn’t brake in time and ran into a Lexus RX350’s towball. The owner shrugged off his initial shock and disbelief with no damage to his car. However I couldn’t say the same for my (new!) car’s front bumper, front license plate, and my pride. It could have been at a faster speed elsewhere, with disastrous results.
Avoid driving when exhausted, plain and simple. It’s not worth the risk to yourself and others. Remember, your child needs you. Come home in one piece.
Hopefully through sharing some of my experiences I’ve been able to give you a heads up about a couple of things that you don’t usually find in “new dad” brochures. There are definitely plenty more surprises, hair-pulling stresses and extremely rewarding moments to be had. Take in and cherish the positive, and learn from or shrug off the negative. Always remember that life flies by too quickly so make the most of this part of your journey. You’re a dad now, stay cool and be awesome. Welcome to fatherhood!
Missed the first two parts? Have a read: