101 Things Soon-to-be Dads Need to Know About Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum, and Being a New Dad
To new dads, soon-to-be dads and men that are "waiting for the right time"...
One of the greatest gifts that men and women bring to the mom and dad relationship are the inherent differences of being man and woman. Mom and dads often do, and should, play different roles than each other. By our very nature, women were designed to nurture and love while men are hard-wired to "hunt and gather" to provide for their family. Roles are fluid and cross over beautifully.
Men... don't be mom...
Mom... don't be dad.
You're a team, raising this child together, imparting your nature, gifts, love and differences to your little one.
Men, at first, it's not uncommon for you to feel disconnected from the pregnancy and the baby that's growing inside of her. Often it takes months for you to feel fully "daddy." This can be difficult for her, perhaps frustrating, and even discouraging.
But, fear not... "daddy" is in there.
You love your baby, but connection, that "feeling of love", isn't instantaneous for many men.
That's okay. That's normal. Drop the guilt and shame.
Recognize that you haven't lived with this bundle of joy in your belly for 9 months. You haven't felt it kick and move inside of you. It makes sense when you step back and think about.
So, stick with it. Be helpful, understanding, caring and kind with mom, and before you know it you won't be able to imagine a life absent from the title of "daddy."
greta cheney of gretacheney.com wrote a wonderful piece (list) to you, men, and we thought it would be helpful and encouraging.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…uh, what? Oftentimes soon-to-be dads (and moms alike) don’t know the first thing when it comes to pregnancy, birth or being a new dad. The very thought of having a baby can be scary and overwhelming. Don’t worry, with the help of several veteran dads and their wives I’ve compiled this list of advice for new dads in this 101 things soon to be dads need to know about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and being a new Dad. I suppose I can save you a lot of time reading this if you just skip to #80. But if your wife suggested you to read this, then see # 2. So without further adieu…
- Your wife’s hormones will eb and flow like ocean waves. And just when you think you have her figured out—BAM! (This is especially true during her first trimester.)
- Always agree with her. Unless of course she doesn’t want you to. Then, whatever you do, don’t.
- You’ll need to take on some added responsibilities around the house during the first trimester if your wife experiences morning sickness.
- Have a burping or farting contest with your wife. She’ll win.
- Many women have an increased sex drive their 2nd trimester. Hopefully your wife is one of them. Enjoy it. (I said many, not all) And don’t worry about hurting baby (unless her Dr has said otherwise).
- Holy boobs! After the first trimester (when they may be far too sore) enjoy your wife’s new boobs now. Did you see #5?
- Let your boss know your wife is pregnant around the beginning of the second trimester. See what your options are for Paternity Leave.
- It’s totally normal if you have baby gender disappointment at the ultrasound (or longer). Just begin thinking of ways you’ll redefine family so you can get excited again.
- Go to all appointments with your wife. This includes Dr and lamaze. Even if you think it’s stupid. Go.
- Educate yourself about birth. C-sections. Inductions. Birth plans. Natural vs drugs.
- Just because she is gaining weight does not mean you need to also.
- Decide on what you want to do about circumcision. And when you want to have it done if you decide you do. You will definitely want to know this before you get to the hospital.
- Cravings are so real. Get to the store and then back home as quick as humanly possible before the craving changes.
- Foot massages are golden.
- Tell her she is beautiful. Her body will stretch, grow, stretch some more and just when you think it can’t possibly get any bigger, it will. Your wife is sexy…don’t you doubt this for a second because her insecurities about her new body will magnify if you believe she is anything but. Again, tell her she is beautiful and believe it.
- Take the time to ask how she is doing and truly listen to what she is saying.
- Pamper your wife. Bring her flowers, write a love note…speak her love language as she may be having a lot of strange new feelings about herself.
- Have sex to induce labor at the end of the 3rd trimester. Remind her of this. It is suggested that you don’t have sex for at least 6 weeks after the baby is born. So remind her again.
- It’s normal to feel like you don’t have a connection with the baby yet. After all, you aren’t the one carrying it, feeling it’s kicks, and any of the pregnancy ailments that come along with being pregnant that serve as a constant reminder that you’re growing another human.
- Don’t forget to pack a hospital bag for yourself.
- Your wife is going to have a million questions to go over together. Humor her. It’s important to become educated together. After all, there are a lot of things that happen to baby right after birth that you should talk about now and decide on together.
- Get the car seat securely strapped in the car. Despite all the other things you and your wife got as baby shower gifts, the car seat is the single most important thing you will need for baby as it is required to take a baby home from the hospital. (The Fire Station can usually help with this if you have any doubt or questions.)
- Help with the things she can’t do easily herself: tying laces, putting boots on, shaving legs, painting toenails.
- Avoid planning any work trips during the last trimester. You don’t want to miss the birth.
- Make sure the car has gas and you know the quickest way to the hospital in case you need to get there fast.
Labor, birth & the hospital stay
- Giving birth isn’t glamorous. You will see your wife’s body in a way you never have before and may never want to again.
- Labor is just as exhausting for dads in a totally different way.
- Expect the unexpected. You know that birth plan you two worked so hard creating? Have an open mind because it may not go according to plan.
- Consider asking someone else to take pictures of the birth so you can be totally present. Just make sure it’s someone you and your wife are comfortable with because they will get more than a sneak peak.
- Be prepared to speak up. Do you feel like an epidural is being pushed? Are there too many visitors in the room? Change it. Your wife will be focusing intently on contractions, it will be your job to take care of the other things.
- Don’t be afraid to cut the cord, it is far easier than you’re imagining.
- It’s normal for your wife to poop while giving birth. Uh, what? Yup. But, the Dr or nurse will clean it up so quickly you probably won’t even notice. If you do, just roll with it, and try to forget it.
- Your wife may scream obscenities at you while she’s in the midst of labor. She doesn’t mean them.
- Bring healthy snacks that you can sneak between contractions…you will need the energy to support your wife. You remembered to pack these in your daddy bag, right?
- You will see your wife in intense pain and be able to do absolutely nothing about it.
- At least try to help her ease the pain. Does she need a foot massage? More ice? A cold cloth for her head? Does she want to change positions? A hand to hold? Music? Do your best to help ease her discomforts but understand she may also want you to do absolutely nothing. Remember #27? Told you so.
- You will wish you could bottle the feelings you felt when watching the baby get set on your wife’s chest for the very first time. No words can describe this moment. Same goes for when you hold your baby for the first time. It’s quite natural for a flood of emotions: joy, happiness, love, fear, uncertainty.
- Babies look funny when they are born. Most will have a cone shaped head (unless your wife has a c-section) and many are born covered in vernix, and some are born covered in blood, lanugo, and/or milia. Also, all of their features are swollen especially their genitalia so I wouldn’t go bragging about where your son got is size quite yet.
- You may cry. You are no less a man.
- Write down your emotions and feelings so when/if you’re ever stressed about baby you can reflect back on this moment.
- Tell your wife what an amazing job she did…even if she got the epidural she (or you) didn’t want to get. Even if the birth didn’t go according to plan. Even if …
- Tell your wife how beautiful she looks.
- Spend time having skin to skin contact with the baby. You packed a button up shirt in your hospital bag…right?
- Changing the 1st diaper will take you forever—the first poop is a lot like wiping up tar. Don’t throw in the towel. Just know that by the 3rd diaper you’ll be a pro.
- Get use to analyzing poop.
- Post labor contractions hurt too. Your wife doesn’t push the baby out and then feel great. She will not only need to deliver the placenta immediately after giving birth but for the next several days her uterus will contract to return to its normal size. This can still be painful and uncomfortable.
- Consider a ‘push present.’
- Get some rest. If your hospital doesn’t carve out a “no visitors” window during the day, you should. It’s okay to put a sign on your door that you’re all resting and to please not disturb.
- Your first car ride home will be the most intense, alert, nerve-wracking car ride you will ever take.
- Introduce your pets to the new baby before bringing baby home. Bring a swaddle blanket you wrapped baby in at the hospital home to let the dog(s) sniff prior to bringing the baby home. Let the blanket hang out there where the dogs can keep checking it if need be.
Postpartum period…aka the first few weeks after birth
- You will think you are going to die from the lack of sleep.
- Bringing home a new baby is a lot like being told to go sail a boat across the ocean with no instruction manual and never having sailed before. The learning curve is steep, you’ll often wonder if you’re doing it right or if you’re going to injure the boat. You’ll wonder if you’re going to die in the middle of the storms, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it and sail along beautifully. You’ll learn to navigate the rough waters, and enjoy the smooth seas.
- Call in the troops. Now is the time to put down your pride and ask for help from everyone that is offering. Allow them to bring meals, clean your house, etc. This will be especially helpful weeks 2 and 3 when you’re no longer running on adrenaline.
- Porn star boobs! Your wife’s boobs look awesome but watch out, stimulation causes milk let down.
- Ask your breastfeeding wife to pump once a day when baby is about 3 weeks old so you can share in the joy of feeding as well as give her a chance to get some much needed rest.
- You will immediately take on the protective father role and doubt any man will be good enough to marry your daughter.
- Make sure to take pictures. Lots of pictures. Get pictures of your wife with baby and make sure she’s getting some of you too. And definitely make sure you’re getting pictures together as a family too.
- Monitor your wife’s hormones-baby blues are to be expected but postpartum depression is not. Get help. It is also possible for new dads to get postpartum depression too.
- Your wife will be completely uncomfortable in her body after baby. Tell her she is beautiful. Repeatedly.
- Tell your wife you are proud of her. Remember, you are both new at this.
- Your heart could burst with love for your new baby. You will think that you couldn’t possibly love baby any more. Just wait…you can.
- Your baby may drive you crazy. It’s hard for new dads to find their spot in this new thing called parenthood. The baby cries and you don’t know why and you unfortunately aren’t the one that will be able to console them. Don’t take it personally. You may find yourself completely frustrated. Don’t worry, it’s normal. It’s normal to wonder if you’re doing everything right. And to feel like you’re doing everything wrong. Be easy on yourself. You’re doing better than you think.
- Expect the unexpected. Just when you get in to a routine, it will change. Just when you think you have your baby figured out, he will change things up.
- If your baby seems colicky suggest keeping a food journal to monitor if there is any correlation between what your wife eats and when your baby gets fussy. Some breastfeeding women experience more food restrictions when they are nursing than they did when they were pregnant.
- The Trifecta. You’re officially initiated into fatherhood once your baby has peed, pooped and spit up on you.
- New babies don’t have tears for the first few weeks but don’t let that fool you in to thinking they don’t cry.
- Buy a newspaper and/or popular news magazine on your baby’s “birth” day. If you forgot, go down to the local newspaper office and pick one up.
- Don’t forget to clean all the creases and folds of your new baby. Trust me. Neck, armpits, elbows, groin, behind the knees. You’re welcome.
- You don’t need to carry a fancy fufferbuns diaper bag. Anything that can carry a diaper, wipes, and a change of clothes is good enough. And keeping it in the car until you need it is golden. No need to carry around more than you have to.
- You will have sex again. Those first 6 weeks may feel like an eternity but be patient.
- Help out during feedings. Keep water and snacks within easy reach of where mama will be nursing baby. In the middle of the night you could bring baby to your wife, change baby, return baby to bed, etc.
- You will have to learn how to share again. You will be sharing your wife with the baby and her attention will no longer solely be yours. In fact, the first few weeks you’ll be lucky if you have any of her attention.
- Take the first shift. The first few weeks is all about survival. New babies often have their days and their nights mixed up so while you may be completely exhausted, your baby is wide awake. You and your spouse will have to figure out how to take shifts so you can both get some rest.
- Learn the bounce. Holding baby against your chest and doing deep knee bends often quiets a crying, fussy baby.
- You will have a new love and appreciation for your wife seeing her as a mom. Go tell her she’s beautiful again.
Being a new first-time-dad
- You will be surprised at how well you can function on so little sleep. Remember back to the first few weeks?
- You will wear every body fluid from your baby imaginable and actually contemplate if anyone will notice if you wipe it off and just go to work instead of changing…again.
- Don’t succumb to dad pants or dockers with tennis shoes. Just don’t.
- You will never be more jealous of someone than your new baby and the amount of time he (or she) is spending with your wife’s boobs.
- Your sex life will begin to return to some semblance of normal around the 6 month mark.
- Enjoy every baby moment because the saying is true “you blink and they’ve grown.”
- Give yourself Grace if you aren’t enjoying every moment because some moments are just plain h.a.r.d.
- Your wife’s body may return to a slightly different shape/size than it was pre pregnancy. If not, and it returns to normal, she’s lucky. Regardless, tell her she is beautiful.
- Date your kids. It’s even a great habit to get in to while they are babies.
- Tell your wife you are proud of her.
- Good luck finding a public restroom that will give you a place to change your baby. If you’re soloing a trip in public make sure to bring along a changing pad otherwise you’ll learn this the hard way. You’re welcome.
- You will find yourself acting and speaking completely crazy in hopes of getting your baby to smile again. Don’t worry, we all do it.
- Traveling with baby is basically a shit show with all you will have in tow. Stroller, car seat, diapers, wipes, pack n play, bumbo…you get the idea. No such thing as traveling light.
- Read to your baby. Anything. Sports Illustrated? The newspaper? Lay your baby on your chest and read out loud.
- Go thank your mom.
- Sing to your baby. It doesn’t just have to be the mommy doing the singing, nor should it be.
- The moment your baby says “dada” you’ll be sunk.
- Change diapers.
- With babies there is no such thing as a quick outing.
- Plan on being late to everything. Everything.
- Buy a duplicate for whatever the “lovie,” or most prized possession becomes. Otherwise you will inevitably lose it just when you need it the most. Rotate it out every time you wash it so they wear the same.
- Don’t worry about messing up or doing the wrong thing…as long as you’re fully present and trying, you’re doing better than you think.
- Get use to worrying…you will be worrying about your kids for the rest of your life.
- The transition from being without kids to having them is one of sacrifice. There will be moments where that sacrifice is frustrating, upsetting, and where you wonder if you’ve made a terrible mistake. It’s normal. You may be completely baffled by your new baby. Stick with it. Some dads don’t find a real connection with their kiddo until they are able to interact.
- Your friends without kids may distance themselves from you as your priorities and responsibilities shift as they should. They’ll return when they understand for themselves what being a parent is all about.
- Congratulations. You now know what it is like to have your heart walking around outside your body. Your life has changed in so many amazing ways…and you are better for it.
Your first baby will be a complete life changer. Going from being entirely selfish to having a helpless, screaming creature in your house that needs all your love, attention, and patience will be a huge change to your reality. Take it from other dads…it is the best change ever.
about greta cheney
Greta started Transparencies Of Motherhood (Now: GretaCheney.com) in 2010 because she felt there was so much left unspoken in regards to being a parent. "I knew I wasn’t alone with my feelings on Gender Disappointment, Postpartum Depression, or having a child with severe Nut Allergies. I wanted to be a voice for all those people that for whatever reason were remaining silent. I feel it a calling to be transparent with others, especially other moms. I speak my voice, my emotion, and often times share tips and tricks that I have found helpful."
Find out more about Greta at http://gretacheney.com/about-the-author/