10 Things Every New Father Should Know

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image – Flickr / Roberto Spagnoli

1. You might not be able to film the birth. You probably didn’t even know you wanted to. Before your wife went into labor, you thought birth videos were at best indulgent, at worst disgusting. Now you are holding one of your wife’s legs wide and the nurse is holding the other, and the doctor will not allow you any video, even though you are sure you could do both without losing focus (get it?). The reason you want the video now is because you will only have one chance to show your daughter how she was born. What do you do? You hold the leg.

2. Her belly does not go away immediately. You knew it would take a while for her to lose the pregnancy weight, but for some reason, you didn’t realize she would still look pregnant. You thought the belly would deflate as soon as the thing keeping it up, the baby, came out of it. Now she appears about seven months pregnant. You realize, now, that those women pushing newborns around who you thought were having Irish twins were simply pushing newborns around.

3. Everything hasn’t changed. This is a big one. Everyone tells you everything changes. And everything has changed for you. But this is what you should remember: for everyone else, everything is still the same. You may not be able to believe this. It will be hard for you, with your friends, because for them their lives are the same as the day before. People on the street will not treat you differently. You will not understand how no one notices: a comet has hit the earth and you are the only one who knows.

4. Hormonal is as hormonal does. You thought the mood swings would go away with the birth, didn’t you? Now hormones (some of them) are flooding out of her body. But changes are changes. And there are so many changes. Maybe you’re hormonal, too.

5. Remind your significant other that you love them more for being the mother (or parent) to your child, too. Just say it. They want to hear it. The old rule is still true: a happy wife (or husband) makes a happy home. If you forget, they will remind you. It doesn’t mean you don’t love the baby. Loving your partner more is loving the baby more.

6. Breastfeeding can be difficult. In your case, maybe very difficult. It takes a while for the milk to come in. Breastfeeding is new for everyone, stressful for everyone. The baby is confused, and bites. Your wife is tired, and in pain. You will want to remind her how she has drilled the importance of breastfeeding into your head, but you should just stay quiet if she wants to give the baby a bottle. You should do whatever she tells you. Later, there will be time for adjustments. You will be more excited about nipples than ever.

7. The baby will sound like an animal. Actually, like many different animals. Your wife will identify them: goat, cat, bird, squirrel, monster. You will ask the nurse about these sounds, then the doctor about them, then another doctor, then your mother-in-law. They will all say, normal. You know it is normal, but what you want to know is when does normal stop being normal.

8. There is never too much you can say about poop. Or maybe you have crossed that line a long time ago. You will call your daughter the Champion of Poop. You will tumblr about it. You will tweet about it. You will be covered in it. Every time you say she’s set a new record (for distance, for amount), she will soon surpass it.

9. Help is not always help. Everyone will have advice. Sometimes, that help will be helpful. Sometimes, it won’t be. A lot has changed since your parents and in-laws were new parents. Medicine and theory changes constantly. Your in-laws are Korean and have their own ideas about newborns and postpartum care. Your parents adopted you when you were 2. Even the older nurses contradict the younger nurses. Listen but do not follow. You will know your baby. You will be the one to bring her up, to grow up with her. Your baby is not any other baby—even you, when you were a baby, or your wife, when she was.

10. Rest is not always rest. You will sleep when the baby sleeps. But two-hour naps all night is not enough. You will take turns. Four or five hours should be cherished. All sleep is half-sleep. Sometimes, during the day, your wife will let you rest (and you will return the favor). If you are not sleeping, though, rest is not rest. You will always be resting, the way you used to think of it. You will lie around and cuddle with the baby. You will have energy for nothing else. TC mark

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