You’ve probably been in tough situations like handling difficult clients at work, dating a woman who was a hairline short of a jealous fit, and living beside a neighbor who has a built-in karaoke at home.
But man, nothing compares to the anxiety brought about by being a first-time father.
You are just as worried as any normal adult who’s about to bring a child into this world. It’s crazy to know that from this point forward, you are largely responsible for someone else’s life. Hence your unspoken question:
“What if I messed up?”
I get it, dude. I’ve been there. My wife was already six months pregnant when we first felt the baby’s kick. It was about the same time it dawned on me – what if I carried the baby wrong? What if I break his or her bones? What if I spilled the stuff while changing diapers?
I don’t want to burden you with more worries. What I can do to help is to share some tips I learned while preparing to be the dad I am now. Take your seats, gentlemen. This is going to be interesting.
Be present during pregnancy.
Your partner is going through the most unbelievable stage of both your lives. Make sure she’s not doing it alone. Your first test of fatherhood is being there in all of the maternity check-ups, Lamaze classes, baby showers, even and especially the hard times.
And while she’s pregnant, you have all the time to read up on books, blogs, whatever resources you can find. Watch some videos if you have to. The internet is a gold mine of information. It’s also a good test for you to filter out all the unnecessary parenting styles you prefer not to imbibe.
So, I mentioned being there during the hard times. She may be done with morning sickness and the crazy cravings, but what’s about to unfold is going to be more difficult. The back pains, the sleepless nights, the possible fears of complications – they scare your partner more than you realize. Be a good husband so you can be a great father.
Get some lessons.
There are some pregnancy clinics that offer classes for first-time parents. Changing diapers, washing bottles, getting the baby to stop crying — the works. I know it’s going to somewhat feel like school, but you’re going to learn a lot.
Another way of getting lessons is through your family – yours and your partner’s. Ask your dad how he was able to take turns in the evening to take care of you, so your mom can have her rest. Talk to your in-laws about how great of a job they did in raising your wife, and hope to do the same with your child.
If you have some friends who have kids, spend time with them, too. You don’t have to babysit, if that’s what you’re worried about. Just observe how your pals manage their children. Whether they are having tantrums, playing around (to the point of breaking some stuff), or just being plain cute and loveable – being with them can more or less give you an idea on what to expect.
Game time: be in the delivery room.
You are in for a wild ride. The doctors are equipped to take care of your wife, but having you inside the delivery room to see your child for the first time is the pinnacle of every parent. It’s going to be your proudest moment as a man, so don’t miss it.
Breastmilk or formula?
This isn’t a trick question, and this isn’t for you to answer, either. You still have to be there every step of the way.
This is what you need to understand: breastmilk is best for babies, yes, but the milk production would depend on the mother’s body, her nutrition intake, and her hormones. It can be very taxing and tiring, too. You can opt to give formula to the baby, with the recommendation of the pediatrician.
You and your wife can discuss these options before or after giving birth. You can make the best decision if you take in all the advantages and disadvantages of both choices.
Changing diapers and giving baths ain’t hard.
You remember those corny dad movies where the baby pees upwards while the father changes his or her diapers? Yes, it happens in real life – if the parent is not prepared.
After removing the tape, put a sheet of tissue on top of the penis or vagina of the baby. That way, there’s an absorbent that would catch the pee before you replace the soiled diaper with a fresh one.
In the first ten months, or until the infant can support him or herself while sitting up, you will give the baby a bath while lying down. It’s best to look for a tub with a net on top, with a hypo-allergenic soap made for kids. Lather it on the whole body, and pour just a little lukewarm water when rinsing.
Avoid buying expensive clothes for the baby – save up for the school tuition instead. Talk to your partner about the values both of you want to teach the child. Surround yourselves with friends and family who are willing to step in and help in case you need it. Most of all, and I cannot stress this harder than I already am, be there.
Be present during the first steps. Play with them. Help them with their homework. Bring them to the beach. Teach them the ABCs and 123s.
Fatherhood does not stop, even when the kids become grown-ups. It is scary. It is nerve-wracking, at times. Most times, it’s not as glorious as movies portray it. It’s so much better than that. It’s the best role you’ll ever play, and the biggest achievement you’ll ever have. So be good at it, so your children will become good people, too.