Last week was Charlie’s first month and what a whirlwind of a month it was! (Hurray for Christmas babies!!) Within the past month, I’ve been up some nights making a list of just things. I’m sure much of this has been brought up before from other dads who have nighttime epiphanies, but I need to have my point across, since it’s only once that I get a chance to be a dad to a first child.
But before I even begin, I just want to get something off my chest.
I think there’s something wrong with the physics of a newborn as I learned in high school that input equals output. Well based on the amount of poop that this child has produced, I’m pretty sure she’s been sneaking food other than the formula that we’ve been giving her.
I mean seriously the stuff comes out of her like your first time going to Menchie’s for frozen yogurt. And while I can go on about the wonders of a newborns’ bowel movement (the darkish meconium anyone?), here are some things that I learned this past month that I immediately would have brush off prior to the birth.
Sleep is Valuable
You will not sleep. Sleep as much as you can right now. Seriously, just sleep now while you can. They say that some of the greatest minds only slept 2-4 hours per night, well you’re likely not as great as Sir Isaac Newton so enjoy the sleep as much as you can before you become a sleep deprived zombie.
For the most part our babes’ sleep cycle is relatively tame compared to other babies that we hear about, but it’s still gruelling on the body. After the first two weeks, I was amazed how functional I was as a human being going on 3-4 hours of sleep a night. If there’s a sure-fire way to look like the walking dead, having a baby kind of does it for you. I am even more amazed with those parents who take on all of the nighttime responsibilities alone. Previously I thought: “How bad can it be? I mean I had some serious Netflix and Call of Duty binges. It can’t be that bad.” Sigh…If only I had a mailbox like in that Lakehouse movie to time-space-continuum-punch the pre-dad version of me.
Check Your Pride at the Door
Heading in to all of this baby stuff, the wife and I were adamant on roughing it out on our own. I mean it’s a good feeling to know that you can do it all without the help of family or friends. Admittedly I have a tendency to not want to trouble people with our lives. We envisioned it to be some badge of honour tell our kids in the future that we had absolutely everything under control, being parents with an us against the world mentality.
I learned first hand that sometimes life throws you a curve-ball and you simply need to reassess and rethink. During the first week, I was challenged with the decision to either take care of our newborn or stay and support my wife in the hospital. No amount of pre-planning could have prepared what our new family of three needed to face.
I thought long and hard about taking it on by myself, thinking that it might be possible to look after both baby and mom, but I quickly realized that this was not going to be a realistic option. When you realize that the end goal is going to suffer, that is when you need to graciously accept all the help you can get.
As great as it is to be independent, it is equally as important to know when you need to depend on others to help you.
Life isn’t a movie where an unlikely nanny like Vin Diesel or Jackie Chan will babysit your one week old child with inaudible action pack hilarious hijinks. Sometimes the best solution is one where your pride will take a hit, but it is the right choice for you and your family.
Have a 3:00am Sense of Humour
When it’s 3:00am and you’ve been up for two days at you limit and your baby is still crying even though you think she’s full, burped and clean, you need to have a sense of humour. I knew things would get tough. In fact, I specifically remembered a conversation my wife and I had, when we first went to the hospital, that our relationship and sanity will be tested to its limits. Those limits certainly were reached and there were times where I thought, “Man, what did we get ourselves into?”
But I learned that the best way to cope with a tiring and stressful situation is to try to make light of it. For the past 20 odd years of my life, I’ve been absorbing enough Simpson’s material to any daily situation, and the beauty of it is that my wife can understand most of the references. I’ve begun to shout random Simpsons reference (“HELL, DAMN, FART!”) depending on the situation and I personally feel that this helps keep both my wife and I from going insane.
I truly feel that these moments helped us bond as they allowed us to create a new batch of inside jokes that only we can understand. As a new dad, there were times where I felt deeply entrenched in the process of caring for a newborn and I would inadvertently shun out my wife. Being able to open up to her about this new situation allowed me to get a big picture of what was really happening and what the goal was. I can confidently say that simply letting out my feelings and experiences allowed me to de-stress what really is a life-changing moment.
Another de-stressor that I discovered is that while your newborn will give you the absolute hardest time at night, they can be an incredible source of humour and entertainment in the daytime. So poke fun at them, take a silly photo with them, or anything that can help you justify the terrible nights they give you.
Don’t forget what she went through
My wife is Wonder Woman.
I can honestly say that watching my wife go through labour was one of the craziest and most intense things I’ve witnessed in my life. Kudos to movies and TV shows – when our baby came out with all the fixings, it was exactly like how it was on TV! The tiny, slimy, purplish-blue thing that popped out of my wife was exactly as advertised on Grey’s Anatomy; never will I question what I see on TV. Ever.
More importantly, the pain that she went through leading up and following, I will never know or experience in my life. If they can somehow simulate the labour and birthing experience, I’m positive it could use it to interrogate the toughest criminals and get any answer needed. My wife is amazing for toughing it through and I made the mistake of making a Captain Phillips: “Look at me, I’m the Captain Now!” joke helping her focus on one of the contractions. Note to self: If you’re not funny when she’s not in labour, you’re definitely not funny when she is.
As the baby takes over our lives, I think it’s very easy to forget how much sacrifice my wife made to get this child out. For the past 10 months it was all about her, and it’s dangerously unfair to her if the attention suddenly shifts from her to the baby the moment the tiny, slimy, purplish-blue thing comes out of her you-know-where.
So just as a friendly reminder: Don’t ever forget what she went through. Period.
With all of that said, every day I am learning more about this world of being a dad to a newborn and a husband to a mom. The moment I think I have things figured out, things get turned upside down and you end up questioning everything.
I am sure there will be much more to learn in the days, months, years ahead, but if I can somehow tell my pre-dad self this (perhaps through a time-travelling mailbox), I’ll be at least a little bit ahead of the game.