Fatherhood is amazing. It’s also full of challenges that will be harder than anything you ever expected. But you can begin preparing for fatherhood as soon as that pregnancy test comes back positive. Here are a few (real) tips to help new dads prepare for one of the noisiest, smelliest, and most rewarding journeys of their lives.
Man with a plan
My type-A wife had done all the research, a detailed birth plan, and decided exactly how her natural birth was going to go. Then after preeclampsia, 30 hours of labor, getting an epidural minutes before she wasn’t allowed to, and then an emergency c-section we realized nothing had gone to plan. Tip: Plan for your ideal birth but prepare for the worse (this means for you and for Mom). Specifically… there are going to be decisions you will need to make and you need to make them when you’re sleep deprived, exhausted and sometimes in an emergency situation. Research these decisions ahead of time and make sure you are aligned with Mom. All of these may change in the moment, but being on the same page will help you advocate for what’s best for Mom and your new baby. Here are three specific ones I have heard the most from new dads:
- Discuss the use of forceps, suction, and other methods if they have to go in after the stubborn baby. Consider at what point each is something you want to consider (normal, emergency, etc) and when you’ll defer to the doctor. Each has different medical risks associated with them.
- If it comes down to a C-Section (which you should prepare for just in case). Ask your partner how you should split your time when the baby arrives. There is a 20 minute period where the nurses will want you to either be with the baby or continue to sit and support mom.
- To medicate or not to medicate… that is the question. My wife insisted on a natural birth. We had a long discussion beforehand on how important it was that she not be pushed to have an epidural. However, as her partner I needed to be informed on when it might be time to recommend a new tactic and how she wanted to be introduced to that in her time of pure exhaustion. Make sure to discuss what that line should be with your partner.
After our first, my wife expressed to me that she was really glad that I knew the plan and we had discussed the various options ahead of time. She was in so much pain and was glad that I was able to communicate her wishes to the staff and at critical points we had to make decisions. Even after all the discussions and planning ahead of time, in the moment I didn’t feel confident in my decisions. I could only imagine how difficult it would have been if we had not discussed it earlier.
Enjoy your time (and sleep) now
“You literally have all the time and no time at all.” – Some tired dad somewhere.
You can’t physically prepare for the effects of sleep deprivation. However, it’s coming. Accept it. Expect it. It’s normal. Be patient and forgiving of yourself and your partner because you could say or do things you regret when the days blur together. Get lots of sleep leading up to the few weeks ahead of time. This is not the time to stay up all night playing video games or party late into the night. And in a massive contradiction: do all those fun activities you have been putting off. A few months before your wife may be uncomfortable, you’re both getting stressed, or starting to nest (you’re thinking about painting a room right now … aren’t you). Try to push through those objections. Take that last minute babymoon, have that guys weekend, stay in and catch up on sleep. These are all things you won’t be able to easily do soon.
Go Over the Post-Baby Budget
Life gets busy and exhausting once a baby enters the picture. You don’t need the headache of money problems at the same time, so make a financial plan. Review your company’s parental leave plan. If you get paid parental leave days, know how many. You may need to coordinate or alternate days with your partner to optimize both of your schedules and time with the baby while saving on childcare costs.
If you’re transitioning from two incomes to one or even one and a half, plan on how and where you’ll make budget cuts. It’ll be easier to make the change if you already have a plan in place rather than leaving it until after the baby arrives.
You will, for a few months, be totally sidelined and forgotten, everything will be about the baby and mom. You should plan to do everything else that isn’t baby related, cooking, cleaning etc., and ease the stress. If there are things around the house you don’t know how to do – now would be the time to learn. Also, learn to cook a few simple meals so that you can quickly put something together when you’re both tired. Eating out doesn’t go so well with a baby. They’re like ticking time bombs that can explode at any minute. Take out gets expensive and boring, fast. Practice before the baby comes, or better yet, freeze a few meals for even faster meal prep.
Setup That Car Seat
Car seat installation is VERY important. Make sure to follow the recommended installation instructions. However, car seats are looser then you will expect. Everyone scares you into thinking it will be an unmovable strapped down seat but the seat will still be able to move up from front to back and might wiggle up to 1 inch on all sides.