Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Advice to new Fathers (part one)

I am going to try and share some of the things I have learned in my short stint as a father.  In this part, I am going to discuss the birth of your spawn and what to do that first night of being a father.

I know in this day and age it is much more common and accepted for the father to be in the delivery room.  You should be there.  You should want to be there.  Something will happen there that was beyond my scope of understanding at the time.  Your child will be born.  It is actually pretty remarkable and awesome.  Yes, I know I am am not saying anything new here.  But this really should not be overlooked or understated.

A second insane thing will happen (or might happen depending on how the birth goes down for all involved).  You will see the mother of your children perform an amazing physical feat. Labor and giving birth is out of control insane.  My wife, in full on labor with our eldest, screamed out "THIS IS WHAT MILLIONS OF YEARS OF EVOLUTION CAME UP WITH?? WHAT THE F#$%!"  It was hilarious.  I digress.  You will watch your wife or girlfriend or whatever** go through the most intense, grueling physical test any person can attempt.  You will come out of it with a new appreciation for your wife (or girlfriend or whatever).  And this is important.   The power and strength your wife showed there will always be at her reserve in the future.  As her husband (I am just going to go with the traditional husband/wife thing for simplicity here) you may need to remind her of this in the future. 

To see someone you love dearly go through that is very hard.  They are in pain, but there is nothing you can do about it.  They are exhausted, but you can't do it for them or even really help.  To just sit by and have to spectate was quite humbling for me.  Maybe that says more about me than it does about the process.  I don't know.

Then you hold your kid, blah blah blah, all the usual stuff.  Yes, I just blah-blah-blahed over that part.  It is important and awesome too.  But everyone knows all that already.

On to the most important part.

The First Night
First of all, everyone is going to be exhausted.  Here is the deal new dad - you have done the least amount of work out of the 3 (or 4 or GASP... 5... just the prospect of multiples makes me all wild eyed and crazy.  Parents of multiples should get special medals of honor from the president).  You didn't push child out of your body and you weren't just thrust into a cold, bright world.  That means you should be running point on everything your wife needs or your brand new child needs.  Yes your kid is going to be small and tiny and look so fragile.  They are not.  You might be scared to do something wrong.  Don't be stupid and just do what you think is right.  Change a diaper or 20.  Most of all, LET YOUR WIFE SLEEP THAT FIRST NIGHT!

Yes, yes, she will have to nurse at night.  Yes, yes she will be up every 2-3 hours.  But let her sleep between if she wants.  Turn the lights out, grab your new kid and just sit and hold him or her.  After they eat they are usually alert for a little while.  Hang out with your new kid.  Make funny faces at him or her.  Quietly introduce to them their father.  They know their mom very well.  They know the cadence of her heart beat. They know the cadence of her walk.  They know her smell already too!  And they likely know your voice, but hold them close, let them know your smell, your heart beat, your walk.

That first night with my kids is one of my favorite memories.  Yes, I was out of control exhausted and possibly delirious the next day.  Who cares.  That first night is the best.

** Sorry, I don't mean to demean the nuances of modern relationships, but to cover all possibilities of a man's relationship with the women birthing his child seems daunting and cumbersome.

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