New dads beware: not that we ever read and follow manuals, but nothing can quite prepare you for this journey you are about to take. Maybe your Boy Scout years will give you some leg up. Pack what you want, but not even a thick book from the American Academy of Pediatrics will make you the pro of new dads. Baseball players might be best prepared because you’re about to be thrown a curve ball. These are the things they don’t tell new dads about newborns.
A few days in, Kristen cried on my right side and the baby cried on my left side. This wasn’t going to be nearly as magical and wonderful as Kristen had prayed.
1. Life does not continue as normal
The first week, especially, it seems like life becomes one continuous day. Maybe it’s because sleep goes out the window. You try to sleep when the baby sleeps. But if you’re in the hospital for an extended period of time like we were, nurses, doctors, and lactation specialists seem to bust in right when you catch a wink.
I understand awkward parents now. You know, the ones who cut out early because of “the baby”? We’re only three weeks in, but it seems like sanity only comes through routine. Last week, we decided to be spontaneous and do a quick dinner detour after church. Wailing babies just aren’t worth it.
2. The #NoSleepChallenge starts day 2
Another thing they don’t tell new dads is “cluster feeds” begin on night 2, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyhow. Every 15 mins I found myself wide awake checking and making sure our baby was still breathing.
Cluster feeding happens on night 2 because a form of milk called colostrum is all that’s produced. It’s important, just lacks sustenance, therefore the baby is hungry non stop = no sleep.
3. Swaddling is your new friend
Babies do strange convulsive movements in their sleep. Aurora jumps like a ghost trying to scare you, hands up and curled like a cartoon. And then she might hit herself in the face, wake up, and start crying. The solution? Wrap your child up tight like a burrito, or a baby straight jacket. They will sleep longer and ensure you won’t need a straight jacket.
4. 30 mph is the speed limit for new dads
Driving home from the hospital, I suddenly became the person I honk at on the freeway. Time for a “Baby on Board” sign. I’ve never been so alert and attentive. No risk is worth it. You’re carrying precious cargo.
5. When you have a girl…
Our doctor got it wrong! I thought when I first saw our child. Kristen’s fear of having a boy seemed to have come true. Needless to say, organs swell at birth, including genitalia. Our doctor assured me this was normal.
I also thought she had already started having periods when I changed her diapers that first week. Once again, normal, and it’s due to disconnecting her from mom’s hormones.
6. You WILL change diapers
Your social life will change and poo will become your new normal. Prior to birth I didn’t think I could do it. My last name is Wolfe. I have keen nostrils. God provides grace for your first few diaper changes through this unscented dark green runny soup called meconium. Once you adjust to this, then God calls down the stink angels. By this point, you’re so delirious from the lack of sleep, you just accept your new given task.
Because Kristen had to recover from her c-section, I changed the diapers for the first couple of weeks. Keep in mind, breast milk poo apparently smells better. You jump one hurdle at a time.
7. You WILL act a fool
I remember when Kristen and I laughed and sighed that we wouldn’t make dumb faces or use moronic voices. But when baby is screaming so loud her lower lip quivers, those elitist promises go out the window. You will do anything at this point. Lately, at first light it seems, I get up and dance with Aurora. New forms of music, silly faces, and making cheesy parent noises seem to calm her down.
8. Take the meal train offers
Baby comes, you arrive home, and you’re essentially quarantined for a few days. Friends suggested a meal train where people bring over take-out meals. But making a few healthy meals from the kitchen should be a piece of cake, right? I’ll just throw some chicken in the crock pot. Wrong. A baby is all consuming. Showers, changing clothes, and meals go out the window. My lofty ideals changed after I lost 15 lbs. “Sure! In N Out burgers sound great!”
9. Adjust your expectations
Because you are no longer in control. Marriage was relatively easy. Kristen moved in and we effectively adjusted. Having a baby is more like our loud neighbor above us who cranks movies or tunes in the middle of the night. You live with it or you get dressed and go upstairs and knock on the door. In short, you will be inconvenienced.
10. If you were a night owl before…
Your new bedtime becomes 10 or 11 pm. Not that you’re necessarily tired, but you find out it takes a few hours to calm the baby down to put her to sleep. And it’s a whole production and that does make you tired.
The hope of the nation is in fathers. Don’t worry. The moment you might think you’re discouraged, the little one smiles your way, and all is well.