First times of anything – your first relationship, your first Little League team, your first Presidential term – have huge learning curves. But they’re also special and more intense, by dint of being first.
That’s especially true for fatherhood. From the second the stick turns blue, you’re going to feel excited, terrified, nervous, anxious, happy or some giddy mix of the emotional spectrum.
Here’s thirty things the brand new Dad needs to know or do to make the pregnancy and first year of fatherhood a little bit easier.
1) Accept that you no longer matter. People will talk to you primarily to ask, “How’s she doing?” If it gets to a point where you can’t take it any more, offer answers that stop the question. “Well, there’s an arm sticking out of her vagina. Is that normal?”
2) Read some books. Your wife/partner/girlfriend is going through everything. She wants to know you’re invested in the baby. Pick up a couple of books on fatherhood before she invariably asks you to. Skim What to Expect When You’re Expecting with her each week. It will save you tears and an argument you won’t understand.
3) Stop using the internet. The slightest bit of strangeness is going to get her Googling symptoms. Shockingly, the internet is filled with horror stories and worst case scenarios told by friends of friends. If something seems off, ask your doctor and only your doctor.
4) Write things down. Pregnancy goes fast. Keep a journal, for both you and the baby.
5) Watch the movie “In the Womb”. Spoiler alert: the baby comes out at the end.
6) Go to every doctor’s appointment. One of your favorite things in life will be when you hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
7) Buy her a body pillow. It’s the only way she’s going to sleep once she hits month seven. You coming home with one = major points.
8) Do NOT assemble the crib yourself. Baby beds are designed to be built by people with Plastic Man’s fingers and Mother Teresa’s patience.
9) Tell her she’s beautiful. Daily. She’s won’t feel it. She will not believe you. Tell her anyway.
10) Once you hit the last trimester, stop throwing out joke names for the baby. The first three months, she’ll think Kal-el or Megatron is funny. She won’t when the baby is using her spleen as a punching bag.
11) Set boundaries at work. It gets you in the habit of getting home at a normal time once the baby comes.
12) No, you are not ready. Being a Dad will affect you deeply. No matter how much you hear or read, that effect will still surprise you.
13) Yes, you are ready. If you think, “I’m not ready to be a Dad because I don’t know what I’m doing,” then you’re probably more ready than you can imagine. It just means you’ll take your responsibility seriously.
14) Put the car seat in. You will not want to do this at the hospital. And they don’t let you take the kid home without it in the car.
15) Realize that Hollywood lies. Labor can last 24 hours. You will not be an idiot running around trying to find your bag or bolting out of the house without your wife.
16) Wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to be standing. A long time. If you make once complaint about your feet hurting while she is pushing out a watermelon, she may kill you.
17) Know where the ice machine is. She will want ice chips. Often. Breaking records getting them will make you feel like you’re doing something other than holding a leg and telling her she’s great.
18) Don’t turn on the TV to watch the game. She may kill you.
19) Don’t film the delivery. She won’t watch it. And she may pounce off the table to kill you.
20) Remember APGAR. Those books you’re supposed to have read? They’ll tell you why this matters. If you forget, she may kill you. Or cry.
21) Realize that neither of you matter. Get out of the way. You’re blocking the baby.
22) Give her a push present. Something that rhymes with “shimonds” is good.
23) Know when to tell people to leave. She does not want to nurse in front of your mother at the hospital.
24) Accept help. When people say they want to come over with dinner for you, let them. Especially those first two weeks.
25) Don’t let the baby sleep in your bed. The quicker you get Junior used to going into his own bed, the quicker he’ll sleep through the night.
26) Go on a date. When she’s ready for it, take her for a nice dinner to a restaurant that serves booze. Be the one who drives home.
27) Yes, s/he’s normal. Just because someone else’s kid could crawl at three months doesn’t mean Junior has to. Development is not a competition.
28) You will not break your child.
29) Negotiate personal time. Get yourselves on a schedule. Or talk through how you’ll support each other so you not only have time for each other, but time for yourselves. Planning beats resenting each other.
30) Be present. Coming home to sit on the laptop or Blackberry isn’t good for you or your family. Neither your job or ESPN.com are going anywhere.
Not to freak you out, but there’s probably a thousand things you should know. How ‘bout it, Dads. Any other advice for the noobs? Share them in comments.