Nothing will be the same again.

With all the wisdom and hope in the world, no one can prepare you for becoming a dad. I had books and pamphlets that I had accumulated over time and I read every single possible thing I could. I watched TV shows such as One Born Every Minute, and I come away feeling confident. Only to realise, I was not. I thought I could make a helpful list of FAQ’s I have thought of that will answer some of the myths. You will never have to buy another parenting book or DVD again, so if you have the receipt from the one you recently bought, I can confidently say – return it!

You won’t faint, no-one does: When labour begins, your immediate response will be to panic and get your partner in the car quicker than Usain Bolt running a 100 metre sprint. I know because that was me, once upon a time. You will be whizzing around the house making sure everything is ready and the hospital bag is in the car, ready to go. Please, try not to panic. The majority of labours can last hours, even days! I promise you now, you will have more than enough time to make sure you have packed everything (including the kitchen sink). When my wife passed her mucus plug, we knew that was it. I was panicking, and she was on her hands and knees cleaning the bathroom! She was the one telling me to calm down. The problem is, hospitals are busy places, and if the midwives find that your partner is no where near ‘ready to go’, they will literally send you home. It isn’t nice for your partner to see you worrying either, because she will then worry even more than she already is. Don’t get me wrong, you should make sure everything is ready to go, just do it calmly and not at the speed of a gazelle running away from a lion. Don’t tell the ‘birth-giver’ I said this, but being a witness to childbirth is worth more than actually giving birth. I say this because we can see everything, on a 360 degree level. Your partner can only see your face, as well as the staff members – and they get to suck on gas and air (jealous!)… You will feel awkward and useless and in truth, you are! It can be stressful seeing your partner in pain and not being able to help, but remember to stay calm and be encouraging to help her along. In that most intimate, vulnerable situation you are your partners rock. That being said, you must be superman at this point and suck it up the best you can. I know its blunt, but its the honest truth.

Changing a dirty nappy: Dirty nappies are one of the worst things your eyes will see in life. The first week of your new baby’s life is, in my opinion, the best for nappy changes. The excretion in the first week isn’t actually poo, as such. It is something called meconium, which is greenish-black in colour and made up of mucus, dead skin cells, and amniotic fluid. The best bit is, it is scentless!  Once the baby passes the meconium stage, that’s when the real fun begins. It is going to be messy and it certainly smells, but my advice is to get as many nappies changed as you can. Practise makes perfect and I can proudly say I am an expert changer. The best way to do it is to release the velcro-like tabs and fold it over like a poo-pasty, that way you can be rest assured that your little bundle of joy won’t get any on his or hers, now flailing, arms and legs. Some people have said you have to be super fast when changing a boy’s nappy, as they have the tendency to pee. Being a father to one of each sex, my advice is to be as fast as possible with it regardless of the babies sex… they both enjoy peeing on dad at every available opportunity! Not only does it make you more confident, but changing nappies will also take the strain off of your partner while they recover.

Sleep (or the lack of): If you are expecting your baby at any minute, please go to bed and sleep… seriously, stop reading this… go to bed!  Babies don’t like sleeping. To them, its like being asked if they want to go to Freddy Krueger’s house for a sleep over. When you do eventually get them to sleep, do not plan on watching one of the ridiculously long Lord of the Rings movies, because they will be up again very shortly.  It’s not because your new baby boy or girl hates your guts, it’s simply because they can’t.  They are so new to the world, their sleep patterns only allow them to sleep for 2-4 hours at a time. It takes time and persistence for them to sleep through the night. I can’t do anything in regards to making your baby sleep, but I will say this: when your baby sleeps, try your best to sleep too. I am more than aware that your house probably looks like a bomb has hit it, and you’re itching to tidy up, but you will just have to hold back your burning desire to do so. You have a choice to make: either tidy your home, become unbelievably tired and go mad like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, or just close those eyes of yours and dream about marshmallows.

Super-Parent: Nobody is born a good parent. Parenting is refined from experience only. If you are doing something as simple as feeding your baby a bottle, someone will have an opinion on why they think the way you’re doing it is wrong. Don’t listen to them. You will find your own rhythm with everything you do for your new baby, as does everyone, including the naysayers. Like I said at the beginning, it is refined from experience… the criticisers are idiots, and you can think that in your head, while you look at them with a smile on your face. I don’t consider myself a good parent at all, but I do what I can and thats all that can be asked.

Everything changes: Nothing will be the same again. Your life will be flipped upside down and inside out. You will never sleep again and you won’t be able to have a nice bath again, either. You will have to leave every party or get together early, and you will almost certainly never have money again. Is it worth it? Absolutely! Contradictory to what I’ve just said, being a dad is the best thing in the world. To your baby, you are their hero and they will see you as the font of all knowledge. Relish every day you have with your kid(s) and enjoy everything fatherhood has to offer!

 

 

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Dan Johnston
The average knuckle-dragging man, who's also a dad.