It should come as no surprise that certain things about birth and newborns are going to leave you totally shocked no matter how prepared you are. For me, this included how unprepared our home was and how freaking hard it was to latch a baby on my boob. But today, I want to share a different perspective.
What was the most surprising thing, from a dad’s perspective, about birth and newborn life?
Let’s dive in and see what his flipped perspective entailed.
1. How important (even the shortest) paternity leave is
The number of hoops and paperwork involved in getting paternity leave shocked my husband but he soon realized how necessary it was. By taking time off immediately, you two are a team and your husband will be able to support you and learn about baby in “real time” with you. Before baby is born, do your homework to figure out what leave you both are entitled to. If you are only eligible for unpaid time, see what you can work out budget-wise. Get creative with your vacation and sick time.
2. How long labor lasts
I think for many partners, and even mamas, we think of labor and delivery as it is portrayed in the movies. A dramatic incident of having your water break, rushing to the hospital, and pushing out a baby. Births, especially first births, tend to be slow and are more like a marathon than a sprint. By having realistic expectations, your husband will be better prepared to support you throughout the entire process. As a way to prepare, take a birth class together.
3. How to handle seeing his wife (me!) in so much pain
Having never experienced intense pain until giving birth, we had no idea how I would react. Let’s just say there was a surprising amount of howling involved. As my husband puts it: “Watching your other half experience such intense pain is difficult but the worst part is that you often do not know how to help.” By preparing for your birth as a couple, your other half will know your birth wishes, coping strategies you want to try, and have ideas on how to be helpful. Let them know that simply being present and actively participating in suggesting solutions, is being helpful.
4. How immediately bonded he felt
So much of pregnancy and birth preparation surround the mom. It can be difficult for dad to feel connected as they don’t feel the baby’s every movement. Even if your other half had a hard time feeling connected to the baby in the belly, chances are, as soon as he or she holds his child for the first time, they will be instantly connected. That was definitely the case for my husband.
5. How much time is spent breastfeeding
File this under things that shocked both of us. To build that supply and feed baby well, it’s recommended to nurse 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. If you do the math, then you’ll quickly realize that the first 6-8 weeks will be spent largely nursing. This surprised my husband because it meant that I mostly had the baby. He had to figure out how to best help me, which included being my number one cheerleader and bringing me water, snacks and nursing supplies while nursing. He also found other ways to bond with baby outside of nursing such as reading, bath time and diaper changes.
6. His role after baby was born
With the time spent breastfeeding, I know that many are surprised about what their role as dad initially means. It means that while you recover and learn how to nurse baby, your other half needs to keep the house running. This includes household chores, pet care, and errands. Make a standard grocery list if you are the main shopper and stock up on nonperishables before birth. Be ready to have an open line of communication and ask explicitly how you can help each other.
7. Baby poop
Honestly, had my husband not reminded me, I would have forgotten how surprised we were by the frequency. And when they poop, you will know it! For such a tiny human, they sure do have power and sound behind their bowel movements. Some of our baby’s poops were what really made us laugh and bond in the first weeks. Things are challenging, and there’s nothing like some bathroom humor to lighten the mood.
8. How little sleep you need to function
When my husband mentioned this, I wanted to make sure to include it on the list not to scare you, but to give you hope. The bottom line is, you will be tested immensely as new parents, but just like every human before you, you will survive! We are literally designed, if for nothing else, to raise small humans. You will be amazed at how much you can get done on such little sleep. The amount of patience, strength and perseverance you find within yourself will astound you. Both you and your partner will get through the newborn phase together.
9. How our house could have been better equipped
Neither of us realized that we could have prepared our house better for our arrival home. Therefore, our first hour home involved my husband running around getting clean sheets on the bed, positioning the bassinet and running the vacuum. Looking back, we could have spent my early labor making our arrival back home less hectic. We also could have had better nursing and diaper stations prepared along with baby swings and bouncers in place.
10. How quickly your baby changes
I know, I know, everybody says this, but it is just so true! Each phase is so fast and short lived. The days feel long but the years are short. For my husband to mention this in his top 10 means it really struck him. Soak up those baby-snuggles, memorize their newborn profile, sleepy faces, and expressions. Take lots of pictures while still doing your best to live in the moment. Spend time together as a family. Relish in breastfeeding. Those quiet peaceful times will soon be gone.