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This our third and final installment of The real survival guide for new dads series. If you’ve missed our first two – feel free to check them out here (first) or here (second). Otherwise, let’s read some entertaining stories and maybe learn a thing or two.
The fourth trimester. The first few months after your baby is born are often referred to by this moniker – and for good reason. Positives during this time included: Monica wasn’t vomiting any more, we got to meet our beautiful daughter, and… you know I can’t remember too many details but things were looking up. There were a few things to keep an eye out for though…
I hate you means I love you? Postpartum is legit. So legit, in fact, that postpartum depression is shown to severely affect 1 in 7 women in the subsequent months after birth (1). Take ‘severely’ out of the equation and the majority of new moms have experienced some type of the ‘baby blues.’ It makes logical sense too. I mean, making a baby is hard work – the body has to divert resources, raise certain hormone levels, and physically nurture another human for 9 months. After the baby is born though, things don’t just snap back into place. It takes a minute (can be a few months) for hormone levels to even out and for the mother to get used to supporting only her own development for a bit (there is a great quote on hormone levels in the movie Knocked Up – worth the watch). That can be a tough transition for some.
It doesn’t have to be depression either. There are various ways the postpartum period can influence new moms and, indirectly, new dads alike. This isn’t a blog on the physiology or psychology of childbirth so we’ll leave it at this – it could be worth it to read about the typical changes during the postpartum period. Mood swings and possibly swings of a right hook could be headed your way – why not be prepared?
Your plan is the best plan for you. What’s your birth plan? I can’t remember who it was (apologies if it was you – but thanks for the story) but I’ll never forget when that person (let’s go with Sam) asked Monica what her birth plan was. Now, I have a great deal of respect for my wife. So much that I wasn’t sure there could be a greater amount of respect earned. Then she answered this question.
“Do whatever the doctor tells me. That’s their job, they do this every day.” Sam was taken aback, to say the least. My jaw dropped. I was proud.
This approach may be one extreme, while some other women may want every detail planned town to a T. I’m not saying there is only 1 right answer here but that’s the plan that worked best for us. Monica was in labor for 24 hours and about 7 epidural doses before the doctor came in and said, “We’re going to do the (C-)section.” We looked at the doctor, looked at each other, and then nodded our heads as if to say – ‘let’s do it.’ We were in the O.R. 20 minutes later.
Don’t feel like you need to put yourself in a box here, your wife’s plan is the best one, regardless of how brash it may or may not seem. Just know you may need to facilitate some flexibility at some point.
Just because you’re not feeding her doesn’t mean you’re sleeping.
You know what breeds contempt and anger quicker than most things in a household with two adults and at least one child? Let me paint a quick picture. It’s 3 am, your baby starts crying, and you wake up. You lie there motionless hoping, no, praying your wife hops out of bed like she’s had a full week of solid sleeping nights. You don’t breath or blink for fear she may know you’re awake. And you just wait. You’re thinking, “it’s not like I can actually feed her anything, why do I need to be awake? One of us should get a full nights sleep so that the team can function better as a whole in the morning. Yeah! Go team!”
She’s on the other side of the bed most likely doing the same and thinking, “Damnit, I need to start pumping so that he can pull some weight around here. Maybe he’ll at least bring her to me. That’s not too much to ask, right?”
As the 3 seconds of playing dead pass by in a seeming era, the conversation plays out in your head of what will be said to you if you don’t volunteer some help. That doesn’t seem like it will play out well for you. After all, she did take the last 2 shifts solo…
Soon you come to realize that not only does the wife deserve some help, she needs it. Let’s chip in. We talked this one out and came up with the following:
We bypassed this rage inducing scenario with 2 methods: pre-pumping and post-pumping. Pre: I would get up, get Clara, and hand her to Monica. Feeding ensues and concludes. I then would take Clara, change the diaper and lie her back down. I’m not saying this was the best plan. Neither one of us slept particularly well but this did lead to the next phase.
Post-pumping: Simple, we alternated. Milk came prepackaged from the milk factory in these handy bags. Get Clara, make bottle, feed, diaper, sleep. This plan was much more effective. We were able to get 4-6 hour chunks of sleep and it was this point in time where we began to slightly feel like humans again.
Moral: be a pal and help out. Even when you don’t want to.
You may be forced to take up Coffee or another caffeine addiction.
For the entirety of my adult life I despised pop (soda for you southerners), coffee, or basically any beverage other than water – ok, unless that beverage was mixed with some spirit of my choosing… Let’s stay focused. For coffee specifically, I hated the taste and viewed it as a habit I didn’t want to waste mental energy on breaking.
There were periods of time I worked 90 hour weeks, completed crazy physical challenges, or trudged through graduate school. I didn’t need caffeine. I even studied in Costa Rica for a few months, arguably one of the best coffee producers in the world, under a Costa Rican professor who threatened to disown me if I didn’t take up the habit – still didn’t touch the stuff…
I was 29 when Clara was born. My coffee holdout lasted about 2 months after that. Sure, I cited the articles indicating drinking a daily cup of coffee can boost brain function, your ability to focus, or even reduce the risk of Alzheimers. You know why I really did it? I needed to… All those ‘facts’ that may or may not be one day disproven by science were just a fringe benefit. I loved the pick-me-up, and by the sheer fact that it helped keep me awake – it helped make me a better new dad. Now I love the taste and look forward to my morning cup. Go Team Coffee!!
Nap when they nap. MYTH. You know what you finally get to do when they take a nap? Get your life together. Eat something, take a shower, …, clean a bathroom? Ok, that’s too far but still. The only way I was napping is if I fell over due to exhaustion.
Your immune system is in for a reboot. We were warned about this one by all our friends. “Sickest I’ve ever been.” “Most bedridden period in my life.” Nice, there’s something to look forward to.
“You know, you can just wash your hands more often… That’ll fix it.” – Anonymous.
I hardly ever got sick and if it did it didn’t last too long or hit me too hard. I credited my immune system to leading a healthy lifestyle and genetics. However, we soon came to realize that there will come a day. A day when your child has to go to daycare, a sitters, a friend’s house for a ‘play date’ (I have some thoughts about these), or, if you’ve successfully constructed a bubble around the little one, kindergarten. One way or another and at some point that day is coming, and when it does she will invariably bring back sickness that makes us thank God for modern medicine.
The first couple days are tough. She can’t tell you what hurts or what’s bothering her (because she’s a few months old), but you know it’s no good. This is where the comforting, walking, feeding, and any other method you devise come into play. It breaks your heart but you’re doing all you can. You know it’s not life threatening but still, tough to watch. You pray that she gets better soon – or that you would take her pain. Then, around day 3 your prayers are answered – at least that was my experience.
Muscle aches, stomach pain, nausea, fever – I was like a damn Pepto Bismol commercial. I hadn’t been in that kind of shape since I was a kid. Also, this wasn’t an isolated incident. They told me it was a right of passage into fatherhood.
Hopefully you can bypass this one but hey, you do what you gotta do.
Rapid-fire points not needing context:
-I haven’t watched a full un-interrupted football game in over a year… This was a tough one at first.
-At no time after the second trimester are you a drinker. You’re on call for DD, permanently. Well, at least until the baby is born
-Beware of letting your kids sleep in your bed. People tell me this, I have no experience as of yet.
-Could be a rough first few months. No sleep, hormones, adding 50% of the individuals to your family… I mean, adjustments take time.
All these things are insignificant when she sees you and smiles. Becoming a new father and parent has been the most amazing experience of my life. Monica and I have learned a ton and still have a long way to go (heads-up for the parenting a toddler posts in the future) but we’ve loved every minute. The sleepless nights, fits of screaming, and litany of other tough moments strangely mix with all of the joyous times to form cherished memories. Memories we wouldn’t trade for anything. I hope the same is/was/will be true for you too.
Thanks for reading our final installment of The real survival guide for new dads! Feel free to check out New dad 1 and New dad 2 for further dad truisms. If you’ve enjoyed this post please subscribe to the blog so that every new post comes straight to your inbox. You can also check out the YouTube channel (MikedUp Blog) or follow Mike on Twitter (@RealMikedUp). Have a question or comment? Let us know by commenting on the post or emailing Mike at MikedUpBlog@gmail.com. We’re glad you’re here. Thanks again and talk soon!