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Do you remember that time you were watching that movie with the Navy Seals and you were thinking – “man these guys are tough. They never lose, they’re all rock solid, and they always kill the bad guy. I mean, I know it’s the movies but still… probably true, right? These guys are always on the go or in a fight and yet, somehow, they find a way to function at optimal performance constantly and never seem to sleep. How do they do it?” Well my friend, you’re about to find out. Here’s what you need to know about being the Navy Seal of new dads. Spoiler: it’s what you need to know but can’t possibly prepare for.
A bit about us – to put things in perspective
I was honored and completely humbled to find out that I have become a bit of an authority on the matter of being a new dad:
I’m not sure of the governing body or of the qualifications for this award, but I graciously accept. Thank you! (Back to reality)
Monica (my wife) and I have been at this parenting task for about 13 months now and by no means do we consider ourselves experts. The points below are a compilation of our and some of our friends’ experiences when a little human enters the world – and more importantly your lives.
Also understand that becoming a new dad doesn’t begin at birth – if you haven’t figured this one out yet, it’ll hit you sooner rather than later – no, there are many changes in the 9 months leading up to that… For us, Monica ended up losing about 20 pounds in the first 17-ish weeks of pregnancy. She didn’t even have to taste the food, the mere smell was enough to induce vomiting.
This wasn’t the only change, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The points below attempt to A) educate, B) semi-prepare, and C) humor you if in fact your wife is expecting. Becoming a father has been the most amazing experience in my life, and I hope the same will be true for you too. It’s not all roses and sugarplums though. Let’s dive in.
The sleep myth
Everyone always tells you… “Better sleep now before the baby comes. Once the kid gets here you won’t be able to sleep.” And you think to yourself, “That’s bull, how hard could it be? I mean the kid has to sleep at some point right? Or maybe my wife will just handle that part of it. Yea, I’ll find time to sleep.” False. If you’re like the rest of us in the majority, you won’t sleep a full night for quite some time. Wife needs this, baby needs that, you’re too tired to sleep (yea, it’s a thing)… You most likely won’t be able to sleep and if you do, it won’t be good sleep. That’s not the myth, it’s completely true. No, the myth is thinking you’ll actually need it. What’s remarkable about this whole parenting process is you’ll push your body in ways you never imagined (or did in an athletic arena during some practice or conditioning session – oh the memories). You’ll come to realize that you can function at a reasonable level for periods of time with just a few hours of sleep.This will sustain you for the first few weeks and months.
The key to handling the sleep myth without burning out though – is your wife. Having a solid partner there is the way it worked for me and hopefully the way it works for you. Eventually you’ll need to go for a run (or a walk if you’re a mortal) to get out and clear your head. Put the diapers and bottles down and just get away for a minute. How does this work? Solid wife. Or grandparents. Always key to call on the grandparents. Just remember that your lady expects the same treatment when her meltdown is knocking on the door. After all, she has the excuse of childbirth and raging hormones to throw at you. Don’t let her windup. Call the balk, let her take her walk, and survive to fight another day.
This too shall pass. It doesn’t matter how sick your baby is, how depressed your wife seems, or how pissed off you are about something you won’t remember in a month. Most often this phase – whatever it is – will pass. Your baby will get healthy, your wife will eventually have a better day tomorrow, and you’ll forget what’s got you so riled up. Yes you will. Just take a deep breath and realize this microcosm of your life will be a distant memory in a few days/weeks.
This may be the most important point to remember during the early days, and it can be applied to most of what’s below.
Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.
Whether the heart grows fonder or not, this is a hypothesis you’ll get to test out. I don’t deal in hypotheticals and maybes with this one. We’re talking science and facts. Also – we can’t blame the ladies for this at all… This childbirth process is a bear, just be glad you’re the coach and not the player.
There will come a time in your lady’s pregnancy where she gets so uncomfortable that she can’t sit, sleep, stand, or lie in bed – let alone perform any other ‘bedroom activity.’ She may look at you but it won’t be lustfully.
After the baby (I’m going to refer to baby as she from here on out) is born you have the whole childbirth issue to deal with. She may come out the old fashioned way or through the lovely C-section (as was our experience – talk about an eye opener), but either way she’s coming out. That fact puts the romance on hold for minimum 6-8 weeks depending on the doctor, your wife, your baby, and hormones. We’ll get back to the hormones in a bit.
Lack of sleep, responsibility to the baby, and taking care of your wife are also factors to consider here. This is all part of the shift that realigns your team’s priorities in the early days. You can start thinking in terms of, 1) baby, 2) wife, 3) food, 4) diapers, 5) sleep,…, 927 you (hey! there you are). This is an over exaggeration but you get the idea.
Understanding and patience here fellas. Remember, this too shall pass…
Beware of flying chocolate. I don’t normally do this, but I will admit blame up front. My bad. Things we weren’t prepared for included but were not limited to: 24 hours of labor followed by an emergency C-section, the fact that a C-section keeps you at the hospital longer than a ‘natural’ birth, and did I mention 24 hours of labor??
Monica was up at 3 AM when contractions started. She acted saintly in letting me sleep until about 6. We got to the hospital and, yada yada, Clara was born about 3 AM the following day. There was pushing, resting, epidural, fetching of ice chips, and other things I can’t mention or remember – but there wasn’t sleep. Add a couple hours after birth for the bonding and sewing up of loose ends and uteri, and our family was in a hospital room around 7.
We were all exhausted, as you may imagine. Clara was just asleep and Monica started shutting her eyes. This is where I made my fatal flaw. I found a flat piece on the window ledge and shut my eyes… Yeah, I fell asleep and I’m not ashamed to say it.
Apparently there was a stir of activity after I entered dreamland. Clara started wailing and Monica (with her maternal instincts already fully developed) woke up immediately. It didn’t phase me – I was out. Immediately following major surgery, Monica was immobilized and couldn’t help Clara. She did what any mother would do. She found a water bottle and threw it at me. Miss. What else? Food from her ‘lunch.’ Partial hit but definitely not effective. She’s getting desperate now when she spots a bag of Hershey Kisses. These were a gift from one of the parents and suffice it to say my lady loves her chocolates. “Heck with it,” she must of thought as she tossed the bag. Direct hit! In the face! I’m up, tending to Clara, and getting read the riot act. I didn’t have all of my whits with me when the words left my mouth, “why didn’t you just call the nurse?” Bad… So bad.
Rule #1 – Accept blame regardless of action, reaction, or consequence. It was your fault and no one else’s. This can adjust in time but take it from me – for now, it’s on you.
Thanks for reading our first installment of The real survival guide for new dads! Feel free to check out New dad 2 and New dad 3 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!