The moment I was anxiously awaiting for was finally here. It was Show Time.
It was a very long 41 weeks of pregnancy for my wife, followed by an even longer 16 hours of natural (not by choice) labour. About 10 quick pushes and there he was in all his glory. As I stared at his gorgeous, gooey alien-like face all I could do was cry.
That rush of emotions was like nothing else I had ever felt, wow! It still stands as the most insanely beautiful experience I have ever been through. So much to say about that day but I will leave the details for another time. Today I want to talk about what happened right after that.
As the initial shock of watching my first child being born was wearing off and my first dad-dear-in-the-headlights look started to wind down; I could almost breath normally again. Not long after, a second rush of emotions hit me. These emotions would ultimately change the way I looked at fatherhood forever.
You Did It!
I looked at my wife who still had our perfect little purple-skinned baby propped up on her chest, and all I could think was “Holy $*it, you are the toughest, strongest most amazing person I know”. And the words just came out “You did it, you did it!”.
Her response? “We did it!”. Hmm…all I did was hold your hand and rub your back while you were screaming bloody murder and pushing out our 9lb 3oz son! But ok, if you are willing to share some of your glory I’m on board! We did it!!
Sure it was nice of me to offer my hand and its temporary circulation, but I still didn’t think I deserved the “we” in that sentence. And here is why:
- 41 weeks of pregnancy
- Almost as many weeks of morning sicknes
- Weight gain
- Sleepless nights (pre-baby)
- Back pain
- Swollen feet
- 16 hours of contractions
- Having a baby pulled out of you…
and “WE did it?”, she’s too sweet.
As I watched my baby boy with his swollen eyes almost fully shut, laying on my wife’s chest, covered in what looked like cottage cheese, I noticed his tiny little mouth begin to pucker. He was definitely on the hunt for something. Observing his every move I could see that he was inching towards my wife’s nipple.
Ok this is insane! My son was only earth side for a matter of minutes yet he already knew exactly what to do. Looks like that 16 hour labour was tiring for everyone – time to refuel.
With some support of the on-staff lactation nurse our baby latched right on and began sucking away. WOW!
Side note: this does NOT mean that she had mastered breastfeeding and that it was that easy… more on that another time
What I came to realise over the next few minutes as I watched our brand-spanking-new baby eat from his mom before he was even 10-minutes old, was that our precious little one needed HER first and she needed ME first.
“Our precious little one needed HER first, and she needed ME first.”
Tough as a Mother
OK, if you have not watched your partner labour and deliver your child (yet) you may think this sounds like it’s straight out of a mommy blog but here it goes, Moms are tougher than men. The truth of the matter is: what your partner does to deliver your baby is nothing short of a miracle.
Let your mind wander for a second my fellow men. Just imagine if the tables were turned and you had to give birth, with your current genitalia. Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Let’s drop the tough guy act and give it up to moms.
I watched the entire affair from the best seat in the house, and it is indeed as simultaneously beautiful and gruesome as you are thinking. That image helps me put it all into perspective. Every time I think about that day, I remember the mental and physical sacrifice she made to give me my child.
What is She Going Through?
Mentally, mom is going through a roller coaster of emotions. Of course, they are excited about having a baby, but I’s scary as hell. Their hormones are all over the place as their body grows another human being inside of them.
Keep all of this in mind when she makes a ridiculous request that makes no sense to you. If she asks for Neapolian ice cream but you secretly know she only eats the vanilla, do not buy her a pint of vanilla. That would be wrong and may lead to a discussion regarding whether or not you have a brain.
Physically, whether they deliver via Ceasarian or vaginally, both are extremely tough. One is major abdominal surgery and the other has their private parts and organs move around enough for a full-grown tiny human to come out. If that doesn’t make you appreciate moms, look up “Episiotomy” on google.
Need I say more?
I knew deep inside that I had to be the best #2 I could possibly be. You might be asking, “what do you mean by best #2? ”. I needed to be her “right hand man”, second in command. I needed to be The “Dwight Schrute” to her “Michael Scott”, the best damn “Assistant TO the Regional Manager” she could ever hope for.
Support her so she can help him thrive from day 1.
Even though I had taken a very similar approach throughout her pregnancy; helping and being there for her as much as I could as she suffered with morning all day sickness for months and months, I knew this was different and it was time to step up my game.
Before this day I was just helping her, now there was her and there was HIM.
Carefully watching those first few days with our new son made it clear that the baby-mama bond was already fully formed; so effortless, so natural. Yes, stronger than the baby-daddy bond -we would have to work for that one; after all we had just met a couple of days ago!
Admittedly, I was a bit jealous to see the instant connection between them. But the truth is, he grew inside her for nine plus months- comforted by the melody of her heartbeat and the warmth of her blood flow. The instantaneous connection is truly remarkable and actually makes perfect sense.
She was #1.
I urge all new dads I speak with to take a step back when feeling overwhelmed. There will be stressful times, especially with your first child. Both of you are learning as you go, both have different fears, different limits. Take it slow and remember that you are both doing your best.
Here are some tips to help getting your mindset right for dealing with your first pregnancy and newborn:
- Understand your partner.
- Hopefully this article helped you get a feel for what it’s like for her; from dad’s point of view. Always refer back to “what if it was me in her shoes”
- You probably already know her pretty well, so put that into perspective and amplify it. Given all of the added stress and unknowns she is facing it is only natural that she will be more sensitive than usual.
- Keep Learning.
- You can’t predict everything but you can prepare yourself by learning as much as you can about the upcoming stages.
- If you just found out she’s pregnant, do some research, read some mommy blogs, download a pregnancy app, take a course, go to a prenatal class, go to all doctor’s appointments, ask questions and listen to your partner’s questions; this will tell you a lot about what her fears and concerns are.
- If you are nearing the end of the pregnancy and approaching the big day, look into what it is like dealing with a newborn. We have tons of information specifically for dads available here with direct, actionable steps you can take.
- Do some honest self-reflection
- You have valid fears and concerns too, dad; I know you do. Identify what they are and talk about them with other people that can relate.
- Ask others who have gone through it
- Ask friends who have recently gone through it. Ask specific questions and don’t accept generic answers like “Oh you just wait…”. Get real with someone you trust. People, especially dads, seem to minimize how hard it to have a baby and many times take a hands-off approach. Bond with your baby from day 1 and reap the benefits of that amazing connection.