Written by: Cally Worden
Pregnancy and birth may be a challenging time for women, but new Dads have their own journey too, and often get forgotten in the frenzy of Mum-focused activity. From the point of conception, all attention shifts to the woman. And rightly so. But many men experience significant emotional upheaval during the 9 months and beyond. So here is our Working Parent new Dad Survival Guide to help all you champions of the Y-chromosome be prepared for the dawn of your post-birth world.
‘Tired’ Doesn’t Even Come Close
New babies cry, and they don’t care when. It’s a fact you will have no choice but to acknowledge. And even if your partner is breastfeeding, you will be neither immune to, nor able to ignore the sound in the small hours of the morning. You will need to find reserves of patience that you didn’t know existed. And then mine for them at a time when you are feeling more exhausted than you ever imagined was possible. Fun, eh? Bizarrely you will do all of this without batting an eyelid.
You may occasionally feel like you are losing it and need to take a break, but that’s normal. For the most part you will cope because you have no option. And because when your screaming bundle finally settles, it’s impossible not to look into the cot at your sleeping child and feel consumed with love. Honest.
Baby’s are Fragile, but Forgiving
It can take a while for new Dads to get used to handling their baby. This little pink person seems so tiny, so fragile, that many Dads have a real fear of harming them by accident. They can feel like ham-fisted clumsy apes. It’s true babies need to be handled with care, but any new Dad who is thinking about this issue will be just fine. Your actions in picking up, holding, and moving your baby around, will feel awkward at first, but before long you will look, feel and act like a pro. If it helps, many new Mums don’t have a clue either, but the sheer necessity of baby-handling will ensure you both pass through this uncertainty very quickly.
Many new Dads speak of their primitive sense of protectiveness they feel towards their child. You can’t breastfeed, but bottle-feeding and holding you baby close will help to create a bond between you and your child that is unbreakable.
It’s Okay to Leave the House
When a newborn arrives in your home you suddenly become hyper-aware of all the dangers in the world. The thought of managing your tiny newborn, buggy, changing bag while out and about can feel overwhelming. The only antidote to this sensation is to put yourself out there – just do it. The first few forays into the big wide world will feel epic, and require planning of significant magnitude. Rest assured that by the time your baby hits three-six months of age, you will barely have a conscious thought about leaving the house. Baby necessities will be part of your routine. Just like picking up your car keys as you go out of the door.
Take a Break
Leaving your baby alone with anyone in the early days will make you feel guilty of neglect. Finding quality childcare is key, whether via family, friends or a professional. Once you have this in place, try taking a night out with your partner. For the first few times you do this you will probably both fret dreadfully. It may even ruin your evening. But do persevere. After a few times these breaks from Baby-Reality will become treasured couple-time.
What About the Sex?
This should probably have been further up the list – most new Dads will admit that it’s one of their primary concerns. It’s naive to expect sex to be the same after your partner has given birth. For one thing, you will both be feeling pretty exhausted. Then there is the issue of your lady’s bits – after witnessing the miracle of birth, many men have an altered view of their women’s vagina. And once you get past both of those, simply finding time when you both feel in the mood to be intimate can be tricky.
It’s easy to drift apart, to lose that sense of intimacy that brought you together to make your baby in the first place. Recognising this is the first step to arresting it and getting things back on track. The little things become super-important – complimenting each other, taking time for a quick hug or sneaky snog, reassuring each other that you remain as significant as you were in each other’s lives before your baby arrived. Do all of these things, and sex will return naturally to your post-birth life. It may be different, there may be less of it, but your affection for each other will deepen the intensity of the intimacy you both feel and experience. The old adage of ‘Quality is better than Quantity’ will suddenly mean something.