“You’re going to be a daddy!”
Well congratulations, bub, and welcome to the hardest, most rewarding, and most mind numbingly awe inspiring job you’re ever going to have as the male member of the human species.
I’ve noticed that getting that news from your wife/fiance/girlfriend can lead you to have either one of two reactions. Either you feel it as the single most world changing event in the history of the universe, or it feels all very abstract. I have to confess, I was of the latter persuasion. I knew what it meant, I understood the responsibilities and the implications on an intellectual level, but it didn’t really hit me emotionally until maybe the 2 to 3rd trimester and I started to actually feel the baby in my wife’s belly. THAT was freaky. I had visions of Aliens and V going off in my geek brain – there’s a lifeform in my woman’s belly! – while at the same time it no longer became a theoretical little blob on an ultrasound.
2011 must be a banner year of Kieun’s friends and reproduction because quite a lot of my friends and my wife’s friends (aka our friends) are having children. It occurs to me that I haven’t really gone into the 9 month process leading up the D-Day (that’s D for delivery, pal). I could write a tome about it, but who’s gonna wanna read that? So I thought I’d put down some thoughts, observations, and other highly opinionated advice for anyone who may have just recently heard those fateful six words.
- Learn to massage/stretch. Your girl will get sore. She will get stiff, and she will get cranky. Learn some basic massage techniques and expand your repertoire as the weeks go by. In the beginning, she’ll be relatively mobile, relatively flexible, and you can probably get away with sucking at it. But as the weeks go by and she gets more and more preggers, she will have less and less range of motion and consequently will be very stiff and physically uncomfortable. If you can offer even one small iota of relief to her physical torment, if you can massage her and help her stretch, she will think you’re the greatest guy on earth. It’ll also go a long way to reducing her crankyness and thus making her moods more bearable for you, and it’s also good for the baby as well since she will be happier and physically more relaxed.
- However much you think you hustle for your girl, double time that. Any of you fellas have this fight? You get married, you move in together, you agree to share housework, and your wife asks you to do something (e.g. take out the garbage, fix something, etc). You say yes, and you plan on getting to it at some time that you’ve set in your mind, but what happens is that your wife gets annoyed that task X hasn’t been done and complains that you take forever to do anything/never do the thing you say you’re going to do. Of course, this is the eternal clash of expectations between the sexes, where your wife assumes that when you say you’ll get to something that it’ll be done immediately, while you assume she understands that what you mean is that you will get to it at some point in the near future. Well, you may have had the luxury of having a nice, civilized discussion/argument about this before, but with a baby in her belly and pregnancy hormones all over the place, my advice to you my friend is to accede to her demands and double time your actions. Here’s why: whereas your girl may have been a wonderfully logical and reasonable person before, this assumption is no longer valid once she is pregnant (but if she remains so – good for you!). So why antagonize the situation? Also, if you do actually double time your hustle, then you’re just going to come off looking like a hero to her – improves her mood, reduces stress, makes things better for the baby. Trust me on this one. It may be annoying to have to do this, but you’ll be thankful in the long run that you did.
- Morning sickness is not just for the morning. The proverbial morning sickness is very poorly named. It’s not just for the morning, and it’s less a sickness and more a reaction. This condition can come on at any time during the day, and can be triggered by anything from a smell to something she eats to, well, nothing. Actually, the most common trigger is smell – things that she used to love can push her over the edge and have her yakking in an instant, and other things that you swear not even a bloodhound can smell she’ll think completely permeates her airspace. If she suddenly can’t stand your awesome musk, don’t take it personally. Of course, some women can simply feel nauseous for absolutely no reason, and others can actually have no morning sickness reactions at all. But, if your girl is one with the reaction, my advice is to (a) be sympathetic and not question what’s setting her off, (b) hold her hair as she’s praying to the ceramic goddess, and (c) after she’s emptied her stomach and she’s looking and feeling miserable, give her some warm water and massage her legs and arms. There’s that massage thing again. The warm water will settle her stomach and the massage will help circulation going again to try to get more blood to her brain. And try Saltines. Thank god for Saltines. There may be times when she can’t eat anything – practically all food on earth will set her off. But for some reason Saltines and water seem to be miracle food. My wife ate practically nothing but Saltines and water for her first trimester.
- Have an opinion, then be flexible. Most of us guys could care less about what color the bassinet should be or which animal character would be cute on the mobile over the crib. Well, start caring, or at least develop some kind of an opinion. This is one of those men vs women type issues that come up all the time and if it weren’t about the baby and if it weren’t during a pregnancy I’m sure we’ll be able and willing to stand our ground that they take care of it and we really don’t have any opinions either way. Your wife or girlfriend would normally just be annoyed with you or simply roll their eyes and say “men” or something like that. But now, since it’s dealing with a baby, they’re going to be very sensitive to your response. You have to show that you care, because the chain of logic from a null response from you will be “if he doesn’t care about the color of the baby bib, then he doesn’t care about the caring for the baby, and if he doesn’t care about that, then will he help out or am I going to have to do everything by myself? OMG I AM going to have to do it by myself. Can I do this by myself, how am I going to do it, etc, etc” Now, I don’t mean to make all women sound hysterical here – because they’re not and not all women have the same reactions. But, I will bet my entire yearly paycheck that how the man responds to questions regarding even the small things about the upcoming baby will affect the woman’s confidence about this completely life-altering event. Negative or noncommittal answers are only going to exacerbate an already anxious thought process, whereas a caring, thoughtful, and engaging response from the husband will only enhance her mood and confidence that y’all will actually be able to bring a new human to this world and craft that creature into a positive member of society. So fellas, have an opinion. But then, a word of caution – be flexible. One of the biggest reason that men and women fight, married couples especially, is about children. The other is money. So you will have your own opinions and notions once the baby is born and you’re in the thick of actually raising the child. The fights will take place about your different ideas – it’s inevitable, just accept it and get over it. So there’s no reason to start this before the kid is even born.
- Do your homework. Remember the movie Knocked Up where Seth Rogen’s character is accused by Katherine Heigl that he bought all those baby books but didn’t read them? Yeah, don’t do that. I know you may be busy and have a million and a half things to do (who doesn’t?) but really, this IS your child too, and you really should know as much as you can about babies, pregnancy, childbirth, child rearing, etc. This IS how you become a good dad. Well, I guess the fact that you’re on a website like this one and are reading articles and posts like this is a step in the right direction. But here’s how you go further. Below are some recommendations on books and websites that you can look into that’ll have a lot of information on the subject.
- What to expect when you’re expecting. This is actually a whole series of books, videos, and website that talk about the entire process from baby making to baby caring. The above link is to the Amazon site for the book – which is almost a standard for all expecting couples. But you can also go to their website and sign up for daily/weekly newsletters, have access to forums, etc.
- The Baby Whisperer. This is a good book and talks primarily about how to care for a newborn and infant. I recommend that you actually read books such as this before the birth, so that you’ll be ready once the baby is actually in your hands screaming his or her head off.
- The Happiest Baby on the Block. This is actually quite amazing. Dr.Karp talks about the 5 S’s of shooshing, swaddling, swaying, side-laying, and suckling that can help a colic or just plain fussy baby chill out and sleep. Works wonders and it’s quite fascinating how baby’s do behave as if they need a fourth trimester in the womb. Again, there’s a cottage industry on this theme now – books, DVDs, websites, etc.
- Brain Rules for Baby. This is a book written by a neurologist on how the baby brain functions, and dispels some myths and misconceptions about babies and children’s brain development. I found this to be a fascinating read and think it gives some very good guidelines on how to raise a child that is smart, healthy, and happy
- BabyCenter. This is a popular website that sends out newsletters and such, and has a ton of articles on all kinds of topics. Also, the forum is quote active and vibrant, and you can post any questions that you have – even from a Dad’s perspective, and actually get some very informative answers back.
One thing to keep in mind is that most of these websites will probably be mostly populated by women and mothers. Not a lot of men go on them. That’s a shame because it’s actually quite informative, and it’ll give you an insight into what’s going on with your woman that you may not know or even have noticed.
- Get in shape. Seriously. If you thought you were busy before the baby, then you’re going to be swamped after the little tyke is born. Not only that, but if you want to have any hope of actually being able to do any of the things listed here (and in future lists to come), then you’ll notice it requires that you hustle, be energetic, and be proactive. Well, I hate to say this but if you’re tired, you’re not gonna get any of it done, and getting in shape before the baby is born is the best thing you can do for yourself so that you’ll be prepared to be the best Dad you can possibly be.