On July 19th, I became a dad. As anyone who has shared that experience knows, it is an amazing feeling. I fell in love with my wife roughly fifteen minutes into our first date, but fell in love with my son even faster. I was in love with him before he was born but never knew that I was capable of a love this deep. We are a family.
I’m a planner, and did quite a bit of research on how to handle my wife’s last month of pregnancy. There is NOTHING out there for guys. Let me correct that – there is stuff out there, but it’s all written by female bloggers who say things like ‘don’t forget to pack your toothbrush, because you will be in the hospital for a night or two’. Come on. I know we are the lesser sex, but we aren’t complete neanderthals.
I made some mental notes over the last few weeks of her pregnancy and delivery, and wanted to share them here. Guys: this is for you. Ladies, feel free to share this with your husband or guy friends who are in this situation. Hopefully it will help bring peace of mind and calm to a generally hectic and incredibly exciting time.
One month to go. Use the baseline that she is uncomfortable all the time.
- When she says ‘what do you want for dinner’, she’s actually asking what you want for dinner. Nothing sounds good to her, so pick something that isn’t fast food. Get used to stopping by Publix on your way home from the office.
- Offer to go to the pool anytime she wants. Floating is magical for her and provides some very much needed relief to her back, her feet, really everything.
- Offer to go on walks with her. Nothing too serious, as she can’t get too winded, but just to get her out and about. Chances are that she has a bit of cabin fever and this will help.
- Make sure you have a push present procured. Don’t know what a push present is? Google it. My advice is get her a piece of jewelry. Anything from an eternity band to an engraved pinky ring. It should be something tangible that will remind her of this joyous time you are sharing together.
- Figure out what you are going to do with your dogs/pets while you are at the hospital.
- Everyone is going to give you tons of advice. Take it in, but take it with the proverbial grain of salt. Your instincts will take over and handle most everything.
- You’ll hear ‘enjoy these last few weeks…sleep as much as you can’ a thousand times. It’s complete bullsh!t. You and your wife will be more excited than a 7-year old on Christmas morning.
- Take the reigns and schedule the newborn photographer, who will come a week or so after your child is born. It’s important.
- Take the initiative and schedule a vacation when your new addition is ~10 – 12 weeks old, or right before she goes back to work. This gives your new family something to plan for and to look forward to.
One week to go. It’s almost go-time. Game faces…
- Pretend that she is bed ridden. Do everything for her. With a smile. She says jump, you say how high.
- Remind her that she is beautiful a hundred times a day. All pregnant women are glowing because they are about to give birth to a child, but she won’t feel beautiful. Remind her.
- Make sure that you are packed up. She’ll know what to pack for herself, and don’t leave it to her to pack your bag. See notes below…
- Take her on a date, or dates. Get dressed up. Go to your favorite Italian place and order whatever you want…encourage her to do the same. You’ve probably put on some sympathy weight, so that Fettuccini Alfredo on the side isn’t going to make that much of a difference.
What to pack. This isn’t the ‘Don’t forget your toothbrush’ BS.
- Pack like you are going on a two night trip to the mountains, because the hospital is cold.
- I recommend jeans, a pair of khaki 5-pocket pants, some comfortable oxfords, maybe a vest, and comfortable loafers for the day.
- I also recommend sweatpants, long-sleeve t-shirts, socks, and slippers for relaxing/sleeping. You are going to be sleeping on a fold-out chair, so help yourself be as comfortable as you can be.
- Something nice to wear for leaving the hospital. There will be pictures, and you don’t want to commemorate the moment by wearing Natural Light sleeping pants or your Patagonia Baggies.
- Bring a pair of running shoes to wear late-night and early morning.
- You need a hat to cover up that mop.
- Phone chargers (extra-long cord).
- Toilet Paper. Because, toilet paper.
- Entertainment is really not needed. You can pack a book, an iPad, some magazines, etc, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll use any.
- Extra credit: put your Yeti to use and pack a few beers and a bottle of champagne. Leave them in your car, and sneak them in for a late-night treat. Leave no evidence, and dispose of the remnants appropriately.
Hospital cheat sheet. It’s not as bad as you think, but it’s close.
- The one piece of advice that you should retain from those labor and delivery classes is that the man is the supportive cheerleader during labor and delivery. This is 100% true. Give 110% here. Stay positive and be encouraging throughout the entire process. I cannot stress this enough.
- They do everything for you at the hospital. Take advantage of the nursery at night so you and your better half can sleep between feedings.
- You need to handle all text/social media/email communications with friends and family. She won’t want to manage her phone.
- Order a big breakfast from the cafeteria every morning. It’s hard to mess up eggs, toast, and bacon et al, so load up.
- After breakfast, make sure both of you get up, take showers, and get dressed. There’s not a better feeling for you, and more especially for her.
- Keep the hospital room clean. Don’t leave clothes everywhere, throw away trash, stay organized, etc. You are going to have visitors, so act accordingly. This should go without saying, but I was shocked by the state of the rooms we passed on our morning walks around the floor.
- When coordinating visitors, advise them in advance that their visits should be limited to about an hour, at most.
- Speaking of visitors, family and friends are going to ask ‘can we bring anything’? The answer is YES – ask them to bring you lunch or dinner. You WILL NOT want to leave the hospital to get food, and the non-breakfast cafeteria options are awful. Avoid fast food (limit yourself to one meal from Chick-Fil-A). Her body needs good protein, green veggies and fiber to get ready for what’s coming, so order accordingly.
- Take a lot of pictures. Trust me.
Heading home. You two are on your own.
- You need to take at least a week off to help out after you get home.
- You are now officially relegated to maintenance staff. For the foreseeable future, you are in charge of grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, most diaper changes, dog duty, and general support for your better half. She will be grading you on each of the above, so do your best to knock it out of the park.
- The schedule is going to be crazy. Your nights may feel long, and you are months away from a continuous 7 hours of sleep. Nap when the baby sleeps and encourage your wife to do the same. There is no helping this part, so embrace it.
- Try to limit visitors over the first week. For everyone that does want to stop by (family included), give them an ‘end’ time to the visit. Otherwise, they’ll hang out, and you and your wife are tired, and have stuff to do and won’t want to peel them away from the baby they are so anxious to meet. “Sure, come on over from four to six.”
- Send text updates to your friends and out-of-town families. They’ll really appreciate it.
- Each night, plan dinner like it’s a date. Figure out dinner and then watch a movie together. Your little one will be either eating or sleeping, and it’s important to spend that time together. You are parents, but you are also man and wife.
Having children is an evolutionary step in your life. It is a HUGE change, but in the best way possible. You got this. Don’t over analyze. You and your better half are going to be just fine.