6 Tips for Surviving Your Newborn: A Guide For Dads-to-Be
Fathers, here is the first truth of parenting: There’s nothing quite so grueling as the white-hot cauldron of life with a newborn.
If I can live to tell the tale, you can, too. Let me get to it:
Tip 1: It Gets Better
My wife and I held up The Happiest Baby on the Block like some sort of talisman, the idea being to create a “fourth trimester” of swaddling, holding, low lights, and white noise. Compared to some our friends, we emerged relatively unscathed, but between the crying, projectile pooping, sleep deprivation, and relationship-crippling stress it was still without a doubt the most difficult experience of my life.
The first three to four months are going to be hard. You won’t sleep, you might eat, you’ll probably forget to bathe, and life as you’ve known it will cease to exist.
But it gets better. One day that little Rubik’s cube you can’t solve will smile at you. Will call you by name. And just like that you’ll forget that you ever stood a nanometer from the edge of madness.
Until then? Embrace the suck.
Tip 2: Kill Your Ego
Your wife/partner/superhero just gave birth to the most precious baby in the world—through her body—and that baby now requires all of your combined time and effort to keep it safe and happy. Which leaves you as the low man on the totem pole. Slither and serve your family with pride. Caring for the wants and needs of mother and baby is your Life’s Purpose. So keep that tail tucked between your legs, find something productive to do, and learn to fake your way through Grey’s Anatomy if that makes what makes her happy. You’ll regain your grip on the Netflix cue soon enough.
Tip 3: Trust Your Gut
Over-thinking is a natural evolutionary step in parenting. It’s what keeps the “baby expert” monolith in business. But you should also trust the fact that two fairly competent, loving people working towards the same goal might be able to successfully navigate the shifting tides of baby-dom. When you doubt yourself, you end up doing things like buying Dunstan Baby Language DVDs that promise to translate your newborn’s gibbering nonsense into real live “words.” Pro-tip: Your baby will always be either dirty, hungry, angry, or tired. And just like that, boom, I saved you $40.
Tip 4: Step Up
A buddy of mine had a kid three months after we did. Two days after the birth, I saw him pop into a bar with a roguish grin fitted on his face. “Told my wife I was running to the store,” he said. “Thought I’d stop in for a beer, though. She’ll never know.” My reaction to him was to cover my eyes like I was watching a movie teen check out that noise coming from inside the murder closet. No, dummy! Don’t do it!
Here’s the rule: You can start having fun again as soon as she can start having fun again.
Tip 5: Dance with the One that Brought You
The plight of the new father is overlooked. You’re exhausted, you’re a roiling ball of confusion, you’re trying to care for two other roiling balls of confusion, you’re initially left out of the food-bonding equation, and intimacy gets put on the back burner. There is no shortcut (see: Tip 1), but there are ways to lay the groundwork for a return to normalcy. Bleary-eyed as you may be, you need to regain a courtship mentality. Flirt, buy flowers, dole out compliments (even when her hair is matted in spit up). You may feel powerless at times, but the truth is, the road to reconciliation begins and ends with you…dad.
Tip 6: Find the Magic Moments
Woven into the trials and tribulations of parenthood are threads of pure, unadulterated joy. That’s how this whole baby thing works: It breaks you down to build you back up. For every mess, misfire, or mistake, there’s a first word or milestone or quiet victory that cauterizes your new little tribe, makes you and yours a real live family. It’s here in the messy in-between of early childhood that you must focus your attention.
Believe it or not, one day you’ll miss all this craziness.