If you’re a dad blogger it’s obligatory for you to write a post providing expectant fathers with advice garnered from your own experiences. Until now, I’ve shirked this formality, mainly to avoid any legal repercussion should anyone actually take me seriously.
A friend whose wife was eight months pregnant once asked me what he should plan for. I responded with something to the effect of making sure his insurance included a good mental health plan because the first kid always ends up being the victim of trial-and-error parenting techniques, and will likely require the most therapy later in life. (Being the oldest of four I know what I’m talking about here, people.)
However, despite the practicality of my answer, I could tell by my friend’s expression such input failed to bolster his confidence. Instead, I had only given him one more cause for concern in addition to the standard new-dad worries like forgetting the car seat on the car roof when leaving the hospital, finding the means for paying tuition at an Ivy-League school, and settling on an event for the kid to medal in at the 2028 Olympics.
Since then I’ve restricted myself to hyperbolic nonsense in this arena.
Let’s say your wife surprises you with the news she’s three months along, but a few hours earlier you learned that your planet has roughly six months before it explodes into oblivion. How should you react? My suggestion: Give your wife a big celebratory hug, say nothing of the impending doom, and commence forthwith to building a rocket ship in which your child can escape.
Likewise, if you’re a Midwestern farmer with a barren wife and you happen upon a strange aircraft containing a baby, I recommend taking the galactic bundle of joy home and raising it as your own. Also, make sure to grab any blankets found inside the cockpit. Tightly swaddling newborns in a blanket mimics the security of still being in the mother’s womb—that, and you may need them for a flamboyant costume later on down the road.
Okay, so you got me. I do know a thing or two about what to expect when your wife/girlfriend/life partner is expecting. After three life-altering trips to the delivery room, I damn well better have learned something. So, here are a few helpful hints.
Skip the books but not the learning. As soon as my first son’s mother learned she was pregnant, she dumped so many books on me I felt as if I were studying for the MCAT. This information overload ended up being counterproductive, since I retained almost none of it and what I did only freaked me out. I wish the Internet would’ve been what it is now, full of dad-centered resources giving me the Cliffs Notes that would’ve been truly useful. One thing though, if your wife does give you a stack of books, don’t blow her off. Move them around the house so it looks like you’re reading them, but share with her everything you’ve legitimately learned through your online studies. The bottom line is that she knows you care enough to be involved and informed.
Make a few dry runs to the hospital. With child number two I pulled up to the hospital entrance only to find it was closed for major renovation, which meant having to drive all the way around the building as my wife screamed in my right ear. For number three, the hospital had moved and although I was aware of the new location, I did not know my way around the parking lots. Let me just say that a woman about to deliver a baby at any second can throw a knock-out-producing right hook rivaling Mike Tyson in his prime. Don’t rely on your GPS or OnStar either. If the al-Qaeda cell operating in your neighborhood sets off an EMP in the cul de sac, you’re screwed.
Stay focused in the birthing room. At this point in the game, the mother of your child requires some extra focus. Luckily I didn’t have Twitter and smart-phone games to distract me. Instead, I had the classic football movie Rudy to occupy my attention. Of course, right about the time my son was making his glorious entry into the world, Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger was making his legendary 1975 QB sack on the gridiron. I witnessed the recreation of this storied moment in Notre Dame history. I did not, however, see my first-born coming out of the tunnel onto the playing field of life. Why was the TV on? Good question.
Catch a few horror flicks ahead of time. Something bloody like Hostel or Saw are good bets—Rosemary’s Baby, not so much. What does this have to do with anything? Some gory stuff can happen in a delivery room. I didn’t realize just how gory until my second son decided at the last minute that he’d rather “live at home” for a while longer instead of seeing the big world. This presented a problem in that his heart beat was steadily dropping, forcing the OB doctor to go in after him. Next thing I knew, a massive pair of chrome salad tongs marked “property of the Jolly Green Giant” were, through some combination of scientific oddity and voodoo magic, being shoved clear up inside my 5′2″ wife’s hoo-ha, and moments later a baby was then being pulled out like a pot roast from the oven. I wasn’t prepared for that. Renting the horror flicks isn’t necessary, but my point is you can’t be squeamish. Someone, possibly with large medical utensils in places where they shouldn’t be, needs you.
Trust your gut. If there’s a single bit of advice I’d pass on to expectant dads, it’s trust your gut. Remember my second son—the one who plans on living in the basement until he’s 40? Not only did he enjoy sponging off of his parents (mostly his mother), but he also had an aversion to spicy Thai baby formula due to acid reflux. This made me a little apprehensive with him when his mother wasn’t nearby. Then, one night his crying woke me up and I picked him up from his crib. I was tempted to take him to mommy, but something inside told me I could get him back to sleep on my own. Ten minutes later, my tiny son’s head was resting on my shoulder. I didn’t want to put him down. Trusting my gut gave me a boost in my paternal confidence, while also making nice father-son bonding moment.
And with that I will close, but not before adding that I cannot be held legally liable for the results from following these tips. My attorney told me I should make sure to fit that statement in here somewhere.