At the time of writing, I’ve been a dad for little over a week. To be exact, it has been seven days, 13 hours and 26 minutes. It has possibly been the fastest week of my life and definitely the best.
Today I’ve been reflecting a bit on what we’ve been through and what we’ve experienced during the last week.
Not meaning to sound too corny, but we’ve been blessed with an exceptionally cute and immaculately behaved little daughter who feels like she’s always been part of our life. On top of that, I’ve got a missus who has taken brilliantly to life as a Mum, as well as a dog who hasn’t caused us too much hassle!
We’re both still trying to find our feet in the world of parenting. Trying to find the balance between looking after the little one, each other, ourselves and the endless pile of baby clothes that need washing. However, it feels like we’ve learnt a lot already, and if I can say so myself, are doing a pretty good job at juggling everything that has been thrown our way – particularly as Baby L popped out 2.5 weeks earlier than expected.
So, in full reflection mode, here are the five main things which I’ve learnt as a Dad during my first week of fatherhood.
1. Having a baby has been easier than expected: OK, I’ll throw it out there straight away and suffer the wrath of all of you parents struggling to get any sleep. I may be naïve in writing this down and deserve any abuse that is thrown at me, but the truth is that we imagined things would be harder than they have been.
Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been easy, but it has been easier than we were told. We’ve not really suffered the main downsides associated with sharing a house with a newborn – we’ve had plenty of sleep, changing nappies has been fine and the little one doesn’t often make a noise. We know that luck also plays a big part – the little one hasn’t suffered any ailments, she has taken to breastfeeding very well, and as the birth was straightforward and quick, the ordeal hasn’t really impacted Hayley day-to-day.
Despite all of this good fortune, I like to think that we’re doing a good job too and that the baby’s temperament is an extension of our relaxed demeanour. We fully anticipate that we will soon suffer the hardships of no sleep etc, but hopefully our experience after the first week shows that a newborn doesn’t have to ruin your life like all stories we heard.
2. A baby is pretty easy to understand: I don’t proclaim to be a ‘baby whisperer’ or psychic, but one of the things I’ve learnt in the past week is that a baby isn’t particularly complex. As a newborn, all of their urges and actions come from the more primitive parts of the brain, meaning that their wants and needs are quite simple – namely things like food, sleep, warmth, affection and a clean bum.
Again, I’ll caveat by saying that Baby L has been an angel so far, but we’ve found that it is often a process of elimination as to why she is crying. First we’ll pop her on a nipple. If she’s not bothered, then chances are she needs a change. If her nappy isn’t wet / dirty, then she might be a bit cold, so an extra blanket or cuddle works well. Once her brain starts developing and a whole raft of different emotions and feelings creep in, then I imagine she will be more difficult to read.
However, for the time being, I’m pretty confident in saying that a baby’s needs are relatively straightforward and by process of elimination, you can figure out what she wants.
3. Breastfeeding is awesome: I don’t just mean the enhanced boobs and cleavage currently sat on the missus’ chest. I mean that, once established, breastfeeding is quite possibly the best thing ever. Why, I hear you ask? Well, here are some of the top reasons we’ve found. Firstly, the baby is able to feed whenever and wherever with little to no preparation.
When Baby L starts rooting or sucking, we recognise the signs, whap out a boob and baby happily latches on and feeds. This is particularly good in the middle of the night so that baby can feed next to mum in bed. This also means that no time is wasted preparing formula or sterilising bottles, during which baby gets even hungrier and becomes a crying monster. Breastfeeding also saves a lot of money – one article suggests it saves over $1,700 in the first year of a baby’s life, which I’m sure you agree is a huge saving.
There is also something nice about knowing that you are providing your baby with a natural and healthy feed. Nature gives women boobs to feed their offspring, so why turn to alternatives when breast milk is everything a baby needs? We’ve also found that breastfeeding is a great way for mum and baby to bond, in addition to putting Baby L into a milk-induced, drunken state following a good feed which ensures she gets a good sleep. I know breastfeeding isn’t for everyone, but it really has been awesome for us.
We’ve probably been lucky that baby appreciates a good boob (she must take after her Dad!), so we’ve had no issues with getting her to feed, but I also put this down to the relaxed, no pressure environment we’ve created. If Mum and Baby L are stressed and frustrated, then breastfeeding isn’t going to go as well.
4. You become really popular: Having a baby makes you as popular as Christian Bale at Comic-Con. We’ve been inundated with messages, cards and presents over the last week and it has been genuinely overwhelming. Yes, I know that people want to come and see Baby L rather than my ugly mug, but it doesn’t harm to think of myself as a minor celebrity for a short while.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most has been sharing this experience with our loved ones. We’d originally planned to shut ourselves off for a while so we could find our feet and establish a routine, but as things were going so well, we wanted people to meet her straight away. Already she’s met a few of our friends, spent time with both sets of grandparents (who unfortunately don’t live particularly close) and my brother.
We’re now starting to pencil in everyone else that wants to come and meet her which is very exciting. Having recently taught the dog to fetch the post when it comes through the letter box, he’s also loved running back and forth with a letter in his mouth!
5. Take advice with a pinch of salt and do what you think is best: Throughout our journey into parenthood, we’ve had a lot of advice, be it from friends, family, the internet or NCT classes. This has been fine – both Hay and I like to get as much info as we can before disseminating it and finding our own approach.
The important thing though is not to just listen to others without listening to yourself. There is some kind of instinct that kicks in when you become a parent which helps you decide what is best. Yes, you might not do everything the “right” way to start with, but you find your own way of doing things. It is your family and your baby, so just do what you feel is best. If you are struggling, then obviously reach out to the number of support structures out there, but don’t take everything they say as gospel.
For instance, we were told that labour would be long and have a slow build up – in reality, Hay was fully dilated after 30 minutes and had given birth within 3.5 hours of her first contraction. Similarly, we were told the first few weeks would barely see us get any sleep, whereas in reality we’ve both had as many hours sleep as we did pre-baby. The thing that has annoyed me the most is the conflicting advice that is out there. The prime example is co-sleeping, whereas some people say it is fine whilst others say you shouldn’t do it at all.
Therefore, listen to all of the advice you are given, remember that it comes from good intentions, but also remember that every baby is different and only you know how best to deal with your kid.
There we go. That’s my five main reflections from my first week as a Dad. What do you think? Do you agree / disagree with anything I’ve written? If so, let me know in the comments below.