One of the first things an expectant Dad learns is that a due date is purely a guess. Babies will come at any time, day or night. This is Dad’s first lesson in not being able to be in control. Reading books about baby care is helpful, but remember to take any advice in them with a grain of salt. Every baby is a perfectly unique little individual and guidelines about what they might do at a certain age are just that, guidelines. Little ones do not come with instructions. This is another of those first things that new Dads learn.
Be prepared to fall totally, completely and helplessly in love with this new little life, and perhaps to be a bit terrified at the same time. This is totally normal and has been a part of fatherhood since the beginning of time. Be prepared for the mixed emotions that happen, everything from overwhelming and pure joy to sometimes frustration and even anger. These are all normal emotions. It’s how you deal with the mixed emotions that can make new fatherhood a wonderful experience.
One crucial and sometimes overlooked detail is to make sure that a high quality car seat is carefully and correctly installed in the car before the baby is even born. Most hospitals today won’t even let you leave the hospital with a new baby unless there is a car seat in the car. In some places, Police and Fire stations offer to help expectant parents to install infant car seats correctly. Take them up on their offer of help, especially if this is your first experience with a car seat.
In the beginning, the only way the baby has to communicate with you is to cry. There are many reasons that they cry. Try to go through a mental list and check off what could be wrong until you get to the reason. Then again, some babies cry for seemingly no reason. That’s something many well-meaning parenting books don’t prepare new parents for. Luckily, this phase only lasts a short time. It can be very frustrating though while it’s happening. Just try to remember that this is baby’s only way to communicate. They are not crying to attempt to anger or frustrate you, they have no idea how to even do that. If necessary, hand the baby off, take turns, and take a parental “time out”. This can be very helpful. It seems that babies can sense if a parent is tired and frustrated, and they become upset. If one parent can step in refreshed and ready to take over, it can be very helpful for everyone.
If you have a deadline and have to be someplace with the baby at a specific time, always start preparing extra early and allow extra time. This is a Murphy’s law type of situation. When you are in a hurry and have to go somewhere, baby will poop, puke, or have some other emergency on the way out the door. And it will probably be a messy one. It may require new clothing or a bath. And if you are very unlucky, it will require a trained Hazmat team to clean it up. In keeping with the messy theme, always have a change of clothing along for baby and possibly for parents. Chances are the messiest emergencies will happen when you are out somewhere and need a change of clothing.
Try to be sure each parent has little breaks from parenting. This makes both parents much more effective. Always take parenting advice with a grain of salt and try not to blindly follow fads. Most importantly, enjoy every minute of your blossoming little ones development. These times will never happen again. You will make mistakes with your child. No parent is perfect, but kids are very resilient. With lots of love they will do fine, and you will too.