No one comes with a manual for children, but somehow I think women are more prepared, even though they are totally unprepared. Men however have an easier job but that job is completely self-taught. There are no lactation specialists. You get virtually zero help from friends or fathers, you are expected to figure everything out, on your own, while your wife has no idea what’s going on with her body as she adapts to changes in hormones and recovers from surgery or labor.
The birth is in a way straight forward. You just can’t lose your shit. The doctors are there and at one point I just had to make a choice: be with child or mother. I would go to child, check on her, and then come back to the mother. With cessarian the father actually is the first to see the child and she saw me first. I was the first human she saw when she opened her eyes, if she did actually see. She came out pink and tiny and so fragile and yet larger than I expected.
There is a sence of what the hell is this, who is this and at the same time you know the wife is there, needing your support and so you try to be there for her too.
After they wheel you out, there’s a quiet. You are together, with the baby but you have no idea what to do with it. You as a father can’t help because everything you read is forgotten. The nurses come and help with breast feeding and explain what will happen.
For the next few days, you watch a parade of nurses and doctors come and go trying to help your wife and all you can do is not get in the way and every once in a while change the baby diaper or put the baby in or out of he swaddle.
Getting Home/First Month
When you get home there is a lot of help. People help with meals, moms come and help with laundry and food. You can focus on the baby and learn to do all the things like feeding and diaper changes. You’re mostly just learning the baby language. The different cries and patters of what the baby needs right now. You learn that she won’t sleep if she isn’t changed and how to burp. You will freak out when she chokes and you have to do the baby Heimlich. You will not sleep fearing that the baby will not make it through the night. You might take the weigh and size down every time you are at the doctor. You will give formula if your wife’s milk hasn’t come in and you will realize that sludgy black diaper isn’t so bad and cleaning out the poop from vagina sounds worse than it is. You will learn the meaning of loud when the baby screams into your ear and the meaning of angry woman when you don’t hear or understand the wife. You will sleep actually ok, especially if you switch off as we did, with me taking her to bed and waking my wife at feedings as necessary and going to bed at three or five and sleeping till nine or ten. You will learn that you will have no time for work as the work on the baby rarely gives you time to do anything else.
After first month, the visit drop off from three to four a week to one or two and when they come, it is just to sit with the baby for a few hours. The baby if they grow become heavy and carrying them around in their baby seat is no longer easy. They now take longer time between diaper changes but they don’t become easier. Somehow feedings even if they latch or if you use the bottle, and diaper changes and all the other things take on a tedium unlike anything else. It is like a marathon and you are on the first mile. The sprint at beginning is over where you felt good, and now you realize just how far you have to go and how every single step is just a step. Entire run is just steps. You begin to wear on each others nerves. You forget about washing and your friends and family. You can barely remember an hour ago let alone a week ago. You are now on autopilot going through Kansas and there is nothing good to see. However, if you do go out, the baby sleeps a lot and so you can get away with going to a restaurant and you will get a ton of compliments.
The baby now smiles and you get to interact. But this also means that the baby eats more, fusses more and doing anything producing just got harder. They will hit a growth spurt and so they eat more and sleep more. They poop less often but bigger poops.
Family is less around, it is assumed that you have it figured out at this point, but you are actually more tired than ever. Daily changing, feeding, trying to get the baby to sleep starts to feel like one long dream. Days blend in. You are no longer sure if the baby is growing or not because you won’t see a doctor for another month. Wife’s milk supply might go down and now you have to add the bottle. None of these things are big, they are just different enough to make you not sure of what’s happening.