This article is for any men out there who are going to become fathers for the first time. Congratulations! Feeling scared yet? Sure you are! This is way out of your comfort zone. We men need to help each other as much as possible, so sit back, read my tips learned the hard way, and prepare to scare yourself shitless.
By the way, I’m “over-delivering” on this article and giving you 15 tips instead of the 10 advertised.
Before the birth
- Nature hasn’t prepared men well to be fathers. While some mums claim to have a “maternal instinct” the only instinct a man has when confronted with fatherhood is to run like hell and try to hide. This is perfectly normal and you are allowed to do this once. On the other hand, screaming, “It’s not mine! I didn’t do it!” is not helpful, so just grow up.
- To prepare yourself mentally for what is to come, rewatch Alien, especially the bit where the alien monster bursts out of John Hurt’s stomach, splattering blood and gore all over the room. Then you’ll be ready for the big day.
- Prepare some sandwiches and put them in the freezer. I know they’re going to be disgusting when defrosted, but that’s the only food you’ll get during labour, so just do it.
During the birth
- Strictly no video cameras. Your partner won’t thank you if this childbirth thing ends up on Facebook. You might find yourself back in hospital with a couple of broken bones.
- Wear old clothes. You’re going to want to throw them out as soon as you get home, unless you enjoy cleaning up blood, vomit and urine stains.
- Women are designed to cope with pain. Men aren’t. Talk to the midwife about your pain relief options, like gas and air, and possibly an epidural. Even if your partner insists on a natural birth for herself, make sure you get all the drugs modern medicine can supply.
- During labour, obey all commands issued by your partner immediately and without question, even if they appear to be pointless or self-contradictory. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- Do not make any suggestions or ask any questions. The answer to any of your questions will always be, “No, you can’t!”
After the birth
- Relax. Experience awe. You have brought into this world a creature of infinite beauty and unlimited potential. OK, that’s enough relaxing! Now it’s time to start the real work.
- In a world where we aren’t expected to take much real responsibility, it’s a shock when, a couple of days after the birth, you are handed a mewling, puking infant and told that you can take her home and look after her now. Don’t embarrass yourself by asking for a User Manual. Just stay calm and try not to panic.
- Forget everything you’ve read about “quality time.” Instead, roll up your sleeves, change a nappy (diaper) and volunteer to do the midnight feed. Bond with your baby in the early days and all your time together will be quality time.
- Beware of projectile poo while changing nappies. I’m not going to say any more on this subject. Just, beware.
- You might think that people hold widely diverse beliefs about religion and politics, but that’s nothing compared to opinions about childcare. Believe me, if World War III ever breaks out, it’ll be started by opposing mothers-in-law arguing about the right way to breastfeed. Everyone you meet will give you their own advice, but just make up your own mind.
- Don’t say anything stupid like, “I think things are starting to get back to normal.” Let’s be clear about this. Things are never going to return to normal. Normal is gone forever. Forget about it and move on.
- Enjoy being a Dad. It’s a huge responsibility but truly a privilege. Remind yourself of that whenever it feels like shit.