In anticipation of the soon-arrival of his friend Christian’s first baby, James Beck, dad to two little girls, has penned an open letter to him.
So you are about to meet your first child.
Some people describe having your first baby by saying things like, “You are about to become a family,” but you have been a family since the moment that you and your Mrs said ‘I do’.
- The emotional tangle of being a dad
- Learning to dad – poop, postnatal depression and silver linings
- Five things parents-to-be worry about
You have already set up a family culture of fun, inclusiveness and always seeing the best, even in some really challenging situations. This is the culture that your child will join. You are not becoming a family, you are inviting a new life into your family.
And to be honest, if I could be the baby joining your family, I would be stoked. Not just because it would be nice to have someone else deal with all of my crap, but because even though you have never been a dad before, you have all the skills that you need to be a great dad.
Here are some skills you have –
You are great at teaching people to do tricks
Any tricks. Skateboard tricks, Snowboard tricks, wizard stick tricks. The reason you are so great at teaching people tricks is because you are encouraging, optimistic and help people to learn from their mistakes. To be honest man, this is pretty much all being a parent is. Encouraging your wife, being optimistic (unless your baby has a high temperature, then don’t be optimistic – be rational and realistic and go to the doctor, even if its 3am. It’s better to be told nothing is wrong and then go to McDonalds and get a soft serve cone) and learning from your mistakes.
A word on nappies
I have made many a mistake. Many of the worst ones involved nappies. Keep in mind that they are called nappies, not nappy. Why? Because you always need more than one. Never underestimate how many times a tiny human can poo into their own pants and then be upset about what they have just done. (Keep in mind babies have no concept of consequences until they are like 25. So when they are born you are fully responsible for their life, and when they are 25 they are fully responsible for their life. And as each year goes by, they become about four percent more responsible for themselves.)
Nappies need to have no gaps around the legs – thats where all of the chaos occurs. Also poo sometimes explodes from the back of the nappy and up the baby’s back. It is yuck and weird and you will find yourself thinking, “How can such a tiny human get so much poo from there to there?” But step back, be stoked on the physics of the whole thing and celebrate the fact that you have learned to always carry more than one nappy.
Another skill that you have is talking
Not all dudes are good at talking but you are. For the first year of your kid’s life, there are two really crazy important things for you to do –
- Hold your baby. Seriously. Physical touch will grow your kid’s brain.
- Talk to them. Actually just make noises. Sing to them, tell them stories, read them books, tell them what you are doing (unless you are creating a cryptocurrency-based meme – that will probably be too advanced for them).
It will be the weirdest and most one-sided conversation you will have ever had in your life. But if the strength of a relationship is communication, then start early.
I now have the opposite problem. which is my kids never stop talking – but not only do they love talking, they love talking to me. If there is one goal that I have as a parent, it is to keep the conversation going with my kids, and you start that conversation when they are born.
Another skill that you have is being thrifty as
This is a great skill! I love your ability to find free chewing gum stuck to public objects no matter where you go.
Being thrifty is an important skill to have as a new parent, because when you have a child you are also confronted with the weight and responsibility of protecting and providing for your kid. In our culture, marketers have teamed up with big companies to work out how to turn your mild anxiety into profit for them.
Seriously, if you walk into any baby-related shop, you will be amazed by the sheer amount of products that claim to be the best thing for your kid and their development, and the safest and healthiest to give them the best start. Blah blah blah. Almost all of it is stuff that the majority of parents throughout history never had and did not need. So don’t get sucked into buying the newest, fanciest stuff.
Babies only really need a few things – food, somewhere safe to sleep, attention and love. They don’t really need – an iPad stand next to their cot, a pram with a cupholder, a car seat with built-in speakers, an overpriced Buzzy Bee toy or a pillow. (FYI – babies don’t use pillows).
Having said that I think there are two things you shouldn’t be thrifty about if you can afford not to be:
1. A good cot mattress
Your baby will probably be in a bassinet for a wee while, but once they move into a cot, get them a good mattress. Seriously, they will spend a whole lot of time, on that mattress, breathing in it and through it. So try and buy something that’s natural and chemical-free (a particularly lush, fully organic section of your lawn will not suffice).
2. Buy/rent a high quality capsule/car seat
Now these things seem expensive and it seems like a really easy place to save some dollars. But don’t. If you were to have an accident, you would want to know that you had done everything that you could to keep your kid safe. And at that point you would wish that you had spent the extra money instead of saving $100 to invest into your cryptocurrency portfolio.
Another skill that you have is music skills
I know that you used these skills to woo your Mrs, now use these skills to impress your kid. Music is so good for your baby’s brain (with the exception of Ringo Starr’s solo albums). Yes, you can play music off your phone, but there is nothing like the soundwaves that a guitar or a ukulele make as they go into your baby’s ears (as long as you are not too close). So sing to them, make up a new family song and get your baby to sing along. They will suck at singing until they are about four, but encourage them all the same.
Another skill that you have is learning new skills
To be fair, this is probably the best skill you have. From now on you will be learning new things about yourself and your wife and your baby all the time. So pay attention, and attempt to master as many new skills as you can.
Master the nappy change. Set yourself a goal, time yourself and then go for a PB. Become an expert at the hand actions for Incy Wincy Spider, remember all of the words to There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed A Fly, set a best time to get to and from the supermarket for baby-related supplies, learn every Wiggles song ever (apart from this one – it’s weird as. Seriously clapping doesn’t put people to sleep, neither does bowing).
If you are open to learning new things, and celebrating the small things then you will love being a dad.
The last skill that you have is being a loyal dude
According to research there is no time in your wife’s life that she will feel less desirable. Now I have very little experience as a woman who has just given birth – none in fact, but I have watched it a couple of times (I’ll come back to that). But it must be strange to go from being fully independent, having ample amounts of time to put into choosing clothes and doing your hair and make-up and being able to go shopping and getting good sleep and having good adult conversations all day, to having no time for any of that.
Now this is true all of the time, but it is especially true in the first year of your wife’s life after she has had a baby. Remind her constantly how beautiful she is, how amazing she is, how hard she is working, how much you love her and that she is your priority.
Postnatal depression happens for many women for many reasons, but a huge contributing factor can sometimes be that her sense of self or self-worth almost disappears, so as she feeds your baby, feed her soul with your love.
It’s kinda like a horror movie, only you actually care about the main character and you don’t take popcorn.
Now. No one told me about the mucus plug. I went all the way through antenatal classes and no one told me. So let me just give you a heads up. One of the first things that happens leading up to birth is the mucus plug comes out. A mucus plug is this bloody mucusy thing that seals the cervix during pregnancy, and leading up to labour, it comes out. It’s a bit yuck, it might be your job to clean it up, so just be warned. My dog tried to eat it when it happened during my wife’s first labour, so try and avoid that.
The contractions will get intense and it will be almost impossible for you to empathise. My suggestion is to take lollies. Mostly to offer to the midwife and anyone else helping out. You will be way out of your depth, but they have done it all before, so giving them lollies will encourage them to do the best job that they can do, and also demonstrate your willingness to help.
First time round, I told myself that I wasn’t actually going to look, you know, at the exit. Robbie Williams described seeing his wife give birth as, “Like watching your favourite pub burn down.” And while I see what he is getting at, it’s more like your favourite pub is getting a renovation. I can tell you a couple of things. Firstly, the fact that a baby can come out of there is amazing and it’s worth a look. Secondly, seeing what your wife actually has to go through will hopefully create some empathy.
Post-birth things will probably be physically different. Sex after having a baby is different, but sex is more than just a physical experience. And the amazing thing is that because of what you have both been through, sex can actually be even better than before because you are more connected than ever before.
When I became a dad, I told myself that I would never use the sentence, “You have to be a parent to understand.” I always hated when people said that. But bro, I am stoked that you are joining the club, that we will be able to share the highs and the lows, the amazing things and the crazy things, the poo stories and the spew stories and everything that you only really get to experience when you are a dad.
And for that reason more than any other, I can’t wait for you to become a dad, because it is going to be epic to get to share the ‘being a dad’ part of my life with one of my best mates.
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