By Jayvee Fernandez
Dear new father,
Hello! Congratulations for bearing witness to the miracle of life. You now have your child right before your very eyes. How does it feel? Are you scared? Are you happy? You know what they say—words cannot describe how you feel right now because you are experiencing a rush of emotions, many of which are feelings you have never felt before.
Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. As for performing your role in the creation of life, the journey of parenthood begins now. Because time is of the essence (as a parent you will not have time for anything so get used to it), let’s get straight to the point. One of the more immediate concerns is learning to keep your new baby alive. Your baby will always be hungry. Every two hours. Every three hours. Something like that. No surprise, baby will want milk. Most likely from mommy.
Father to Father
Every new father passes on a secret list to fellow dads. I’m here to make it easier and just tell you what to expect in the coming months, in case you don’t have daddy friends (As a parent, you won’t have time for friends anymore, so get used to it!).
When my eldest son was born, the proud father in me just had to post on Facebook, and amid the usual c o n g r a t u l a t o r y messages, one stood out. A friend left a comment (paraphrased) “say goodbye to perfect nipples.” I didn’t know what that meant until I went through the motions of supporting my wife in her breastfeeding journey. Thankfully, we were blessed with hungry babies, meaning they didn’t have problems latching. For those who are new to this word, latch happens when the baby’s mouth is properly attached onto the breast to feed.
Make it comfortable for her
Here’s the first lesson: When your new baby gets brought to your hospital room, you need to support your wife by helping your child latch. It may hurt (her) and the visuals may actually turn you off. Now here’s the important part: DON’T FREAK OUT. There may be blood. There may be a bit of screaming. You don’t need to wonder why that’s happening. At this point, all you should be thinking about is your wife. She did all the work! You did nothing but watch.
‘You need to be absolutely supportive with two phrases, “You can do it!” and “Let’s not give up!”’
Now, even if the breastfeeding part is her show, you need to be absolutely supportive with two phrases, “You can do it!” and “Let’s not give up!” As the one not breastfeeding, your job is to make her experience very comfortable. Rocking chairs work. Comfy sofa beds can also do. Those breastfeeding pillows are a must as well. What’s important is to communicate with her and know her needs. That being said…
Be an active participant by anticipating needs
Sometimes — and this is important — your wife may experience depression. It is mostly postpartum depression caused by a number of things. New mommy will no longer have time for herself for the first six months, at least. So I suggest you grab a piece of paper and take down notes: The number of her OB-gyne, the list of chores that need to be accomplished on a daily basis, groceries, and other things that need to be accomplished. The list goes on: Contribute by giving her an excel spreadsheet of the pros and cons of breast pump brands, order lactation cookies online, figure out the plan for storing extra breast milk in the freezer, come up with a backup plan in case the power goes out and you can’t freeze her milk, learn how to sterilize! If she’s tired, take the baby and let her sleep.
Do you find this list daunting? Well, that’s because you’re a parent now and there’s no return, no exchange. But really, isn’t this one of the beauties of marriage? They call this growing together as a couple.
Remember that it gets better
Many couples tend to forget themselves in the first several months of becoming new parents. Baths were not taken. Clothes were not changed. Beards not shaved. Beds were unslept. When all seems hopeless, veteran parents will tell the rookies that it all just gets better. Take it one day at a time. And sooner the days become months and then years. And then your kid starts walking and answering back at you, and that’s a completely different problem. You will heave a sigh and remember the “good old days” when someone else is playing with your wife’s boobs, and everything is right in the world.