The Real ‘F’ Word: Fatherhood For Young Dads Expecting The Unexpected
Your special someone peed on a stick, and it came up positive. Welcome to the unexpected realm of fatherhood. Congratulations, your boys can swim! You’re probably experiencing a ping-pong of sensations that may include (but not limited to): total freak-outs, numb hands, sense of impending doom, deflated erections, swelling pride that you are, in fact, walking around with viable sperm. That’s all perfectly normal and to be expected. But what else will fatherhood bring?
Though it’s one of life’s great surprises, it’s surprisingly lacking in current information for the young dad trying to grapple with these storm of emotions. For those of you strapped into roller coaster of impending fatherhood (waiting for that big drop), here’s a crash course on what to expect at the start of the greatest ride of your life.
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The Baby Thing
Let's talk about the baby thing. Just because you're going to be dad, does that mean you can't hang out with your friends, go out drinking, have a hobby, go traveling, or have any freedom whatsoever? Sure, your priorities will shift, but it's important to remember that the baby is coming into your life not the other way around. Don't lose all sense of who you are and suddenly forego a healthy life balance because there's a baby in the house. Year one will require the lion's share of your attention, but though the days are long, the year is short. You'll be much happier in the long run if you and your partner can figure out that parent/person balance as soon as possible. A well-rounded you (and her) will only add harmony to the household.
Prepare to get advice from every Tom, Dick, and Sally this side of the Atlantic. New parents will tell you to get all kinds of stuff out of your system before the baby comes. Old parents will tell you what worked for them and what completely backfired. The guy behind the counter at Chipotle will tell you not to eat the hot salsa. Take it all with a grain of salt as you sort through and curate what words of wisdom make sense for you. After all, families are like mini-cults, and you and your baby mama get to make the rules of the game together, from scratch.
You used to be the undefeated gasbag in the house, but now your lady is giving you a run for your money. Why? Because her organs have shifted upward to make room for a growing person (imagine the pressure on those guts) and her diet is way junkier than normal. Just imagine you have an invisible pet duck running around the house blowing a horn all hours of the day and night and you won't feel outgassed.
Things are about to change in more ways than one. Give your baby mama the space and support she needs to undergo these massive changes without developing new scar tissue. Not only will her body be doing things it's never done before, her mind will be wrestling with skeletons in her closet that she never dealt with. Make the most of this golden opportunity and let her butterfly emerge.
You are about to learn some new words. Pitocin. Vernix. Doula. Translated from Ancient Greek, a doula is a "woman servant" who helps assist in the labor, from game plan to post-game wrap-up. Consider hiring one to guide you through the birthing wilderness. It's not expensive and having one increases the success rate of a healthy delivery. Where would Mike Tyson be without Coach D'Amato?
Where does your baby mama want to give birth? In a hospital, birthing center, or at home? Does she want to go au natural or be more drugged up than a '70s disco club? Each choice is valid and should be discussed thoroughly before arriving at a decision. Even though it's her show at the end of the day, don't be afraid to voice your opinion and reach a conclusion together. Another important thing to note: labor is just the beginning. Game plan that fourth trimester so it doesn't catch you off guard. Her hormones are going to plummet. There will be sleepless nights. You're going to have a new roommate that doesn't pay rent. Troubleshoot these things now so you don't find yourself looking like Dustin Hoffman at the end of The Graduate.
During the first few months of pregnancy, a woman's hormones double everyday. Don't sweat it if she gets a little moody from time to time. She may even chew your head off. Don't take it personally.
Forgetfulness, odd decision-making, and lapse in judgement are all symptoms of a pregnant brain. Researchers have discovered that the "foggy" feeling many expecting mothers experience is real, partially caused by a shrinking of the brain's grey matter. So if your baby mama can't remember your name or constantly forgets to tell you about your doctors appointments, don't worry. Her semi-fugue state will only last for a year or two (gulp).
You may be thinking that now would be a good time to win the lottery. Don't stress. Having a kid can be expensive, but there are ways to save for those expenses if you work as a team. Create a budget, open a baby-specific savings account, and start dropping dimes in there. Look into parent-community groups to find certain baby items secondhand. Be resourceful. And remember, the best things in life are free. Having a sense of humor, practicing kindness, and really being present during family time can go a long way, even when times are tight.
OK, so where does that leave you in all this? You may feel like your needs and wants are taking a total backseat during this process. You may feel overwhelmed, with no one to talk to. Hang in there. Everything will become more clear each step of the way. Lean on your friends and family for support. Pour your heart out to the mailman. Allow yourself to be vulnerable for a hot second. And constantly remind yourself that life is freaking hilarious. So keep laughing. You're going to be great.