– Yes…this is my first post in over 2 years, and it’s about me being a new parent – am I a daddy blogger now…? (no).
I’ll never forget waking up on the morning of the 14th December 2013. Not only was it my first year wedding anniversary, but I also awoke to my wife Emily crying, jumping all over me and splashing something in my face.
I gave myself a little slack for being confused given I was immediately also slapped in the face with a monstrous hangover (caused in part by an excellent degustation at The Lakehouse in Daylesford, but mostly by the matched wines). What the hell was going on? I realised Emily was crying and couldn’t quite figure out if this was a good or a bad thing until I focused on this little white stick with a blue line.
Oh boy. I’m a Dad. We’re parents.
It was by no means a surprise, we had been planning this for almost six months, however I didn’t think we would get pregnant so quickly. Shortly after realising the moisture I could feel splashing on my face was urine, I then calculated that we’d got pregnant on our first try. Amazing. Celebrations ensured and I didn’t stop smiling for months.
Fast forward to the 2nd September 2014, after several scans, months of tension and a final few stressful weeks, I was proudly holding my baby boy, Oliver, in my arms. I won’t go into the long story about the pregnancy and even longer story about labour, other than to say that the COSMOS midwives at The Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne are fantastic. I am still overwhelmed by how incredible these women are and can’t recommend the Cosmos Program enough.
Oliver is 7 weeks old now and it has literally flown by. I am by no means an expert, I’m learning how to be a father/parent/partner just like any other new dad but I felt compelled to share what I have learnt in this short time in the hope it helps somebody, somewhere, who may be a dad in the near future. These are the things I value.. everyone is different so I’m sure some people will disagree. That’s fine – you do whatever works for you.
Do Every Nappy Change – So Much Win
A few weeks before Oliver was due I went to a ‘Dads group’ at the Royal Womens. The few people I told I was going had a little chuckle and wondered whether it was just a group for sharing bad-jokes, however on reflection it was the best thing I ever did. Sharing thoughts, worries and ideas with fellow Dads-to-be was invaluable and I took away one piece of advice that really resonated.
Do every nappy change. Every…single…one.
As Dads, we can’t do the feeding (unless its by bottle obviously). Mums build an incredible bond by feeding 8-12 times per day and having all that eye contact. Change time is, for me, my time. Not only is it my chance to get that eye contact and enjoy the smiles, but it’s also something that I know is a great help to Emily.
Secondly, the dad group discussed how it makes Mum feel when she’s explaining to other Mums and family how her partner does all the nappy changes. Not only does Mum feel great, but it makes me feel great too for something that I actually have fun doing and I feel that Oliver enjoys it too.
Get Skin to Skin Contact – It’s Amazing
When Emily asked me to ensure I got skin to skin contact with our baby immediately after birth I was in two minds. Firstly, I didn’t really fancy the idea of sitting with my top off in front of a load of nurses and secondly I didn’t like the idea of the baby trying to have a go on my nipple. I’ve got nipples Greg, can you milk me?
However, given the circumstances of our labour, I was tasked with taking the then un-named Oliver away for some time whilst we waited for Emily. Given that Emily had gone through so much and the little guy was out in this wild new, cold, loud world …taking my top to hold my Son off didn’t seem like anything weird. I held him tight, skin on skin and it calmed us both down. What a feeling.
I’ll never forget how peaceful I felt. We felt. Father and Son. I can’t recommend it enough.
Pre-freeze Healthy(ish) Homemade Meals
A bit of a boring one, but it pays dividends. There will be days when you simply can’t even think past the next word, let alone the next meal. You’ll be in no place to start hitting the supermarket and exploring your inner Nigella in the kitchen so you need a backup plan.
The alternative – microwaveable meals or takeaways – are tempting but the truth is that they won’t give you the nutrients you need to be a healthy, happy and alert parent. You’ll feel tired, irritable and probably get sick and put on weight. This is especially worrying if you’re breast feeding.
Before Oliver was born we (Emily) pre-made a tonne of freezable meals; soups, lasagne, chile, gyoza, healthy deserts etc. It was amazingly useful. Not only was it cheaper, but also healthier and even more convenient than takeaway as we just had to throw it in then oven before a feed or before we collapsed.
Arrange Finances & Cash Flow = Less Headaches
Depending on your situation you probably need to start thinking about cash flow for the first couple of months and/or year(s). For us, Emily was taking a year off of work and so we were to survive on a single salary which has it’s challenges – especially when you envisage expenses going up with nappies, clothes, toys, etc.
We found visiting a financial planning class helpful and subsequently restructured our banking configuration and cash flow for income, expenditure and savings as well as classifying all spending between ‘need’ or ‘want’. It’s proven invaluable and really helped avoid any stress caused by financial pressure. In truth, I found that just cutting out buying one coffee a day pays for nappies and family and friends have been so extremely generous in helping with clothes and accessories that we haven’t felt it too much.
In short, I’d recommend starting to look at what you can cut back on, which direct debits you have and assess which accounts you are using for income and outgoings. We found that consolidating all income and outcomes into one account made everything a lot more visible and manageable… but, each to their own…
Get Your Sleep – Your Family Needs You
One thing that really annoyed me on the run up to being a Dad was all the people saying ‘get all the sleep that you can!’… what does that even mean? I can’t bank it. It’s not credit. If anything, it served me better to get used to not having sleep – under my own terms! OK, rant over.
However, for the first few weeks or so I thought I was Super Dad. I would and could do everything. Working, cooking, cleaning, wiping, changing, driving, shopping etc and I thought this was what I had to do.
Boy, was I wrong. It didn’t last long before I hit a wall and just couldn’t do it any more. It wasn’t great but I was lucky that I hit it whilst visiting family so could sleep it off. My dad said to me ‘don’t exhaust yourself Andrew. Recognise and respect the signs – take a break and look after yourself too’. He was right – and ever since then I’ve made sure I, and Emily, get our sleep to as without us Oliver can’t survive.
Priorities Change – Get Ready For It
Ever since Oliver was born I’ve felt a wave of calm flow over me.
Everything else in life is just noise. All I care about is my family; my wife and my boy. I’m still hugely passionate about my work and love what I do every day, but any issues I face at work pail in comparison to anything I could experience at home and they’ve become a lot easier to approach and resolve. There are more important things to worry about.
Perhaps it’s different for everyone but my parting advice would be to think about what is important to you now and imagine a scenario when that…well… just isn’t important to you anymore.
So… that’s me really. I know I have a whole lot more to learn. It’s a roller coaster and I’m by no means that person who’s just got on and thinks they know it all. It’s going to be amazing and I can’t wait for all the up, downs and loop-the-loops fatherhood throws at me.