First month from dad's perspective
First month from dad's perspective
Probably the biggest gulf that exists between the theory and practice of any 'profession' is that of parenting. Yes, I'd expected sleepless nights, crying and the rest, but I'd never experienced them before and when it happened, they came as a huge shock.
Our babies - twins - arrived on a Saturday morning. My wife and the boys stayed in hospital for just about 1 week. I'd rush home early from work, spend a few hours in the hospital until mother and babies were tired (early!), and then go home, watch television, go to bed at a sensible time, have an uninterrupted night's sleep, wake up in the morning and go to work again. It was easy being a father in the first week.
Plus, hordes of relatives descended, all eager to view, cuddle and change nappies. So, even in hospital everything was shared. Don't get me wrong, the feeling of holding my (our) babies in my arms, feeding them, bathing them, changing them and getting them dressed was indescribably wonderful - but it was not as yet even a part-time (let alone full-time) occupation.
There used to be no place like home...
The first thing I noticed was how slowly my wife was moving. At the time I was thinking 'Hmm, what about my plans for cooking dinner (I've always done the cooking; fatherhood had no impact on that aspect of my domestic behaviour) and then snuggling up together on the sofa' (snuggling up only - I wasn't that insensitive!) before a nice early night. It seemed, though, that things just always took that bit longer.
Still, carrying one of my babies across the threshold was a very special experience - and putting him down in his cot in the room that we'd specially decorated was very emotional.
First night nerves
Well, although I'd argue strongly that having twins is wonderful and that I wouldn't want to go back again and start with just one, during the first month I probably wouldn't have agreed with myself. Having one baby must be bad enough; having two, eating at completely different times every hour and a half... well, doing the maths means that the most sleep we could expect to get between feeds would be about 30 minutes and with some feeds taking over half an hour this worked out at even less.
OK, I must confess, my mother-in-law stayed to help for the first month, so there were several of us to split the night-time duty (with my wife on full-time duty with the breastfeeding).
After the first night I figured that it wasn't going to be too bad - the slight hangover-like feeling in the morning disappeared after a few cups of coffee. However, the cumulative effect of the first week and then no rest even at the weekend... this was beginning to hurt.
Sharing the pain
Of course, though, if I had it bad then my wife was in much worse shape - pains from the stitching, even less sleep, and a husband who had the audacity to claim to be tired too!
Actually apart from copious quantities of tears (hers) we didn't experience any particular stresses in our relationship. However, it didn't take that long for me to realise quite how easy my life was in comparison and I tried to help as much as possible.
Getting out and about
We gave them their first taste of society at the advanced age of 1 week. And, I'd recommend to any new parents that they need to get out with their new child/children as early as possible - if only to prove that you can do it. It has all sorts of other advantages. People tell you that you (and more importantly your partner) look wonderful - all things being considered - and they coo over your child/children and, most importantly, they OFFER TO HELP! So, take the plunge.
The sex thing
Well, I guess it has to be mentioned, after all no one would believe me if I said that I hadn't thought about sex at least once in the first month. We expected some post-birth bleeding and, with the trauma of birth, imagined we would have a reasonable period of enforced abstinence. However, my wife bled for 8 weeks and was in pain from the stitching for some weeks longer. It took some courage on both sides to initiate any activity but thankfully everything still worked. So guys, don't worry, birth isn't the end of sex (let's face it, plenty of couples have more then one child) - but be patient and considerate.
My work didn't appear to suffer too much over the first few months. I never mastered the ability of sleeping on the train to supplement the interrupted nights, but with copious caffeine and a (reasonably) sympathetic boss (who'd also recently become a father) I seemed to muddle through. I would recommend though not starting any overly ambitious projects just prior to birth since they will suffer (or if they don't then you're not pulling your weight at home!).
You will never feel as tired as your partner, so whoever else you moan to don't moan to your spouse!
Cherish the early days as much as possible. If you spend the first weeks or months resenting this interruption to your routine you will regret it; you'll never be able to recapture the intimacy of holding your child in your arms, feeding, singing and generally being a dad. Often you'll be sharing responsibilities, but when it's one on one, you are their world.