By: Dan Peterson
Sleep: It’s the most important advice I can offer to a father-to-be.
Sleep now while you can. Go to bed early. Sleep in. Once the baby comes, sleep deprivation will be something you will fully understand. Unfortunately, enjoying a restful night’s sleep may become impossible even before the baby arrives. Toward the end of your partner’s pregnancy, she’s likely to be too uncomfortable to sleep well. Her back will hurt, the baby will kick her in the ribs, and she’ll have to pee — a lot. My best advice is if your partner can’t sleep, you should be supportive. Make her a snack, rub her back, and whatever you do, do not bury your head under the pillows and ignore her. She’ll make you regret it in the morning — trust me.
After the baby is born, your sleeping patterns will never be the same. Expect to be up every two to three hours for the first three to four months, and even though you will not always be awake for long periods of time, these short interruptions will really mess up your sleep. Remember to stay calm and stay positive — especially with your partner. Lack of sleep will make you very irritable, and you may say things you later regret. Remember to count to three and breathe before you say or do anything you may not really mean. This is a stressful time for both of you, and yelling or saying unkind words will not make anything easier. It will be a frustrating first few months — and perhaps a frustrating first year — and the only way to get through it is by working together and loving each other.
Be prepared to take on more chores around the house. Adding a baby to your life will take a lot of time and work. To compensate for this, both of you will have to put in extra effort to keep your home orderly and clean. Keeping a clean house is one way to keep your sanity. Watching bills and laundry pile up will only add to the amount of stress you will undoubtedly experience. If your partner usually pays the bills, sit with her before the baby comes so you can help out if she is too tired to handle this the first month after the baby is born. If you usually only wash your own clothes, wash hers too. Remember: Don’t wash her white clothes with her red sweater. This will not turn out well.
When leaving the house — even if you are only going to be gone for a few hours — be prepared for the journey to and from the car to take as long as the journey itself. With all the additional supplies and getting your new baby in and out of the car seat, getting ready to go and packing it all up will take some time. Even though you may not think all of the supplies are necessary, if your partner does, your best bet is not to argue and go along with her. She usually knows best, anyway.
My daughter is 9 months old now, and her personality is really starting to come through. Every day, she learns something new and makes us laugh while she performs her new tricks. She is still a lot of work — but in different ways. Sleep is a little easier – although she is teething now and last night I got a total of three hours of sleep — but she is a lot harder to keep happy while awake. The longer she has been with us, the more normal this new life has become, sleep deprivation and all. Is it worth it? You would be hard pressed to find a new father who would tell you “no.” My daughter, like all children, has brought so much laughter and love into our home that I wouldn’t have it any other way; although, I do wish she would learn to sleep past 6 a.m. on Sunday mornings. Good luck, and remember to thank your partner. Not only for carrying your baby for nine months and then giving birth, but for understanding that adjusting to this new life is just as hard for you as it is for her.
Need more advice? Check out Atlantic Publishing’s new book, I’m Going to be a Dad: Now What? Everything You Need to Know About First-time Fatherhood.
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