How does it feel when the nurse hands you a bundle wrapped in new responsibilities? Congratulations, you’re a Dad! “Overwhelmed” couldn’t even begin to describe the mixed bag of emotions a New Dad feels. It doesn’t matter if the baby was planned or “accidental”, the truth is, the first few weeks of bringing home a newborn is daunting at both physical and emotional levels. Parenting is a daunting task and more so for the first time parents. New Dads are typically bewildered and confused, and find it difficult to process that they are actually a father, even after an eternal nine-month long wait. The news usually takes time to sink in.
Mr. Husband was in a state of utter bewilderment when our tiny human was handed to him. One can fairly get an idea of the extent of Mr. Husband’s bewilderment from the fact that each time when someone asked him how old the baby was, he would look towards me, pleadingly, asking to save him from embarrassment. Because, precisely, my man here doesn’t exactly know how old our baby is; leave alone expecting of him to remember baby’s vaccination schedule. Poor soul! How he wished the baby came with a user manual.
While to new moms parenting comes rather instinctive and intuitive since they are said to be “programmed” for this, for clueless puzzled New Dads it’s more of an on-the-job-training. Mr. Husband had to learn the basics, step-by-step.
So while Mr. Husband was uninformed and unsure about the whole parenting thing, it actually helps to make a difference by being a know-it-all-Dad. Here I’m listing 5 pieces of the solved puzzle from the firsthand experience of fatherhood from a New Dad.
New Dad Puzzle No. 1: Why don’t I feel love for my newborn?
It’s said that motherly love is mostly instinctive whereas fatherly love is a learned behaviour. Mothers feel instant love for their newborns since they have been growing and nurturing them in their womb for nine months. But a New Dad may not feel the connection instantly. Though it’s common, to some New Dads it doesn’t come naturally. They find it difficult to admit and comprehend the lack of emotion and find themselves wondering if something’s wrong with them. Some New Dads even find themselves drowned in guilt and self-pity for not doing it right. But there’s no shame in admitting if a New Dad has problems bonding with the baby.
For us, Mr. Husband felt that instant connection with our baby when he first saw Shaarav. They hit it off instantly. His bond to Shaarav is even stronger than mine. All thanks to me that I kept asking him to talk and sing to the baby bump throughout the pregnancy. He felt the connection built for the first time when he felt Shaarav kick in the womb. Shaarav had been responding to his Papa’s voice ever since. He would respond with an immediate kick or nudge whenever his Papa talked to him. Mr. Husband couldn’t thank me enough for this. But still, at times I could see hesitancy and puzzled expressions on his face which he needed little guidance with.
New Dad Tip No. 1:
Don’t despair if that instant love doesn’t happen. You can totally give a rest to the societal pressure of immediately falling in love with the baby as soon as you look at or hold the baby. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. In order to foster bonding with your little one, the physical touch and skin-to-skin contact is the most important. Talking and singing to the baby making eye contacts, particularly helps in a good bonding experience. The love gradually develops as you become an involved father engaging yourself in burping the baby, changing diapers, and rocking the baby to sleep. You are eventually, very certainly, going to fall for their cute angelic face, those bright, twinkling eyes and, boy oh boy, those perfect toothless smiles. And it won’t be late when you will find yourself basking in the glory of your own “masterpiece”.
New Dad Puzzle No. 2: How to hold these tiny creatures?
Holding these tiny human beings can be utterly terrifying and extremely intimidating. They are so tiny when they are born and in a couple of days, they shrink even more, and more so when the baby has a low birth weight baby or is born prematurely. Newborns have a soft and delicate head with no control on their neck whatsoever and need constant support to avoid injury.
Though Shaarav was a big baby compared to others, in spite of it, Mr. Husband was petrified to hold him. When the nurse tried to hand over the baby to Mr. Husband, he froze and just stood there for some good 10-15 seconds gaping at the nurse with his mouth wide open. I believe his jaws could have touched the floor had he not come to his senses in another 5 seconds or so. He had this bewildered look on his face as if saying they were committing a sin by asking him to hold this fragile thing. How could they? It was quite a scene and though my stitches hurt, I still had a hearty laugh. It was hilarious. I remember he had difficulty picking up the baby. And when the baby was handed to him, he would first take positions (deciding which side he wanted the baby’s the head to be) but after that, he would be just fine. Once he mastered the art, rest is history.
New Dad Tip No. 2:
The most important thing in holding a newborn is to cradle the neck and head in a comfortable position to give them support. Just don’t shake, throw or drop the baby. Put your common sense to use. Rest you must be fine and live to see another day and tell another story!
New Dad Puzzle No. 3: How to soothe a crying baby?
Newborns can cry for various reasons and crying is the only way they know of to communicate and express them. So if they are hungry, or feel sleepy, or need to be changed or are tired or are sick, they are going to communicate by crying (read howling). Small babies can be quite a howler.
Shaarav was a howler when he needed a change and Mr. Husband would wake up from sleep with a pounding headache all confused and annoyed. God bless him! But Shaarav has always been a very calm and happy baby and he seldom cried even as a baby. But on occasions that he did, he was difficult to calm and Mr. Husband, unable to comfort him, would just hand him to me to soothe. You see babies are intelligent creatures. They are brilliant at picking up emotions and sensing your fear. Babies are able to “mirror you” as they spend a large amount of the little time that they are awake in studying faces and expressions, especially their parents’. Babies use all their senses to identify and differentiate other people from their caregivers.
New Dad Tip No. 3:
Don’t take it personally when your baby begins to cry just looking at you or the instant you hold him. While it’s a good idea if you want to hoard on earplugs, it’s even better to know the tips and tricks of calming a cranky and crying baby. You need to show them that you’re confident, even when you’re not. Babies particularly begin to relax once they begin to feel your growing confidence. You might as well try rocking them gently as most babies love motion. Shaarav would also feel comfort from tenderly talking and enjoy the “one-sided” conversations.
New Dad Puzzle No. 4: How to change those dirty diapers?
For the first three months, there will be poop, lots and lots of it – in different colours, in different textures, in different smells, also in different quantities and probably in different sizes too. It’s always good to be prepared and stock up on diapers if that’s what you are going to use. Now changing diapers or even nappies for that matter can be really tricky when you have a squirmy and wriggly baby in hand. It might get messy if you are not careful. They can sweep their hands whenever and wherever they like.
Since I had a c-section and was on analgesic I could not move. Each time the baby pooped Mr. Husband would run to call the nurse on the charge to clean him up. Alas! The nurse had enough and gave him a good scold (giggle)! She challenged his fatherhood and he took that as a challenge to master the messy art. There was once this very famous incident when as soon as Mr. Husband opened Shaarav’s diapers for changing him, Shaarav let out a massive poop-explosion and Mr. Husband was all covered in poop. That was epic! I’m sure he has lots of poop stories to share with Shaarav when he grows up!
New Dad Tip No. 4:
So to avoid all the mess, before changing the diaper don’t forget to place a changing mat beneath as you never know just when you are busy cleaning up the puddles you can get a downpour. Give your baby something sensory to hold, such as a musical toy, lighting toy or pacifier so that his hands are busy while you change without messing up. Trust me on this.
New Dad Puzzle No. 5: How to make a newborn sleep?
Newborns spend about 16-18 hours sleeping. But yet it can be quite an uphill task to get an over-stimulated baby to sleep. Babies can both be heavy and light sleepers. Babies are used to living in close and dark quarters of the womb, and imitating the same helps them to relax and aid in making them sleep.
I don’t understand what it is with Shaarav and Mr. Husband that they enjoy each other’s company a lot. I mean “a lot”. Although Shaarav is a light sleeper and tends to wake up at the slightest noise, he still manages to sleep peacefully beside Mr. Husband despite him being a heavy snorer. Take note, when I say a heavy snorer I really mean a really heavy one. I have countless pictures of them sleeping skin-on-skin on his chest. Shaarav loved being rocked though, but hated being swaddled and wanted his hands free at all times.
New Dad Tip No. 5:
Shaarav typically found comfort in the warmth and closeness and motion. He snuggled up cozily as he relaxed. So it would be a good idea to gently rock the baby to sleep while cuddling them as close to yourself as possible. Swaddling the right way can also come handy for those babies who like being swaddled. Creating white noise also helps as babies are used to hearing the humdrum of the heart and other organs working during their stay in the womb.
Gear up guys! Fathering a newborn is definitely the most gruelling, demanding and messiest task you will ever do. You can only find solace from the fact that the adventure of fatherhood has just begun and the best is yet to come. Just remember, everyone has some bad days and that shouldn’t stop you from being the amazing dad that you are. It doesn’t mean you are a bad parent and there’s something wrong with your parenting. You are the Best Dad your child could ever have and nobody else can do this any better for your kid. Be proud! The time you spend with your little one enduring sleepless nights, changing smelly diapers, and rocking them to sleep truly defines and demonstrates a Dad’s love at its best. Be prepared to fall only to rise stronger. And enjoy every moment you can, including the bad ones, because whatever you do, you can never bring back this time once they are gone! And if this comforts you any, just so you know, you are not alone!