This is mainly for Dads but Mums may also be interested. This is my personal experience of the first month of being a first time Parent. How you may feel, the tasks you will be doing, and what to expect from your baby.
It was a little over 4 months ago that our first baby was born. I've been wanting to write this article for some time now, before I forget everything. So with the help of all my notes I made during the first month here is what I have. I've split this into 6 sections some in Part One and others in Part Two.
1.Disclaimer (Part 1)
2.The first month condensed (Part 1)
3.How you may feel about your new baby (Part 1)
4.Tasks (To follow in Part 2)
5.Equipment (To follow in Part 2)
6.What to expect from Baby (To follow in Part 2)
I've got a pretty privileged situation. We are a 2 parent family, with no critical financial or health worries. Our jobs although stressful don't compare with other jobs (an overworked Nurse, or Soldier in Iraq for example) and our baby was born healthy and normal. Our baby was planned and there is no external pressure on our relationship. I realise this article is much more relevant to someone in a similar situation to myself. Others have much more pressures than us so their experience will probably be very different, we would be very interested and would like to publish on the site any articles written by people in different situations so please do contact us if you have something to give.
1.The first Month Condensed
The baby is born, you are emotional and full of the joys of spring. If you were present at the birth you will be feeling closer to your partner than ever and have a new respect for all other Mothers and Midwives. In my experience you feel pretty confident, interacting, holding and feeding come very naturally. This is a wonderful time. You may fall in love with your baby, or you may not either way don't worry. You may have taken up smoking over the past 24 hours, if so don't breathe near the baby as the carbon monoxide on your breath even after the cigarette is out can harm your baby.
You can leave hospital when Mother and Baby are doing well, we left a few hours after the birth. They will need to have their first bowel movement before you leave. Ours didn't but we found out she had one at birth. You also need a Car seat to leave the hospital.
You get the baby home, they will have a scabby tag on their belly button from the cutting of the cord which will drop off in a few days. Girls may have a tiny little mini period (no one warned us about that) they will be feeding about once every 4 hours. All you will need to do is feed them, burp them, change nappies, clean up sick, and bath them. If they cry check nappy, hunger, too hot/cold, if they persist time the cry. It may seem like hours but a cry rarely lasts more than 5 or 10 minutes. You may feel edgy and wonder when you will get your life back into a comfortable routine. For us it was only 4 or 5 days before we felt rested and 100% in control again. Although some of those early days can seem surreal.
You will get home visits from a Midwife or Health Visitor or similar. My sister had a visit every day for a long time with her first child, we only got a few visits so I can't tell you what to expect. We found the visits non intrusive and reassuring.
Just as you are in the swing of things, relaxing and bonding as a family, guests will come to turn your life upside down. This can interfere in your relationship with your partner and baby. Guests made us feel stressed out, our calm way of dealing with things didn't mix well with loudness and passing the baby around. You may, like us get a lot of unwelcome advice and comments which interfere with the way you naturally want to interact and deal with your Baby. Don't let them push you around, do it your way.
When you get rid of the first round of visitors you find your feet again. Feed amounts will have changed although the time of the feeds will be pretty much unchanged for the first month. You should be feeling more or less normal, crying may be a bit more persistent at times. We followed a strict feeding routine and our baby was sleeping through the night (no crying, we woke her to feed at 11pm and 2am) from 2 weeks old. I don't know if it was the baby or the routine, for those interested Clare is writing an article on our feeding routine. Even at 4 months she has slept through every night.
Now you are at the end of your first Month, remembering that day they were born and looking forward to all the new developments to come.
3.How you may feel about your baby
A friend of mine told me about how he fell completely in love with his baby as soon as he saw her. I expected to feel the same, I even thought she may usurp Clare in my affections. When the time came I didn't fall head over heels, I felt like a Parent. I felt a bond with my partner that we had brought this baby into the world and it was our life long responsibility to look after her. As for the baby, I didn't know her yet so how could I suddenly deeply love someone I didn't know.
I'm not saying there was no love, but this was just the start of a life long relationship with my daughter which I was very much looking forward to building. Now at 4 months the bond between us is growing every day, and it is a real bond with a real person. Clare felt differently again, so there is no way to predict the way you are going to feel when you finally meet them. All I say is don't expect a bolt of lightning, and don't feel bad no matter how you feel. You will only know your true feelings after the passage of time when things settle down into normality.
I've never heard from friends or family about getting angry with your baby. In fact I've never heard from any source about your baby making you angry. I wish I'd never felt anger but I'd not be writing an honest article if I pretended otherwise. I'd have felt reassured if I'd read somewhere that this is to be expected but I just didn't.
So, you are a man of the new Millennium. Intelligent, sensitive, prepared for Fatherhood. You know it's impossible for a baby to do anything wrong. The only way they can communicate is by crying, they can't even see very well in the first few weeks never mind understand right and wrong, and good manners. You know it's not personal if they cry or puke on you so your not going to get angry are you?
This is how my patience was tested to the limit. This is a very rare situation most feeds went well, I'm just trying to prepare you for the worst case. It is 100% true though.
I'm waiting for a bottle to cool down with a crying baby in my arms, I'm cool. I'm talking to her softly and comforting her, she is glaring at me with a red face and screaming like a tantrum rather than a cry. I'm still cool, the bottle is ready so I've put it next to me. The baby is kicking me constantly alternating her legs and these kicks are as hard as possible, she is still screaming and red faced. I'm still cool but putting her bib on is hard when she is trying to tear it off at the same time.
I have a peek into the nappy to check it's clean and dry and keep her baby grow off as she's so hot now from all the thrashing about and crying. She fights me all the way and I've a huge urge to shout at her, I'm now giving a running commentary out loud. 'Just taking the baby grow off, gonna keep calm, not long now Alex, just a baby you can do this, keep it calm old boy keep it calm'.
I've got the bib on, the bottle is going to the mouth and she takes a furious swipe at the bottle and knocks it out of my hand all over the floor. I'm not cool, but still under control, downstairs I go to make another bottle one handed while holding her in the other arm. The crying is hurting my ears and grinding my nerves. 10 minutes later I'm giving her the new bottle, she tries to swipe it away again but I'm holding too tight this time and get it in the mouth.
The crying stops immediately and she starts sucking on the bottle like crazy, eyes closed. I start to think 'why the selfish, greedy ..... stop Alex only a baby, don't take it personally'. She is now dribbling a bit and I need to give her a wipe. I take the bottle out to give her a wipe and there is an immediate tantrum. Legs kicking, red face, glare, arms thrashing. What almost pushes me over the edge is when I look at her and it's my face looking back. This tantrum is coming from a 'mini me', it would be so much less annoying if she looked nothing like me.
I decide to back out and let her finish dribbles and all. The problem is she keeps turning her head away from the bottle and hitting me, I eventually get it in and she is quiet and happy again. When the feed is over I clean her up, burp her, and she is very happy and content.
Like I said this is the exception rather than the norm, but be prepared, I'm usually very controlled and calm and I was close to loosing it. At one point I was going to put her in her cot for a few minutes while I calmed down.