The first 90 days, after your baby is born, are a very interesting time. Granted this time may be a bit longer or a bit shorter, but about the first 3 months are a bit fuzzy. This whole experience feels like a crash course. Lessons are learned, and some of those are like taking a heavy weight pounding.
I had the fortunate experience of having a fellow father tell me that there is nothing wrong with not feeling attached to your baby at first. He continued to tell me that it really feels like a job, with no pay. You put out all the effort, and to be real honest, the baby isn’t giving you much back. We spend this whole time waiting through the pregnancy, and the excitement and anticipation builds, and then nuthin. You have this very small human that just eats, sleeps, makes dirty diapers, and there is a good amount of crying. It begins to feel like a groundhog day scenario. It is easy to almost feel jealous of the relationship that the mother has with your child. This is definitely a check your ego moment in life.
This is the time to be a father. Provide what is needed. Spend time with your child. Get right in there and change diapers, rock your child to sleep, or just rock your child they may not fall asleep. Skin to skin is huge. Take off your shirt and hold your baby. Remember they are learning all the time and need a hell of a lot of loving, and quality time.
A huge hurdle for me was to not let my emotions rise when our baby girl began to cry, and scream. I would go through all the emotions from calm and collected, to frustrated, to frantic, to angry, to worthless, to confused, and all the while the baby is crying in my arms. Crying is how they tell you they need something. Trying to figure it out, will keep you a bit calmer. They are tired, or hungry, or need a change. Go through those three and usually you will find the issue.
Pretty soon your baby will start to smile, look at you, and recognize you. He/she will reach for you and let you know that you exist. This is the best feeling! There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
2 years later commentary
I still remember the frustration and the unsure experience of this time. It was so real and just swallows you up. Following your instincts, however frail they may seem. It truly does improve, and your get better, and you learn how to be a father. This whole game is about learning, you truly become a student of your child.
One thing that always helped me was to focus on the needs and stay away from the emotions. Literally write down what they need, and go through this list when things begin to go awry. I like all of us was so easily swept up in the emotion. My amateur status and their frantic tantrums sent me whirling into a mess of frustration and declining sanity. I can think of multiple times I just had to set my daughter on the bed or in her crib and just leave the room for a minute for a breather. It’s not a joke, just some piece of separation and perceived control because I was losing exponentially with my daughter. But really we were just both learning. The razors edge of the skills gap in fatherhood is sharp. You will learn, and you will be great. Nothing will give this to you but time. Throw yourself in there, and be present.
When your child smiles at you, or giggles, or reaches for you. It turns you to butter. It melts you in your shoes. Literally you feel your heart get warm, you feel the rise of emotion and the fire in your soul. When these moments come, you think back to the struggle and laugh. It seems so small. The magnitude of the joy that continually hits you from your children so far outweighs these early struggles that you can’t even compare.
Communication with your partner is also of the greatest priority. Remember, your on the same team. Sometimes this is quite the challenge as the lack of sleep and intense change can get to both of you. Take your turn and offer to care for your baby. Change diapers and give baths and feed if a bottle is around. Take your baby on walks and dance and sing to them. Supporting mama and giving her healing time, and self care time will do wonders not only for her, but for your sanity too. Being very present and very clear about what each other need is so helpful. A healthy dose of empathy goes a long way.
Give yourself the space to learn and feel new. Loss of control is a hard thing to contend with. Beware of the connection to anger. This time is full of opportunities to learn and become better. Don’t let the struggle wear you down. Being very intentional about time for self can literally save your sanity.
These first days, these times are of huge value. Take pictures, write in a journal. Be Present, and stay plugged in with your baby and your partner. Take one day at a time. Some days I remember trying to take 5 minutes at a time. The panic is when you are in the time of the greatest learning. When it’s uncomfortable, be easy on yourself. Take a deep breath and just be in the room. This is your time to shine. Remember, everything is a phase. You child will move through this. If you need help, reach out. There are people that have been there and will help and listen to what’s going on.
Congrats and welcome. This is the greatest time of our lives.