A New Father’s Parenting Tips for the First Three Months

It was a very cold February morning when my wife decided to take a random pregnancy test. She woke me up at 6 am that Sunday with the news of the positive test. Of course it was the last test in the house, so without warming up the car I jumped in it cold and drove over to our 24 hour Wal-Mart. Four different brands and sixty dollars later I returned home. We lined them up one by one and as + signs and double lines appeared we knew after almost two years of trying God had blessed us with our first pregnancy.

My wife, being the worry-wart and OCD beauty that she is, called the doctor first thing that Monday morning and the very next day we were at an afternoon appointment where the pregnancy was confirmed. For the next 3 months things changed: My wife was lucky, she didn’t get sick, she did however feel nauseas quite a bit. She was fatigued all of the time which can be beneficial to fathers to be because the remote is suddenly yours without argument. I was able to watch a lot of sports and put in a lot of quality video game time. At about three months my wife got her energy back, but the emotions began to flow. There was no watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition or anything on Lifetime, a simple Hallmark commercial would turn the waterworks on. From six to nine months she got over the joy of being pregnant and could not wait for our son to arrive. The swollen ankles, feet and hands had a lot to do with that as well as one of the hottest summers on record.

After a 19 1/2 hour labor and over three hours of pushing our son, Nathan joined his family. At 9lbs 10oz he instantly made my wife my hero. I just stood there with a dumb look on my face in amazement that she was able to go through all of that and deliver a toddler, God bless her. With all of the technology these days, we were texting and Skyping, letting everyone know that our new edition had arrived. It made me wonder if babies will soon be delivered with a blue tooth in their ear and texting on their I-phones.

Tip 1: Be prepared. Fathers, put the car seat(s) in the car(s) and put a packed bag in the car(s) as well. Be on alert and cut back on the alcohol consumption, you never know when you will have to drive your wife to the hospital. Some things to bring with you: Something to snack on, not all hospital food is very good. Something to read or watch, newspapers, magazines and an I-pod work well. You can bring your laptop or web browser as well, most hospitals have free Wi-Fi.

In our hospital Nathan stayed with us in the room. He was never taken away to a nursery or left our sides. He was eating regularly and everything seemed fine. As the day we were supposed to leave approached the doctors became concerned over his color and bilirubin level in his blood. Nathan had developed Jaundice, which now we know is common among newborns, and even more common among Asians. Nathan being half Korean was a prime candidate. Nathan was unable to leave on his scheduled check out date, he had to remain in the hospital in the ICU. According to WebMD Jaundice is:

“Jaundice is a condition that makes a newborn ‘s skin and the white part of the eyes look yellow. It happens because there is too much bilirubin in the baby’s blood (hyperbilirubinemia). Bilirubin is a substance that is made when the body breaks down old red blood cells .

Jaundice usually is not a problem. But in rare cases, too much bilirubin in the blood can cause brain damage ( kernicterus ). This can lead to hearing loss, mental retardation, and behavior problems.”

As new parent’s never having been through this before we of course were terrified. We came home and napped for about an hour then returned to the hospital. We were lucky enough to have my wife’s parents come to the house and stay a few days. If you have family around it is a huge help with any newborn, but especially helpful when your baby has to stay in the hospital for some extra time. We spent the next three days mostly at the hospital in the ICU watching Nathan in his tanning bed under his lights. A lot of coffee and newspapers later, Nathan got better and we were able to finally bring him home. The catch was we had to get what is called a Bilirubin Blanket. According to WebMD:

“Babies with jaundice who are otherwise healthy may be treated at home with a type of phototherapy that uses a fiber-optic wrap, usually a blanket or a band. These wraps usually reduce blood bilirubin levels more slowly than standard phototherapy, so generally they are used only for mild jaundice. Sometimes standard therapy and fiber-optic wrap therapy are used together”

The Bilirubin Blanket was delivered to the house and the technichen showed us how to use it. We had to plug it into the wall and wrap the blanket around him. The blanket had a slight claiming humming sound to it and would glow blue like the underside of a car in the Fast and Furious movies. While the home treatment was occurring we had to bring Nathan back to the hospital daily for blood work to see where his bilirubun levels were at. This is where I got my very first taste of being a new father. At the hospital they made us register in every time we went, I would hold Nathan and my wife would do the paperwork. The very first trip to the hospital while my wife was registering Nathan he had his first public blow out. I had to take him into the men’s room and well we had to trash the outfit he was in. Twenty minutes later we re-appeared cleaned and ready to roll. After that first episode I knew nothing would ever gross me out again, it’s funny as a parent how quickly you become non squeamish.

Tip 2: If your baby has Jaundice do not panic. It is common and is a very curable situation. Just be thankful that it is something that can be cured and prepare yourself for many trips to the hospital. Hopefully within a week or two your baby will be perfectly fine. When going out anywhere always bring at least one extra outfit for your baby, I would recommend two.

Nathan got better within the week and he was finally able to sleep without heat lamps or glowing blankets. We thought we were in the clear. Little did we know our next hurtle was right around the corner. I went back to work and my wife stayed home for the next six weeks. Every day I would get calls of how much he would not stop crying and how he would barely nap. We called the pediatrician and we were told Nathan just had colic and there was nothing we could do. Colic it seems is a common occurance in babies and doctors really have no idea what causes it or how to treat it. Doctor’s will tell you after three months colic seems to go away and babies tend to improve. After another couple of weeks of uncontrolable crying we began to grow concerned, it might have been the lack of sleep or the defness in our ears; we found out quickly the Nathan had a healthy set of lungs. We made an appointment at the pediatritions office and they finally figured out Nathan was lactose intolerant.

The week before my wife was due back to work a solution had been reached. We switched his formula and Nathan became a completely different baby. All of this time and crying we had no idea that every time he ate we made the situation worse. Babies can’t tell you how they feel, they can only cry. This usually means three things: 1. Wet or poopie diaper 2. They are hungry 3. They are tired. Lactose intolerant babies will cry because they are in pain. If your baby is lactose intolerant I recommend Similac Alimentum. Other formulas may be lactose free or made from soy milk, but this formula eliminates all proteins that your baby can be allergic to and it works wonders.

Tip 3: If your baby cries more often then not ask your doctor. Most doctors will go the colic route first and tell you to keep an eye on your baby. (Doctors will always say that no matter what) Ask your doctor about possible lactose intolerance and see if switching formula is an option for you and your baby.

Hang in there, things get better. One thing you have to remember as new parents is to be happy that there are two of you. My wife and I always say we are amazed that single parents can do all of this. A last few helpful tips as a couple:

1: Don’t get angry with each other. It’s better to be each other’s support system then to drag each other down.
2: You’re both tired and irritable so do not take anything that is said in the heat of the moment to heart.
3: Do not get into a contest of I do this and you don’t do that. Work together as a team.
4: Rotate nights for feeding. Some babies will sleep through the night early, others will take forever. It is better to get a solid night’s sleep every other night then to get up once or twice every night. If you are a light sleeper you may want to consider sleeping in a seperate room some nights so you do not wake up when you spouse gets up to feed.
5: Don’t get mad at your baby. Remember this whole living in the world is new to them and they can’t tell you what is wrong when they cry. The best you can do is stay calm and comfort, crying does not last forever, things get better with time.

In the end being a new parent is a life changer. There is a lot more take out instead of eating out. My beer is cheaper and lasts a lot longer than before and I have now learned to function on an average of four hours of sleep or less. The older your baby gets the easier parenting gets. The first time you get a smile in response to yours and you know it was not just gas in your baby, your world will change even more. Your baby becomes your best friend and you will want to do nothing but spend time with them every chance you get.