My best friend is patiently awaiting the arrival of his firstborn, a son. The child’s father is an accomplished lawyer and a professor. His mother is a skilled university administrator. They have read every book. They have watched every video. They are organized, prepared, and fully aware that they are not even remotely ready for this.
By my count, this puts them ahead of the curve.
Incredible friend that I am, I have been offering tips and suggestions and words of support whenever I can. In other words, I am the smug “been-there-done-that” father of three, laughing at the anxiety of the newbies.
A few weeks ago, I dropped another unsolicited bit of advice. I believe it was: “A hoodie is the new father’s version of the towel in The Hichhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it does everything he needs in the delivery room. Yes, it can provide warmth, but also acts as a pillow, a blindfold, and a shelter under which you may sneak an odorless snack if labor enters into the 10+ hour range.
Realizing my smugness, I stopped and apologized. But the expectant father refused to hear it. He explained that I am the only friend who has offered useful, if unsolicited, advice.
In a growling voice, he recited the usual one liners:
“Sleep now ’cause you won’t once the baby comes.”
“You have SO many diapers ahead of you.”
and, “Boy, is your world about to change.”
While none of this is untrue, it is the expectant father’s version of perfect strangers feeling they can walk up and touch a woman’s belly once she is showing. It is a violation to the core of who we are as men.
We are doers. We need, more than anything else, actionable information. We don’t need sympathy. We don’t need a laugh at our expense. We are at the precipice, staring into that which scares us most — change! And we need something to DO, damn it!
You see, it is true that my life as a father has revolved around far more poop and puke that I ever imagined possible. But this is something you know going in, even if you don’t truly comprehend the scope or the smell. And it is best to let the first-timers learn for themselves that the day will come, not so long from now, when they’ll even change one, a bad one, mid-meal, while still chewing and think nothing of it.
As for the world changing … . Hello. Yes. We have all seen movies and tv and more importantly, seen “the change” come over our friends. It is a healthy evolution. Something to be embraced. We all know fathers who have not seemed to grow and change with the birth of their children. We all know wives with one more child in their house than census data records. In the end, most of us would rather be recorded.
So, none of this is news to the expecting father. While it is true that each of these things can be known without being fully comprehended until they are experienced, the mindless recitation of them accompanied by condescending laughter is basically never helpful to the expecting. And the level of amusement we indoctrinated feel at making these pronouncements is hardly worth the irritation we cause.
So with that in mind, I offer the following actionable advice, starting with #2. I already gave you the hoodie.
#2. There are 500 different products on the market to combat diaper rash. For the most part, despite which relative swears on which, they are pretty much the same. The active ingredient, the one that matters, is zinc oxide. Most of these tubes contain 10-15%. Look at the back of the labels and you’ll see. BUT, look for the purple tube (they aren’t paying so I’m not saying) and you’ll find ~40% zinc oxide. THIS product gets it done every time. Only reason to buy anything else? “Butt paste” sounds hilarious.
#3. Sometimes you play music to soothe the baby, sometimes to soothe yourself while the baby keeps crying. If your only sound source is a smartphone or MP3 player you likely don’t have the volume you need to overcome your child’s objections. Fortunately, your in-laws bought you one of the oddest products you’ve ever seen: a Bumbo. This is a shaped foam seat designed to help a baby sit before the baby can sit. At least that is what it claims to be. In truth, it is a near perfect natural amplifier. Start up your tunes and lay your device in the seat, speakers pointed to the back and the effect is … .
Well, physics is our friend and there is no tantrum a baby can throw that George Clinton and P-Funk can’t overcome.
#4. Sweet little baby boys get stiffies. This is an unexpected fact that you and your wife need to learn to deal with quickly. The first appearance of said stiffie during a diaper change may send your horrified wife running from the room with a shriek in her wake. It did mine. As did the next thirty occurances. You on the other hand may beam with misplaced pride. I did. “Yup. That’s my BOY.” And then you get peed on. A lot. That stiffie is a warning. Cover it fast.
#5. Nothing less than a force of nature is descending upon your life. This child will push you and stress you in ways that must be experienced rather than explained. The lack of sleep alone would break any man. But 95% of that is fixed with a gassy smile from your perfect child.
The other 5%? Just find an expecting father, panicked and desperate, look him in the eye and say “Better get your sleep now ’cause you won’t get any when that child gets here.”