Monday, April 14, 2014

Parenthood: Week 46 – Advice To Expectant Fathers: The Time To Be Rude

It doesn't matter who's feelings you hurt, or who you anger, your job more than anything else is to protect your wife and child.
This was the best piece of advice I got about being a dad and it came from my brother. My brother was talking about the first couple weeks after a baby is born, but it has come to mean so much more.

Right after your baby is born, friends and family members with the best of intentions will want to visit, congratulate you and your wife and meet the new baby. When I say right after, I mean literally hours after the baby is born.

You may be sleep deprived as a guy but your wife has gone through a tremendous physical ordeal. If it was a caesarean, then there was a major surgery involved, if not there's still a high chance that drugs will be involved. Even if the childbirth is done naturally, your wife will have hormones going crazy as her body goes through a transition and a healing process that will take weeks.

During this time your wife may not in a physical or emotional space to make difficult decisions. As the partner it is critical that you are there to make decisions. Some of these can be serious medical choices while others may simply be a lunch order.

So it's up to you to be the gatekeeper. You have to decide who comes to visit and when, also you have to be assertive and kick people out in a timely manner. This will annoy people and it may make people think that you are being unreasonable. That's fine. It's not a bad thing if people think you are being overprotective. People would be more concerned if you didn't seem overly concerned with your child's and wife's well being.

We were lucky. Since Ollie was born early in the morning and hospital visiting hours were not until almost noon, we could shut visitors out and use the hospital policy as a way to give us space. Yes, people came and visited, but I had to be very careful to make sure not too many people came. There were some awkward moments when I kicked people out, but we needed this time to ourselves.

At one point, one of Diana's uncles who came with his wife stayed in the hallway and didn't come in the room with everyone else who was visiting. When I asked him why, he explained that he had three daughters and five grandchildren and knew how important it was to not overwhelm the mom and child during the first couple days. I really appreciated this sign of respect and it affirmed my isn't instincts to preserve the time in the hospital for Diana and Ollie and not for visitors.

Everyone is different and some people may not mind having visitors all of the time in the hospital right after giving birth. However from talking to friends about their experiences, I feel that it is best to keep most visitors at bay until the baby is three weeks old.

If you want to come visit a friend or a family member with a newborn bring food, only stay for a short amount of time and expect very little from the baby. Chances are he or she will be sleeping when you visit and even if the baby isn't, it's not going to interact with you that much at all. The visit is not about your experiences, it's about what you can do to help.

Lots of people want to visits a newborn and come by to congratulate new parents. True friends will give you the space you need and will show their support over time month after month. The friend who is there for you when your baby is six months old is often more helpful than the acquaintance who visits when your baby is a week old just to cuddle a new baby and make an appearance.

This job to protect continues in different ways. It's being their for doctors appointments, spending hours to make sure that the toddler seat is installed correctly. It's making sure your baby always has enough diapers and it's insisting that events that can be reasonably adjusted work around nap time.

I've always tried to protect Diana and I have learned to let go of this instinct  as she is an adult and she can fight her own battles.  However Ollie does need my protection and sometimes Diana needs me to watch over her so that she can do what she needs to for Ollie.

Protect your family. Other people's feelings are secondary. It's not your job to validate other people's role in your child's life. Your child is not something to show off and you have no obligation to share any moments or milestones with anyone else. Even if it means making your own mom feel excluded, don't let her visit if it's a bad time. Those first couple weeks go by so quickly. Don't spend them trying to please others, spend that time with your family and for your family, completely.

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