Belly Bonding Tips for First Time Dads

I confess: sometimes, I’m still blown away that we have a kid. I watch our son toddle around the room, and I’m amazed that he exists. I’m a parent!

I felt this way during pregnancy, too. As a soon-to-be first time dad, I had a hard time processing that my wife’s bump was hiding an actual human being. Although I was excited about our future, I also couldn’t believe it was happening. Between the nausea, the kicks, and constant hunger, my wife was constantly reminded that she was pregnant. I was busy with work and settling my family into a new house.

I imagine that a lot of new dads feel this way, too, but don’t want to admit it. But if it wasn’t for Caitlin’s giant belly, there were days that I might’ve completely forgotten I was a dad-to-be!

It was very important to me that I take time from my busy schedule to bond with my baby-on-the-way. Pregnancy goes by so quickly, and I wanted to stop and savor the moment with my wife and future son. It was in these quiet moments that I could truly process and appreciate what was happening to our family.

Here are four ways that I connected with Henry before he was born:

1) Massage: I’d rub lotion or oil into my hands and lightly massage my wife’s belly. She said it felt great, and I could feel Henry underneath my fingers. Sometimes, I’d even be able to identify body parts, like an arm or little butt! Henry liked the massage as much as his mom did; he’d often press up against my fingers.

2) Photo Diary: Caitlin and I took photos of her growing baby bump every week beginning at Week 10. We loved looking back through the images as we approached her due date.

 

3) Music: After I read that the baby could hear sounds while in utero, I began to play him music. When my wife was relaxing on the couch, I’d pull up my favorite songs on YouTube and put the speakers close to the bump.

4) Birth Classes: Caitlin wanted a drug-free childbirth, so we took 12 weeks of Bradley Method classes together. The weekly meetings were educational and great conversation starters. My wife and I had many talks on the drive home from class about our beliefs about parenting. The classes also made me more understanding of what Caitlin was going through with pregnancy, and I knew exactly how she wanted me to support her during delivery. It’s great to be as involved as possible during the pregnancy; it helped me feel connected to my little boy before he even arrived!

Expectant Moms’ Pregnancy To-Do List

Not only is it exciting to count down to the birth of your new baby, it can also be comforting. Planning a little each month to welcome your baby home keeps you organized and eases your mind. Follow our month-by-month guide and you’ll be more than ready when your bundle of joy arrives.

Month 1

  • Find a prenatal health care provider by asking for referrals from friends or your general practitioner.

  • Schedule your first prenatal appointment.

  • Take prenatal vitamins or supplements, if recommended by your provider.

Month 2

  • Become familiar with your (or your partner’s) insurance policy so you know what’s covered.

  • Make an appointment with the dentist, as gum disease can increase your risk of premature birth.

Month 3

  • Make a plan for how you’ll share your big news with family and friends; if you work, you’ll also need to prepare to tell your boss.

  • Shop for some new clothes. Your pants will be hard to zip up soon, and you may want to look for a few starter items to tide you over until you’re bigger.

  • Make a budget and start saving for gear for your new baby.

Month 4

  • Start to think about day care. Will it be full time, in-home, or might you decide to hire a nanny? Weigh the pros and cons of each.

Month 5

  • Start planning your maternity leave from work.

  • Think about ordering baby furniture. It can take many weeks or even a few months for certain items to arrive.

  • Treat yourself to a prenatal massage! You deserve the rest and relaxation.

Month 6

  • Decide (roughly) when your last day of work will be and what kind of coverage you’ll need when you’re gone.

  • Consider whether you’ll need a breast pump and then ask around for recommendations.

  • Pre-register at the hospital where you’re planning to give birth to your new baby.

  • Make a delivery plan and decide who you want in the room with you (and who can wait outside).

  • Sign up for childbirth, infant care, and breastfeeding classes

Month 7

  • If you have someone who wants to throw you a baby shower or other new baby celebration, pick a date and share names and addresses with her.

  • Update your 401K plan and your will.

  • Schedule a tour of the hospital or birth center.

Month 8

  • Write up a birth plan and buy birth announcements (or design your announcements online).

  • Pack your hospital bag and have it ready to go by the front door.

  • Install your new baby’s car seat.

Month 9

  • Pick up a few newborn diapers (but not too many -- new babies grow quickly!) and any layette or baby care items you're missing.

  • Figure out how you’ll get to the hospital. Will your partner drive you or will you take a cab?

  • Get a pedicure or do something else to help you relax during the last weeks!

  • Checked everything off? Then congratulations! Now you can rest easy knowing that you did everything you could to prepare for your new baby.

New Dad Duty: How To Help Mom Post Birth

“Honey, I feel like you’re doing all the work,” I said, plopping down on the couch next to my wife as she breastfed our newborn, Henry.

A slow smile came across Caitlin’s face as she gestured to the tray of drinks and food that I’d carried upstairs. “Do you realize how much this helps me?” she responded. “I’m thirsty and hungry all the time, but so is Henry, and I can’t find even two minutes to go to the kitchen!” And then she stuffed a peanut butter sandwich into her mouth.

When we brought my son home, I felt that I wasn’t needed by Henry the way he needed his mother. But with one tray of food, I realized that I played a pivotal role as a new dad: my family’s provider and protector. Through my support and love for my wife, I could help my son be happier and healthier.

Here are six simple, everyday ways new dads can help your first-time-mom wife:

  • Help Her Recover: Childbirth is very hard on a woman’s body. Keep the fridge well-stocked with grab-and-go foods like yogurt and cut fruit, make sure she drinks enough water, and when you do cook meals, make double portions so she can snack on leftovers later.

  • Encourage Rest: Make a ‘baby station’ on the couch. Surround the new mom with pillows, blankets, snacks and drinks, and anything the baby will need. Encourage her to rest -- chores can wait. 

  • Be Her Bouncer: Your partner may not want others to play ‘pass the baby’ when she’d rather be bonding with her newborn. If she is trying to establish a breastfeeding routine, visitors can be particularly disruptive. She also may find well-meaning family members and friends’ constant advice to be annoying. She may be too tired or sore to handle it, so be sure to ask others for alone time when your partner or baby clearly needs a break.

  • Bond with Baby: Diaper changes and baths are amazing opportunities to bond with your baby -- and give your partner a chance to rest. Don’t wait for her to ask you to do these things; if you catch a whiff of a dirty diaper, be proactive and change the baby right away.

  • Get Her Out of the House: If your partner is able and willing to leave your newborn for a few hours, book her an appointment for a post-natal massage or a manicure. If leaving the baby isn’t a realistic option, give her an at-home break. Ask your wife’s best friend to come over with takeout, and do as much of the baby care as possible while the ladies catch up.

  • And Last, But Not Least…: Tell your her she’s beautiful. Tell her she’s a great new mom. Tell her that you’re amazed by everything her incredible body is able to do. Give her a hug, hold her hand, and gaze into her eyes. The little gestures mean a great deal to a new mother.

New Dad: The Twin Edition

Never in a million years did I think I would be a new dad of twins -- especially twin girls!  However, seven months ago, Harper and Delani were born, and now I can’t imagine my life without them. 

One of my favorite things as a dad-to-be was telling people we were expecting twins.  Jaws dropped, people screamed and some were even speechless. My wife and I decided we weren’t interested in finding out the sex of the babies -- finding out we were having babies seemed to satisfy any immediate need for surprise.

To prepare for our two bundles, we painted the nursery a gender neutral yellow, purchased some baby clothes -- two of everything -- and attended a class for expectant parents of multiples at a local hospital. However, I have to be honest; I don’t remember anything they talked about that night. You can try to do everything in your power to prepare for fatherhood, but really most of it comes down to practice.

The day the girls were born was completely surreal.  I was at school teaching when I got a call that my wife had gone into labor and would be having a c-section later that night.  Once the girls were born, I got to cut two umbilical cords!  My wife stayed in the OR while I went back with the girls and nurses to get them cleaned up. Three days later when we got home it all became real -- very real. The nurses were gone, the 24 hour coffee machine was gone; it was just us -- our new family. 

Finding out you are going to have two -- or more -- babies is exciting news, but also a welcomed challenge. Here are some tips to keep in mind once you become a new dad of multiples.

  • You may not remember the first month after they’re born -- it is okay.

  • You will get a lot of strange looks and questions. Some people act like they have never seen twins before, have fun with it.

  • If bottle feeding, stock your bedroom with formula and bottles each night.

  • Take time off work (if possible) after they are born. I was lucky enough to spend every day with them for the first two weeks.

  • Don’t only take pictures of your babies, include yourself and mom.

  • Recruit help, even if it is so you and your wife can take a nap to recharge your batteries.

  • Establish a date night once a week or run errands with your significant other, just the two of you. All of your attention is focused on two babies, so make time for each other every now and then. 

People tell us all the time, “I can’t imagine having two at once.” We always say, “They’re our first; we don’t know any better.” What’s the bonus to twice the feedings, baths and baby supplies? We have twice the kisses, hugs, and laughter, too.

The Reality of Being a New Dad

To say I was excited when my wife was pregnant with our first child, Morgan, would be a gross understatement. While this overwhelming sense of joy continued to grow along with her belly, I could never have prepared myself for the days and months ahead as a new dad. I imagined fatherhood as one thing, and turns out, my thoughts and emotions were pretty spot on -- times 100.

Expectations: What I Thought I Felt

During my wife’s pregnancy, I wasn’t nervous; just extremely excited. I looked forward to knowing there was someone who would come to understand they could turn to me for anything in life. The only nerves I had as a dad-to-be, were tied to ensuring my baby was a healthy one, and knowing how to respond in different situations. Now I like to think of myself as a smart guy and efficient problem solver, making unplanned decisions every minute of my workday. I constantly get thrown curveballs, and am able to use knowledge and reasoning to figure out the best solution. Why should a baby be much different?

I felt like I did everything new dads are told to do to prepare: read The Expectant Father, talked to other parents. They helped me understand my wife’s experience, -- physically and emotionally -- my own experience, and what was in store once the baby made her first appearance. I looked forward to all the firsts, and to share my favorite things with our child.

What didn’t make me jump for joy was the actual birth part, as I knew I had to be strong for my wife, but having a sensitive stomach, I felt queasy at the thought of watching this oozy miracle happen before my eyes.

 

Reality: What I Feel Now

When my wife was pushing out our child, all queasiness left the room. I couldn’t believe my eyes: I was witnessing our creation come into this world. The minute my wife held our child, I was pleasantly surprised at what a natural she is. All of her nerves went out the room and her maternal instincts kicked into high gear. From day one, my wife showed confidence, love, knowledge, and connection as a mother.

I, on the other hand, began questioning everything. I had difficulty advising my wife on decisions, solutions and actions. I simply didn’t know the answers (maybe Google would?) I was surprised by how much more cautious and nervous I felt, when in my head I thought I would always be a cool and collected new dad. Did she eat enough? She’s hungry again? Why is she crying? Why isn’t she crying!

Despite the worry, the overwhelming joy I thought I felt during my wife’s pregnancy was put to shame each time I looked at my baby. I felt extreme pride at Morgan’s firsts -- lifting her head during tummy time, smiling, playing with toys on her own. I couldn’t believe I felt excited and relieved at each poop, each burp, knowing everything was functioning properly. I felt happy when Morgan slept, knowing she was getting the rest she needed, and happy when she woke, knowing she wanted to eat (and was still breathing!)

Watching a baby experience and learn something new every day is fascinating. Hearing ‘dada’ for the first time and watching Morgan take her first steps as she walked into my arms created incomparable pride. I knew being a dad would be great. Yet there is no way your expectations of greatness are in line with how truly remarkable the experience is watching a helpless thing grow into an independent mover and shaker.