"'Daddy' was my father, son, please call me 'Mr. Father.'"
It's odd. Bringing home a pet you adopt for the first time is almost scarier than bringing home a baby. A bit of that is that the baby can't bite and scratch you quite yet. For us, we had to wait almost a week before coming home because labor was over 24 hours and the little guy had to stay in the hospital with us for a few extra days because he had jaundice and we had to wait to get his blood tests. We were a little less prepared for how things would go in the hospital than having the baby to bring home, and our home was not quite as ready for us, either.
It was the end of the weekend. My wife was working late and got home just before midnight that Sunday and I had just watched the Sunday Night Football game or the World Series (let's face it, I probably watched both) before mentally preparing to go back into work the next day. We thought we had a week or two before the due date. We were close, but it still felt far away. We went to bed and just about an hour of sleep later my wife woke me up to let me know we should head into the hospital. We had prepared our go-bags for the hospital with what we thought we would need, and we were relatively close. I think I was prepared for just a couple changes of clothes, a book and chargers. My wife had a bit more in her prep bag along with some baby clothes for taking him home. We had some small snacks and maybe a couple of waters. I hadn't gotten around to catching up on laundry or dishes and setting up to have the cats fed. It would be okay, I thought, we'd be back home in maybe a day.
It turns out you don't just walk in the hospital, scream and cry a little, get handed a baby, scream and cry a little more and walk back out the door after your wife gives birth. It was Friday when we did walk out with a healthy baby boy. The first thing I ever saw of the little guy was a big dark shadow in the corner of my eye as I was encouraging my wife. The next few days were a series of sleepless nights trying to get the baby to feed, hunching over to feed him with a dropper and a blinding 24 hours watching him under blue UV lights making sure his blindfold didn't slide off. Everything I looked at was blue for another day after that.
He came out skinny, wrinkled like an old man. He looked like he was reenacting My Dinner With Andre starring Wallace Shawn and some boob. It took a frustrating amount of time before he was feeding with ease and a little longer before he was doing it without anyone in discomfort. He was so little compared to his baseline strength that the day after he came home we put him down for tummy time and he flipped right over. As he got bigger he got better at flipping until his weight caught up and he now whimpers that he is no longer the athlete he used to be when he was not at as healthy of a weight.
After a few weeks we had a pretty good sense of what we did right and what we wished we had prepared just before bringing the baby home. A friend from law school was due around a month after us so I sent an email to her and her husband so they could have a jump on some of the things we learned through trial and error. I'm sure as they have had a month or so with their daughter they would have their own amendments expanding on that list. We told them:
1. Bring plenty of nightgowns for mom: you don't know exactly how long it will be and hospital gowns are not in season.
2. Pack your things knowing you will stay in the hospital at least 24 hours after giving birth. Baby will need a first blood test at 24 hours so a day would be the bare minimum even if you deliver in the backseat on the way in.
3. The lactation experts will have a lot of advice for you. Don't get discouraged if it doesn't work right away. For our baby he was having trouble because of his jaundice, but just isn't an easy thing for a kid to pick up on after months of getting fed so easily through the umbilical cord. In the end, it's best that they're fed even if you're laboring away with a dropping and finger in their mouth.
4. Don't scare yourself with things on the internet, no matter how much you research. Let the doctors be doctors and you be the Mom and Dad. That's what they're getting paid for, and you aren't getting paid shit for a google search. Are you? Can I get in on that?
5. Bring a pen for paperwork. You'll look like a smart parent if you get their social security and birth certificate info done by the time someone comes to pick up.
6. Bug the nurses for anything you need. You don't have to be "that parent" for your kid's whole life, but it will make things easier on you during a pretty strenuous time and you never have to see them again after you leave the hospital.
7. Have your house exactly how you want it for baby to come home to every day. Labor can sneak up on you and despite your intentions during a long stay and you might not be able to have someone leave because mom might need assistance 24 hours a day from dad. My wife had a lot of trouble getting out of bed for a while so she couldn't watch the little guy on her own very easily and I couldn't get away for even an hour to run some laundry, pick up the floor or make sure the cats were okay.
8. They will bring you meals, but you should also have someone investigate the food available in the cafeteria and vending machines because you probably don't know exactly what to expect from hospital food preference or quality.
9. Bring a variety of snacks for labor. We brought granola bars for the labor. It wasn't enough to eat and got boring.
10. When you're realizing it's time to go to the hospital, don't race off right away. Make sure you have your bags, phones cords, but also make sure future dad makes a quick sandwich or something and eats it before you leave. I did that, but only had 1 PBJ (which usually can sustain me longer than expected) however with everything going on with labor and the focus on my wife, I didn't get to eat or sleep much for 24 hours. I got a headache and got dehydrated and didn't feel all that great for the first couple days of my son's life. There's only so many people that should be discomforted in a maternity suite at a time.
11. While you're in labor, remember it won't last forever even if it's long and it will later just be a memory and you'll have your baby. Also, you'll forget about the pain before you know it and trick yourself into thinking you want another cute little thing coming into the home in short time.
12. Bring some music for the down times for all of you to listen to. We didn't have a playlist but put on Google Play classic rock which was really good. It's your kid's first time in the world, let them know about good music.
13. If you have to do phototherapy (baby under a bright blue light in the bedroom) do opt to have eye protection for yourself. You won't get damaged but it could make your eyes feel weird on its own and your sense of color can be off momentarily.
14. Try to make a note of the names of nurses and doctors and anyone else that comes in to see you. I forgot one nurse's name when my wife was in the bathroom and she called out "who is that?" All I could respond was "uhhhhhh..."
15. Don't feel you have to be stuck to a preplanned way the baby will be born. Do it on your own terms at the time it's happening. We thought my wife would not have an epidural, would be walking around to get labor going and would never consider a C-section beforehand. Because her labor was induced and was prolonged she needed an epidural to be able to sleep (an hour of sleep after an 11 hour shift doesn't cut it) before going into all the pushing. It made her feel better but she couldn't walk around during labor. Inducement took a long time and the drugs used for it were having other effects that were making the whole process much more difficult. If the baby hadn't come for an hour or two longer we would have demanded a C-section.
16. This is from the experience of one of our friends: don't let anyone say you gave birth to your baby in the wrong way. There's a lot of opinions, but what matters is leaving the hospital with your little baby. Our friend had a C-section after a very long labor and all the responses on her FB page were "I'm sorry it didn't go the way you wanted." I kept thinking as I read those responses, "wow, those people are shitty and that baby is cute."
17. Stick to your name no matter what especially after you post it online for your friends. Maybe some of the other names you thought of after looking like your kid once they're out in the world. If you change it, it's on the parent who more strongly wants a new name to explain the change on Facebook.
18. Our nurse said that we could take anything that wasn't bolted down in our hospital room when we left including pumping parts, nipple shields, wash clothes, puddle pads. Everything except the sheets and mattress on the bed is fair game because they are going to dispose of them rather than clean them. Once that baby is ready to leave, consider it looting season.
19. Make sure you have someone on call when you're within a month of the due date to come visit any pets to make sure they're happy, fed, and clean.
20. If you are also a pregnant lawyer: If your water breaks in court, make sure it's a jury trial so that you get the most sympathy possible and you win the case even though you leave early.
Stay tuned for a post every month or so as I navigate my way through stay-at-home fatherhood here in the PETE AND THE LITTLE GUY series! Dun dun duuuun!