If my math is correct, you’re set to become a father next month. Congratulations. There are few times in the life of a person more exciting (and nerve-racking) than the birth of your first child! As your friend and brother, I couldn’t be happier for you and the wife on this life-changing event. (it’s good to know how to use insurance terms, since in your case, the baby will be born during most open seasons—good timing!). I look forward to watching your daughter grow into the young woman she’ll become with the wisdom and guidance of her great parents.
And since I’ve been around that mountain a few times, I figured the least I could do was tell you a bit of what life is going to be like in the near term.
Basically, you’re going to miss a lot of it because of sleep deprivation. I mean, you’ll be there, but you won’t be there sometimes. Once, when #YoungPanamontana was an infant, I literally had a dream that I rolled over on her on the couch and woke up terrified that I’d killed my child, only to realize that she was upstairs asleep with her mother. Do you understand what I’m saying? I was so tired that I dreamed I was asleep, except I committed murder in my sleep WITH MY SLEEP. Which gets to where I’m going with this.
There are probably countless people who have told you to get all of your sleep now. And though you can’t, it’s one of those things that scientists should be working on: a sleep bank. Right now you can go to sleep at, say, midnight, and wake up at 8 a.m. after a night of uninterrupted sleep—assuming the wife allows you to sleep all night, since I’m sure she’s super uncomfortable right now.
But let’s say she does. Yeah, that’s going out the window the DAY young Homie-ette is born. See, babies, they have to eat every two hours for the first few days (weeks) of their lives. You don’t have to do the math to realize that means that at least 12 times a day—maybe less if she’s doing 2.5 hours—your child will be awake seeking sustenance and attention. Many of those hours come at times when you’d normally be asleep.
I don’t know what you all are going to do regarding breast-feeding (if your wife decides to breast-feed, it saves a FORTUNE on formula; if not, price matching and Amazon.com are your friends). But if she is going to, she’ll be up all night after short naps, only to arise to continue giving life to this person you two created.
Trust me on this one, fam: Wake up, too. Just be awake. Stare at the ceiling fan. Cut your toenails. Hold her boob. Do something so that she knows she isn’t up by herself. There’s a good chance she’ll be scowling at you even if you are helping, but it gets better. And if you’re asleep, there’s a great chance that she’s going to wake you up. I promise.
Motherhood makes women petty. See, their bodies are built to sustain life. Ours? Well, we just put a baby in there. So while she’s over here keeping something alive, you’re just looking stupid on the other side of the bed if you’re sleep. Don’t sleep. Stay woke. All that.
Oh, you know how daylight saving time ends in the fall, when the time falls back an hour and you get an extra hour of sleep? Yeah, that was the last time you’ll ever feel that hour.
Let’s talk a bit (more) about sleep. You know how you go to sleep and then wake up and use the bathroom, but because of the number of times you’ve repeated this activity, you can do it with your eyes closed? Yeah, babies are the opposite. You have to be awake and ACTIVELY doing stuff, like changing a diaper, not dropping the baby and feeding her.
Don’t even get me started on putting the baby BACK to sleep. I had an active daughter; she didn’t just fall asleep while feeding. Nope. I had to PUT her back to sleep through song, dance, origami, yodeling and rocking. Just saying, be prepared. Also, there’s nothing worth watching on TV between the hours of “Why am I awake?” and “Normal people are awake now.”
Oh, you know how daylight saving time ends in the fall, when the time falls back an hour and you get an extra hour of sleep? Yeah, that was the last time you’ll ever feel that hour, b.
That may have sounded negative. I’m sorry. Babies aren’t negative at all. In fact, the excitement that you’ll feel when you pick her up for the first time might make you really believe in a totally different type of love. There’s something about holding a baby, your flesh and blood, for the first time that introduces a new kind of love. It’s unexplainable unless you’re a poet or you write self-help books. Hmmm … you’ve done both; maybe you should try to explain it in a few months. And knowing you, you will.
Oh, here’s some really important advice: When folks offer help, you take it. Of course, you all can raise your child by yourselves. You’re grown-ass people. You’ve got this. We can all watch you whip and Nae Nae. Except you’ve also never been as tired as you’re going to be for the first month; nor have you ever had to keep somebody else alive and happy who can’t speak, walk or see very far.
Not to mention, your wife just pushed a human being out of her body and has to get adjusted to this new body and emotions that come with differences in hormones as her body becomes hers again. You know how she just went through a lot? Yeah, she’s going to go through a lot again to get back where she was in the first place before you did this to her. She may throw things.
Just duck. Don’t even sweat it. You don’t even have to say anything. Just know that people think pregnant women are nuts—well, just-after-pregnancy women are just as crazy. Hormones? They’re real, bruh-bruh. She will have questions and ponderances about who she is and what she’s doing in life, etc. Just be supportive, man. Again, trust me on this one.
Oh yeah, more about taking help. People are going to come by and offer to do things like cook and clean. Mothers are especially prone to this and just being around a bit more than you like. It sounds irritating, but the truth is, they provide you with a service you can’t get anywhere else: extra arms from somebody who would never drop your baby.
While you take a nap, Grandma and aunties will offer to watch the baby. Let ’em. See, they’re well rested and not seeing in threes, because they don’t have babies … like you. So they can afford to spare you some hours while you brush your teeth and try to remember what day it is. Yes, the days will bleed into one another. Sunday is just like Wednesday early on. Every day is Tuesday, basically.
Also, don’t be so pressed to make sure everything’s super clean—the house, I mean. You’ve got a life to keep alive; that carpet will get vacuumed and that dust will get dusted.
Interestingly enough, trips to the gas station will seem like going to the club because you’ll feel like you somehow escaped. From what? Who knows, but you’ll feel like you’re getting a moment of freedom to yourself that maybe you shouldn’t. Target was my sanctuary. But it’s OK—your wife will feel the same way once she’s comfortable enough to go somewhere without the baby, which you might be inclined to suggest … which might lead to your death. When she’s ready, she’ll go … to the store. Alone.
As your baby girl grows and you see her do things that excite you, like smile, you’ll know that you two did God’s work.
At which point you will know she believes that despite the fact that you are a man, just maybe you are also capable of taking care of the child you two created together. It’s not personal. Almost nobody thinks that men can take care of children, despite the millions of men actively taking care of their children. Matriarchy is alive and well, yo. Us men have it tough out here. Please note the sarcasm.
The most important thing to remember here is that you two have and need each other’s back. Babies are a lot of work. Parenthood is the funnest, most rewarding work ever, but babies require constant attention and awakeness. They require you to be actively attentive and focused. At least early on, the baby will sleep 90 percent of the time AND will be exactly where you put her if you turn your head. Once she starts getting bigger and rolling, well, it’s the beginning of the end of your ability to put her down while she’s sleep and wash the dishes.
Nobody wants to be the dad that lost the kid, ya know?
You two are in this together, and as long as you keep your eyes on the (supportive) prize, you’ll be just fine. It will be a long first month, but it flies by, and eventually it turns into age 4 and beyond. And as your baby girl grows and you see her do things that excite you, like smile, you’ll know that you two did God’s work and feel like seasoned pros. Which is funny because once you become a parent, you pretty much realize that your parents were winging this s—t the whole time.
So stay up, player, and remember, I’m here as a resource. I’ve made a few kids of my own, so I’ve got some experience. And I haven’t really been asleep for almost seven years now. But I’m still standing, and so will you two.
Tell the wife I said hello!
Panama Jackson is the co-founder and senior editor of VerySmartBrothas.com. He lives in Washington, D.C., and believes the children are our future.