Now that Stuart and his wife had come back to their home with a newborn baby girl in tow, it was time to start becoming familiar with all the new roles and responsibilities that come with fatherhood.
Are you sure you’re ok darling? – Stuart’s post birth experience
After five days in their private hospital room, it was time to go home, but Stuart’s wife was petrified. Stuart felt powerless and lost.
We just need to get home and get family life started
When it came time to leave the hospital, Stuart’s wife kept hinting she felt that she might want an additional few nights. But Stuart felt trapped in the small room with his new family. He concluded that it was time to get their new life as a family started.
“Looking back I am more than a little embarrassed about how I handled those first 5 days. I was almost willing my life not to be impacted too much by only taking 5 days off work and even at one stage going in to work for an hour. My life had changed forever and only my wife seemed to understand the significance.”
What Stuart didn’t realise until he had finished packing the car to leave, was just how utterly petrified of going home his wife was. She felt safe and reassured in the hospital room and now she was almost like a deer in the headlights. Just getting her and his new baby daughter into the car took a great deal of effort and more than a few tears.
Stuart’s mother was at home when they arrived to greet them and bore witness to an incident Stuart would rather forget. “I honestly can’t even remember what my wife said, but I remember thinking I felt it was silly and that she was being silly and I snapped at her.”
Stuart’s wife burst into tears and his mother told him to back off. Stuart finally realised just how scared and vulnerable his wife was. She was going to need considerable support and Stuart was more than a little afraid that he may not be up to the challenge.
There is never enough time for being a father
“It would have been better to have at least two weeks off or even more,” he said.
“Even when I had the time at home I was worried about my work. I feel really silly now thinking back and more than a little embarrassed.”
Stuart feels that had he taken the additional time off or been more focused on the needs of his wife, she would not have struggled as she did initially or at least her transition into full time motherhood would have been smoother.
“I wish I had just taken the time and really made the most of it” Stuart said.
This became even more apparent to Stuart after an extended family holiday where he was able to spend a lot of time with his young daughter.
“My baby girl really enjoyed having both of us around all the time while we were away which makes me regret even more that I didn’t take more time of when she was born,” he said.
I love you, but our new baby girl needs us more
For Stuart, life as new dad was all about adapting and there were some elements that he found more difficult to deal with than others.
“It was hard at first to adapt to becoming the number two priority in my wife’s life,” he said.
“I would try to talk to my wife and she would be talking or playing with the baby so I had to learn to wait for her attention or to speak to her later on.”
One of the hardest transitions for Stuart was the fact that both he and his wife are very strong willed and opinionated. They didn’t always see eye to eye on the best approach to certain elements of parenting.
“It’s probably the case with a lot of men but it can be a bit tough dealing with mum always knowing best.
“You realise pretty quickly that mums often do know best because they spend so much time with bubs and just know every little thing about them.
“But it is hard when you know you’re right and there is some conflict that occurs. Sleep was a big one for us. You disagree on the best approach for sleep behaviour and your sleep along with your temperament towards each other can change dramatically”.
When breastfeeding isn’t easy
Stuart was confident that his wife was in control and doing a very good job a looking after their baby girl. However he said he was slightly worried about how she was coping personally with having to use a breast pump.
“The midwives don’t prepare you for what happens if you can’t breastfeed, they only tell you “breast is best” and every conceivable attachment technique. My wife was in absolute agony with breast feeding but was absolutely determined to provide our daughter with the best start to life.
“This meant a breast pump, for which she would be attached 3 times a day for a minimum of 30 minutes” he said.
“I was a bit worried about the breast pump getting her down but in the end she got the hang of it and it actually helped us to work out a good system that allowed us both to sleep,” said Stuart.
“For the first five or six months I was staying up until at least midnight feeding bubs and making sure my wife was getting enough sleep. Then she would be up the second half of the night feeding while I slept ready for work in the morning.”
“To my wife’s credit she was able to persevere with the breast pump until our daughter turned 16 months and she is so healthy for it,” he said
When it came to baby crying Stuart said he and his wife had slightly different philosophies on how to act.
“We do have different approaches to the baby crying but I think the key to being good parents is communication and compromise,” he said.
Stuart and his wife had numerous discussions on how to deal with crying, especially at night.
“I don’t deal too well with the really bad crying, especially when you can’t see any justifiable cause.
“It stresses me out a bit and sometimes it gets to a point where I just have to say ‘here mum you deal with this’ and most of the time it’s just because she wants her mum anyway and the crying stops.”
Stuart admits, much to his embarrassment, that the crying in the early months caused him great frustration. On occasions he would stop and ask himself why he was getting upset with a baby.
“It wasn’t like she had any idea of how to communicate differently. I remember once after a particularly long time trying to settle her yelling, “What’s wrong with you,” really loudly only to discover she was simply scared and wanted a cuddle. The moment I picked her up she sighed and fell asleep.”
Stuart found this the hardest time for himself and had numerous discussions with other fathers only to find it was entirely normal.
“Make sure you have a support network, particularly other fathers. I never did it but I wish I had attended a fathers group. There is no need to go it alone.” he said.
One small step for a new father
As time went on, Stuart’s knowledge and confidence continued to grow but he said it was still a little daunting the first time he and bubs were alone together.
“Like heaps of new dads I suppose it’s a big step going it all alone for the first time but it doesn’t take long to get into the swing of it,” he said.
“I have every Friday off work and we go the swimming pool or the indoor play centre or the animal farm. We have a lot of fun together.
“Now I think I would struggle to go back to work full-time at least until she is at school.
“Learning to look after bubs on my own has been a bit of a challenge but I have always just thrown myself into it and got it done.
“There is a lot of learning as you go when you’re raising a baby but that is part of the joy and the rewards far outweigh any difficulties or challenges.”
Click here to read Stuart’s experiences during the 1st trimester.
Click here to read Stuart’s experiences during the 2nd trimester.
Click here to read Stuarts experiences during the 3rd trimester.
|Read about other dads’ experiences during the first few weeks after their baby’s birth.|