My best advice?
I’m not going to say forever, but for the time being… turn in your Man Card. You should mentally be okay with that.
What’s a Man Card? A Man Card is doing manly things. Like 1950’s manly things.
A Man Card is doing things like cutting the grass, fixing a leaky sink, hunting a deer, not stepping foot (ever) in Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Your wife is pregnant?
Yesterday is the day to be prepared to turn in your Man Card.
Luckily I anticipated this happening. In anticipation of losing my Man Card, I took a fishing trip with my uncles and grandfather (and my wife) to our family’s boat-in fishing resort in northern Canada. This “resort” is a good six plus hours north of the United States/Canada border in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. We went fishing after breakfast, lunch and dinner. We cooked the fish we ate for dinner each night. We played cards and drank cheap beer.
Sometimes you don’t realize how important of a trip the journey is, until after the journey is over. That was the case with this trip.
Below is the link to the resort we visited. My family sold its ownership stake in it a long time ago, but we are luckily still treated like royalty when we visit. Check it out if you love the outdoors, nature, fishing (walleye, northern pike and perch), boating and roughing it.
The resort… it’s not for everyone. It’s way the hell up there. There are no nearby grocery stores, hospitals or spas. Most cabins are not equipped with toilets or showers. There are outhouses and there is a shower house. You can’t drive to the cabins, thus the name “boat-in”.
That’s kind of the point. You go up there and you breathe it in. You play zone defense. You shut off your cell phone, because there’s no cell towers.
Some people don’t have the luxury of doing this. Kids happen. Sometimes kids happen unexpectedly. I understand this. But if you have the opportunity, do it. Because once your wife is pregnant, you turn in the card.
You turn in the card because your child (or children in our case) and it’s well-being is more important that your tough guy persona.
The big thing with me throughout my youth and early adulthood was doing things, and figuring out life by myself. I can do it. I see flawed, unhappy, divorced adults all around me.
They are offering me advice? Why the hell would I take their advice? I have a better chance attempting to figure it all out myself. At least I know if I screw up, the only person to blame would be myself.
Parenting? There are so many HORRIBLE parents I see everyday! Why would I listen to any of them?
Well that is wrong.
As I parent, you need help. You need all the help you can get. If you are having twins or triplets… forgetaboutit. You’ll need double or triple the help.
It doesn’t mean you have to listen to all the advice that everyone gives you, but absorb it all with your spouse or partner and pick and choose what makes sense.
With anything else, we’ve told people all the time… nah, we’re good… we got this… thanks for offering, but no thanks.
When someone asks if they can bring over dinner after the baby is born. The answer needs to be yes.
Someone offers to bring over groceries or cut the grass/shovel the driveway during the first month? Yes.
A date night may be a stretch due to breastfeeding, sleeping and attachment issues, but if you can pry yourself away from the child within the first two or three months, even if it’s just for fast food for an hour, do it.
Every issue is exacerbated once a child is born. There is little time to discuss current events, politics, sports or your love for one another. Be prepared for this. The baby is king (or queen). It will eventually get easier, but be prepared for at least six months of changing diapers and feeding a mouth with a breast or bottle.
The infant gives you little positive feedback during these first few months, be prepared for that too.
Another thing… you think you’re ready for a child… you’re not.
You’ve saved up a ton of money for the costs associated with having a child? It’s not enough.
You’ve been a nanny for two years? You’re not ready.
Your sibling recently had a child and you watched them for one night? Nope.
You have three dogs, two cats and one hamster? Don’t kid yourself.
You may have taken a lot of responsible steps to prepare for childbirth and that’s good, but don’t ever be cocky enough to think you’re ready, because you’re not.
Once a baby is born, your life changes and you need to be mentally and physically prepared for these changes.
The good thing for guys is we actually, contrary to popular belief, are okay talking about parenting. Women like talking about their problems, while men like solving problems. If we like solving problems, that means we also like helping other people solve problems. I started this blog because I hope someone reads it and picks up one little tidbit that makes being a dad easier and more enjoyable. I LIKE SOLVING PROBLEMS. Don’t assume guys don’t like talking about parenting. That’s a fallacy.
If your child isn’t sleeping well, I’d like to hear about it and see if I could suggest anything to help. Swaddling, turning down the lights, working on a schedule, scented lotion… these are all ideas that could help.
Scented lotion. TURN IN YOUR MAN CARD!
Before our kids were born, we did a “preparing to be a parent” class at Hillcrest Hospital, the hospital where our children were born. Hillcrest Hospital is a branch of the highly acclaimed Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.
These classes are prevalent at most majors hospitals. Here is a list of the type of pregnancy/new parent classes that Hillcrest Hospital offers:
Take one. Take them all. Many are free or have a nominal fee of $30 to $75. This is money well spent!
Don’t be cocky. Even if you have experience being around young kids, you still are not ready to be a full-time parent.
I want to end this post with a story about turning in my Man Card.
As a guy, we like boobs. Boobs, breasts, cans, honkers, racks, melons… we’re guys… we like them. They are sexual objects. Right?
Wrong. Once a chid is born, boobs are sources of food. How depressing. The majority of women attempt to breastfeed after the child is born. It makes a lot of sense. Breastfeeding is good for the child. It provides them with natural nutrition, growth enzymes and anti-bodies that formulas struggle to imitate.
PLUS IT’S FREE. We’re guys. We like free.
Within the first 30 minutes after birth, a “lactation consultant” will most likely be in your room attempting to get your new child to latch on to your wife’s breasts and breastfeed. This is mildly to moderately annoying.
We were holding our new sons. We were measuring and weighing our new sons. We were taking pictures of our new sons. We were NAMING our new sons!
In hindsight though it was important, so be prepared for it. A baby needs to eat! Additionally, the milk in the breast needs to come in. The sooner both the woman and the child get used to breastfeeding, the better.
At the insistence of the lactation consultant, we worked on feeding our boys right away. At the same time we were calling family members and arranging visits. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law were in town and were going to be the first to visit. My mother and siblings would arrive in the evening.
Within the first two hours, we were moved to a private room and our children, as twins, were blessed to be mature and healthy enough to avoid the NICU and visit us immediately in the private room. Around that same time, the lactation consultant was working with us… both.
I had no clue why I was involved with this? Hello!!! I am not going to be the one breastfeeding! But the lactation consultant was very persistent about getting this whole feeding thing down as soon as possible. Both of our kids were having trouble latching on and also my wife was not making and excreting milk at a high rate. These are both common issues.
My mother-in-law and sister-in-law walked in and my shirt and my wife’s shirt are both half off. The lactation consultant is encouraging us to try to comfort our new children with a “kangaroo hold”, i.e. their warm, bare, skin pressed against our warm, bare, skin. This is supposedly used to help comfort the child after birth and help them attach to their parents and in-turn breastfeed better. This was mildly embarrassing enough.
The Man Card was pretty much gone at this point, but there’s more.
Our crazy, old school, hippie lactation consultant wanted me to try to express the milk glands inside of my wife’s breast, while my children had their mouth attached to my wife’s nipple and massage the milk out of the glands and into their mouths.
At that point, if you follow the lactation consultant’s advice, you’re going to look like a total goof and it’s going to get very awkward, very quickly, in front of both my mother-in-law and my sis-in-law. However, if you don’t listen to the instructions, then you’d possibly appear to be a uncaring and unhelpful, and a not involved father.
So I did it.
I massaged the milk out of my wife’s bare breast with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law coaching me. I pressed down and rubbed from mid-breast, towards the nipple in a sweeping motion in hopes of helping my little dudes get used to breastfeeding. I did this repeatedly. To both breasts.
It may have been the most awkard moment of my life.
Needless to say, this isn’t the 1950’s anymore.
Be prepared to turn in your Man Card.
Do you think you are ready for kids? Are you prepared to be embarrassed and lose your Man Card?
I hope so, because it’s all worth it and you can eventually get your Man Card reinstated.