New to Bounty?
Before his daughter Kate was born, Will Dalrymple couldn't imagine what it would be like to be a dad.
So he's come up with this golden advice which should get most dads through the first month anyway.
1. At last, you're in control.
For the first time in your life, you and/or your partner – and not your parents – organise your time and the baby's time. Now you're the parent in charge, and you decide where you go and what you do as a family.
2. Just joking!
Actually, you're not in control – the baby is, and he or she will completely disregard your attempts to plan anything at all (so remember to tape any sport you want to watch because if you don't, the screams will start just as something interesting happens).
3. Your baby is unique
There's no way of knowing what she's going to be like, and what she will like or dislike. Sometimes it's scary not knowing what she wants, but this is your chance to be in the front row to witness someone who is new to the world.
4. During pregnancy, the baby can be anything
Boy, girl, dark, fair, big, small – but when it comes, it won't be everything it could be. For example, we were convinced that our daughter would be a boy, and guessed wrong – which completely confounded our feelings about her in the first few days. There's nothing wrong with grieving for the things that didn't turn out as you expected – it doesn't mean you love the child you do have any less.
I didn't think a new baby would be so fun to be around. We are constantly laughing about how completely unselfconscious babies are (no worries about straining to do a poo).
6. Embrace baby-wearing
Carrying a baby takes at least one hand, so lose an arm or buy a carrier. I have had great success with a sling, which my daughter seems to like. It's secure, and leaves both my hands free.
7. They grow SO quickly
Your baby will change every single day, and anything new that she does is a revelation. In week two, my daughter's hands got a lot more grabby. She started to track movements with her eyes, and would – with great effort – copy me if I stuck my tongue out.
Small things, yes, but you'll still (proudly) bore your friends to distraction talking about them.
8. Love may not be instant
Love didn't come automatically the moment my baby was handed to me after she was born. But bonding through cuddling, hugging and rocking her my feelings have grown.
9. Childbirth is exhausting
Don't underestimate the effect the labour will have on you, as well as your partner. Thirty-six hours of contractions and then an emergency Caesarean wasn't part of our birth plan, and it took me a week to recover from the stress.
10. Hold off on the sex jokes
If you're wondering when you're going to have sex again, it's probably best not to make jokes about it in the early days – they will be met by stony silence.
11. Embrace cute names
You will delight in calling each other 'Mummy' and 'Daddy' (something everyone else will find revolting).
12. Grandparents are learning too
Your own parents need to grow into their role so give them time. And new parents don't stop being their parents children. If your mum wants to cook for you or do your washing, just enjoy it.
13. Take a 'babymoon'
We found that by limiting visitors during the first two weeks we could get used to our new lifestyle on our own, without the stress of entertaining.
14. Your relationship will change immediately
Any kind of physical contact between you and your partner is off the menu if one of you is always holding the baby. And conversations are likely to be interrupted as the baby throws up all over both of you.
15. You may feel that you're living through one long day
Newborns can't differentiate between day and night, and within days you won't be able to either. It also means that at 7.30pm you'll have to choose between sleep – as much of it as you can get before the baby wakes up again – and your more usual evening activities. (With us, sleep won every time.)
16. There will be epic fatigue
The tiredness is manageable, but during the day there are weak moments. Coffee, Coke and biscuits make all the difference.
17. You'll be forever grateful for your washing machine and dishwasher
Both seem much more important than the perfect pram or highchair. Keeping the laundry basket empty and clean dishes in the cupboards helps maintain my sanity (and my wife's everlasting gratitude, or so she says).
18. You can do anything with one hand!
You'll learn to eat with one hand, turn pages with your feet and fast forward the video with your nose. Luckily you only need one hand to pee (leaving the other free to cradle your asleep-at-last child).
19. Be organised
Sort out your own toys before settling down with a baby you don't want to wake up. More than once I've been caught on the couch without the remote control and had to stare at the wall for three hours while she slept.
20. Don't be afraid to experiment
What do you do when a rested baby has a full stomach, a clean nappy, and is crying? Troubleshoot. Our baby seems to like the traffic noise, going outside, being rocked gently, and perhaps a little gentle classical music (for a while at least). I have also been known to sing to her. If something doesn't work, try something else. Don't be afraid to experiment – though it probably won't work, it won't hurt either.
21. Agree on terms of division of labour
Who gets up when the baby cries? Who does a 2am nappy change? What happens at weekends? You and your partner need to decide, but be realistic. You can't stay awake all night tending to a crying baby and then put in an eight-hour day at work, so if it's bad, you may need to sleep on the couch. I've been doing extra shifts at the weekend instead.
22. Forget minimalism
Baby paraphernalia will overtake your house. Have you thought about where it's all going to go? (And yes, your partner's right, you do need it all – don't resist).
23. Returning to work after paternity leave can be a relief
I'd gladly take the low-level but predictable stress of work to the unpredictable stress of a baby. The lunch hours in particular are a great chance to kick back in the pub and toast your new status, or just have some time to yourself.
24. It's OK that you won't be a pro – at first!
As a first-time dad, it's normal not to have the faintest idea of how to care for your baby. Don't panic – within a week you'll look back and be amazed at how far you've come (and how good you are at changing nappies).
25. Hang out for that first smile
Once you get through the newborn haze your baby will look around more and is awake for longer periods than they used to. Soon they will start to smile and the milestones will just keep on giving. It really does keep getting better, even if it is a hard slog at first.