Welcome to fatherhood. I can’t think of a more rewarding and terrifying responsibility. You got your partner pregnant, remember? You’re not only responsible for taking care of her every need; you’re responsible for taking care of all of your child’s needs until the day you die.
I know what you’re thinking, because I had the same thoughts myself: I don’t know anything about babies. My partner is a woman. Women have a built-in Wikipedia of secret baby information that I don’t have access to. I will screw up, and ruin my child.
Here’s the secret: women don’t have a built-in Wikipedia of secret baby information. Nobody does. Every child is different, and nobody knows how to raise your child. Except the two of you. You’ll figure it out together. There are things that have worked for other parents, with their children. Yours is different. You can listen to their advice, but think of them like IKEA assembly instructions: suggestions, not absolutes. It might work for your baby, it might not. Remember, everyone leaves the hospital with the same level of experience with their baby: none.
So dive in. Roll up your sleeves and get some experience. Your baby’s not getting any younger.
Keep one hand on the baby at all times. Seriously – they tend to roll. This can make changing a diaper complicated, if you haven’t taken the time to get all your materials laid out properly in advance. But you’re a guy, so you’ll figure it out. Even if you’re rooting around underneath the changing table, looking for stuff – keep one hand on the baby.
A note about boys. When you first open up that warm, wet diaper and the cool air hits the nether regions, it sometimes invokes a secondary event. Be ready for that.
You’ll notice if you’re following the primary rule (keep one hand on the baby at all times) that you have only one hand left to change the diaper. This takes some practice, especially undoing the tape strips without ripping them off the diaper. Practice beforehand. You’ll accumulate several cubic feet of stuffed animals in the weeks surrounding the birth. Practice on them. Get to where you can change a diaper left-handed, behind your back in pitch darkness. You may be called upon someday.
Your First Outing
The mother has decided you need some “bonding” time with your child, so she’s kicking the two of you out of the house. Don’t panic. Babies rarely starve or explode if they are away from their mothers for less than an hour. You got this. Make sure the diaper bag is packed. Bring one extra baby outfit in case of a blowout, and off you go.
Where to? It doesn’t matter. Babies are big absorbent stimuli sponges. Babies are undiscriminating. Take her to Home Depot. Her mother may have different ideas, but your baby doesn’t care. It’s all stimuli.
Dealing with Advice
As a new father with a baby, you are obviously completely incompetent. You will get advice from everyone, especially at Home Depot (“Who takes their baby to a hardware store?”). Accept it with the love it is given, ignore it, and take comfort in the knowledge that you are the father of the most beautiful baby in the world. They’re just jealous.
The mother, your mother, pretty much any female will insist that you give your baby a bath. From their perspective, it’s a great photo opportunity. From the correct perspective, it’s probably the most dangerous situation you can put your baby in. Water? Hard metal surfaces? We’ll get through this with comprehensive risk assessment and mitigation.
Drowning – Babies don’t really get very dirty. They spend most of their time indoors, and are generally carried when outdoors. So you don’t need to submerge the baby. It’s more about wiping down. Two inches of water is plenty.
Severe head trauma – Remember the one-hand rule. It’s a little tricky, because now the baby is slippery. Never. Let. Go. I use the Vulcan Nerve Pinch. Also, never take your eyes off the baby. Don’t worry about knocking stuff over while you’re groping around blindly for the shampoo. You’re in the bathroom. Everything is covered in tile. It’ll clean up.
Poisoning – Babies don’t get dirty (see drowning), so you don’t need shower gel. Babies also don’t really have hair, so you can get away with nearly-invisible amounts of shampoo. Keep in mind; anything you hand to a baby ends up in his mouth. As a distraction, give him something to suck on. Just make sure it’s at least as big as your fist. The shampoo bottle is not a good choice.
Now that we’ve addressed the primary bath time risks, relax and have fun. As I said, babies don’t get dirty, so bath time is not about cleaning, it’s about getting naked. Babies love getting naked. But don’t you go getting naked. Someone needs to be able to get everyone out of the house safely if it suddenly burst into flames. Keep your shoes on at all times.