...in the final weeks before your baby arrives.
Other than having sex for the first time, I can’t recall ever being so unprepared for anything as I was for the arrival of our first-born son.
One fact I’d regretfully refused to engage with at the time — and which you really should keep in mind — is that babies can come early. Three weeks early, in our case, which means that your time-worn and trusted technique of leaving things to the last minute while channelling your grandfather by muttering “she’ll be right” can be severely exposed.
Finding yourself at home alone for the first time after leaving your wife and newborn in hospital and realising that you still haven’t knocked the cot or the baby-change table together can be a sobering moment.
So, if your missus is headed into the final throes of pregnancy, now is the time to get your shit together, and channel that excited energy into doing something productive to pass the time.
Here are some ideas to get your started.
1. Dust off your allen key
Attempt to build furniture after one of the most emotional and sleepless night of your life, and with the clock ticking until Your New Family comes home, and you’re likely to turn a bassinet into a bookshelf, or just a pile of hateful little pieces that you swear at a lot.
If you’re one of those unfortunate half-men, like me, who will end up DOA if he attempts DIY, this is the point where you realise you’re in serious trouble, and phone a friend.
Yes, I know that building a cot, which comes with instructions and its own tools is not really DIY, but I didn’t have to screw the components of my giant TV together, which is about the extent of my prior experience with home improvement.
Insider tip for this one – choose a mate who has kids/has done it all before and who will work for beer. This also gives you an opportunity to ‘talk shop’ and pick his dad brain on any last minute questions or concerns you might have about fatherhood.
2. Become an expert in how everything operates
Returning to a house you left hastily 2-5 days ago, and suddenly having to figure out where the hell everything is and how it works — with your wife and baby crying at you — is a bad start to the next 18 years.
Now, when you have the brain capacity, is your chance to open up all that baby gear you’ve bought/begged/borrowed/stolen and become the master in how it all operates.
From breast pumps, to sterilisers to humidifiers – brain fried and sleep deprived is no time to be learning new things.
So have it all set up and ready to go, and become a go-to guru your missus can rely on for those first few weeks when her mind and boobs are otherwise disposed.
3. Hone your dad skill-set
Unless you’re planning to have your baby in 1973, you will be doing your fair share of the parenting.
Now is the time to get a handle on the basics.
Practising the preparation of baby bottles may seem anally retentive, but it’s far less stressful to work it out now than when you’ve just come through the door with an exhausted wife and hangry newborn in tow. (Even if she plans to breast feed, it can be a few days before ‘the milk comes in’).
Practice putting nappies on things – those fluffy dolls that are suddenly filling your house, kittens, small shrubs, your foot – or even other people’s babies if they’re game.
Swaddling techniques are also good skill to master: an iron clad swaddle stops babies hitting themselves in the face and startling themselves awake. Which helps them sleep better, and in turn helps YOU sleep better.
4. Go to the birth classes, (no really)!
I can’t recommend going to the pre-natal classes highly enough, I found them educational and enjoyable, right up to the point where they showed the horrific birth videos (clearly recorded before the turn of the century, they will surely shock younger blokes who’ve never seen pubic hair before, let alone untamed bush).
They can, however, leave you with the sadly mistaken feeling that you know what you’re about to be doing.
Reality is very different to bathing a rubber doll baby (and just one tip on that; don’t attempt to give your child its first bath in the kitchen sink, they don’t like it, something about the cold metal, probably).
5. Do anything and everything you possibly can to make your life easier once baby arrives!
And do it now, while you have the time and energy!
Bulk cook and stock your freezer with as many pre-cooked meals as it can fit.
Paint the nursery, baby-proof the home, read articles that will prepare you for fatherhood (we know a great website), here’s a sample platter:
Bonus tip – if friends and family ask you what they can bring or how they can help in the first few weeks, always say meals. Lots and lots of pre-cooked meals that you can just heat and eat.
6. Most of all, enjoy your last glorious weeks alone
Other than physically preparing yourself and your house, those waiting weeks before bub’s arrival are a time you should cherish, by saying goodbye to the life you used to have, and tasting its sweetness one last time.
Parents look back on the years before kids the way you might gaze back at photos of a country you loved but have been banned from ever visiting again.
So in those last few months and weeks you should do the things you don’t yet know you’ll miss.
Like sleeping, which sounds like a joke but isn’t. Please, sleep, and sleep in. Do it for me…
And while you’re at it, do these other things for me too:
Spend quality time with your partner. Gaze lovingly into one another’s eyes and memorise what they look like without permanent black bags under them. Once the baby comes your relationship takes a backseat and it will be ‘all about the baby’ for a long, long time.
Go out to movies. And not animated ones or those with heroic dogs. Proper, grown up ones. I can’t even remember the last time I made it to a movie, or through a movie for that matter.
Play video games. Fire up your PS4 a last few blissful times without getting scowled at by your mother-in-law. Then put it up on Gumtree. By the time you play again it’ll be on a PS5 anyway.
Go to restaurants. Just the two of you, just because you can. Ideally those that don’t have a kids menu. Eat spicy food, too, if that’s your thing.
Speaking of spicy… Add some red hot sex to the menu, if she’s up for it — which many women surprisingly are in the last trimester. Once her lady parts get ripped 5 ways from Sunday it will be a while before you enter that premises again.
(Bonus tip – it’s a bit of an old midwives’ tale, but they say sex can help to naturally induce labour. Granted ‘they’ are not those in the scientific community, but hell, it’s worth a shot. Check with your GP first though).
Do it all now, while you can muster the energy, as once baby comes, you’ll be going nowhere, fast.
In the first weeks, due to baby immunity issues and as well as total and utter unprecedented exhaustion, you won’t want to leave the house.
Every moment spent cooking, cleaning, assembling, or — worst of all — working! is a moment that could be better spent with your newborn, soaking in that new baby smell as they sleep softly on your chest.
I lost hours just staring at my babies when they were born, watching them breathe, listening to them gurgle, marveling at their perfect little pudginess as they rolled around on the floor, while a mate of mine finally built our cot in the other room. Cheers Ryan.
Oh, and one last thing. Have your missus cut and file her fingernails. Especially if you are the birth partner.
You’ll thank me later.