Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Father's Future (a guest post by Steve Birkett) #pregnancy

I first met Steve Birkett during one of @BruceSallan's #dadchat twitter parties (Thursdays at 9:00 EST). When I learned that he was a first time expectant parent I asked him if he would write a post about his thoughts on his future fatherhood. He gladly obliged. Steve is a social media consultant primarily focusing on the music industry. You can read more about his business (and contact him if you are in need of a social media consultant) at his blog Above The Static.


A Father's Future

I first learned of my shift from aspiring Daddy to real life Father-to-be on a sleepy Saturday morning this past summer. Having satisfyingly pounded the snooze button for perhaps the thirtieth time, I was presented with an altogether more persistent form of wake up call: an ecstatic wife with a positive pregnancy test. My lie-in would have to wait (a situation that I've since been informed to get used to).

Having tried for over one year to conceive - enduring all manner of unpleasant treatments for my strong-willed wife - I was, of course, feeling elated. Relief, uncertainty, joy, questions, and confusion also flooded through me, the latter quite possibly down to being half awake and not entirely convinced that the whole thing wasn't a particularly vivid dream.

Tears, tea, and talking to my wife brought home the reality of the situation: I'm going to be somebody's Dad.


The More Things Change...

The first thing that surprised me was the disconnect between the enormity of the news and how little it actually changes things, in the short term at least. We couldn't really tell people outside of close family for a month or two, so no great hype built up around our life-changing event. We had a lot to learn, but nine months is a significant amount of study time (please, remind me of that one week before the due date!). Even our eating habits didn't need to be adjusted that much until the second trimester. My wife doesn't drink much and neither of us smoke, so there were no addictions to suddenly break.

In some ways, at least practically, this was business as usual. Mental preparation and not too much else.

In the absence of practical steps, I always turn to research. My better half Jen has a similar reaction, so we both felt a trip to the Borders fire-sale to be in order. The Brooklyn Central Library has since been raided on multiple occasions since that day, having spurred us both to finally register for library cards. Then we turned to the online resources like webzines, blogs, Twitter chats... information overload!

Between the pregnancy planning books, online medical articles, mommy blogger advice, and myriad other information sources on offer for parents-to-be, it could be argued that over-reading is almost as troublesome as under-reading. Sure, there are some crucial things to know - how much to budget, safety tips, and how you’ll never get to sleep again - but the unabated hypochondria of the Internet age can also kick in, with self diagnosis of every potential health concern. A fine line to walk indeed.

Nonetheless, forewarned is usually forearmed. Given the choice, I'd rather understand potential risks and rule them out, than remain oblivious. In the case of new parents, I'm very much of the mind that ignorance is not bliss.

Man In The Mirror

In addition to thinking about me having a child, I've also spent a lot of time reflecting on the child having me. It's a strange thing to contemplate, how a person that doesn't yet exist as a person will come to view you. I find these thoughts guiding my decisions more and more as the pregnancy becomes more 'real'.

Inevitably, there will be many more trials, triumphs, and tribulations to come before my wee one arrives...and then, I'm told, the "real fun" begins! Despite the knowing smiles with which that phrase has been delivered to me, I can't recall anticipating any event quite this fervently since my wedding day.

And for all the reading I'll have done and guidance that I've sought, one piece of advice will be at the forefront of my mind:

"Just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, everything changes and you realize that you still know nothing.”


Renee Malove said...

ROFL! Oh, Steve. How well I remember those first terrifying days of pregnancy when everything was new and the toilet was my new best friend.

That, fortunately, is a joy you'll be spared ;)

The simple truth is, you're never going to know what you're doing. There's research you should do now (I strongly recommend the "What to Expect" books) to prepare you for the practicalities of taking care of babies, but honestly? You're going to learn most of it on the fly.

Choosing a good OB and an excellent pediatrician is more important than any reading you're going to do right now. They'll answer your questions, recommend resources and help you with the "hands-on" part of on-the-job training, so make sure you have someone you can trust. And if you're not comfortable with either your doctor or your child's, DON'T BE AFRAID TO SWITCH! You need your doctor on your side.

Three kids and a half dozen pediatricians later, that's honestly the best advice I can give you. I wish someone would have given it to me.

Beyond that...don't sweat the small stuff. That's going to be more important when they start to walk and you feel like you're saying "No" all day long than it is now, but it's good to internalize now. Pick your battles. If it's not hurting anybody or causing thousands of dollars in property damage, let it go. Remember that YOUR child is different. What works for child (X) might not work for you. What works for your first might not work for your second.

I strongly recommend adding "Raising the Spirited Child" to your reading list. I picked it up for alternative ideas on how to discipline my oldest, who has ADD and goes through several rough patches each year. (Look up Terrible Twos, I'm sure his picture's there somewhere.) There's some WONDERFUL information in there on kicking society's recommendations to the curb and helping your child become the person they were meant to be.

And now I'll stop being "that" mom, the one that doles out all kinds of unwanted advice, and say what really needs to be said. Congratulations. You're about to kick off the biggest adventure of your life, and I think you'll be amazed at how quickly this new little one is going to slide into your life.

Best of luck to you, and remember. You have a huge community of friends and resources at your fingertips. Don't be afraid to ask questions, ask for help, ask for a night out. Use them, that's what they're there for!

Steve Birkett said...

Renee, THANK YOU! The only thing that isn't valid there is the "doling out unwanted advice" part...I just lapped this all up :)

Funnily enough, the 'What To Expect (When You're Expecting' book was one we picked up in the Borders closing weeks. It has indeed been great and given Jen some comfort that not everything she's feeling is a potential disaster ;)

I love the OB point and will pay more attention to that next time we're in. Took a while to move on from getting checks at the fertility clinic, even after we conceived, so we're still getting to know the new doc.

I think I'll be the one getting into the second book you recommended, as I'm doing more thinking about how the discipline works and what actions will allow a healthy, free childhood, without letting everything pass as acceptable. I'll see if I can find it this week, thanks.

All in all, I think writing this post and looking at the others has made me realize just how much I need to soak in all the thoughts of those around me. There are so many amazing parents with whom I interact daily on entirely unrelated matters. And, let's face it, how many won't want to talk about their kids when asked?!

Thanks again!

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