Your Pregnancy Matters

Responsibility and pride: First month of fatherhood full of learning

Your Pregnancy Matters

New dad, Dr. Nelson, shares his story of the first month of fatherhood and offers tips. Photo by KT Photography

Ahh, sushi. Welcome back to my diet.

A little over a month ago, my wife, Jessica, and I welcomed our first baby, a beautiful little girl. Eva Layne was born May 13, 2015 at Clements University Hospital.

We recently had our first excursion out of the house since Eva’s birth. We made a Friday night reservation at Jessica’s favorite sushi restaurant – she couldn’t eat sushi during her pregnancy, so it was a real treat. We packed Eva into her car seat and hit the road, bringing our bags of baby necessities and nerves along for the ride.

As soon as we sat down and the waiter greeted us, we immediately ordered our drinks and food. The new-parent level of anxiety was real. Jessica and I quickly devoured some California rolls, nervously eyeing Eva and each other.

We were back home an hour later, but our little family date night really boosted our spirits. We realized we can do this – we can go in public with our baby, and everything will be just fine.

Bonding before the birth

The entire pregnancy was a significant bonding experience for Jessica and me. Our relationship evolved as the pregnancy progressed. We weren’t just a young couple anymore – we were building a family. We purchased a new home to make room for our new addition, and we prepared the nursery together. There was a real sense of togetherness unlike anything else in our relationship up to that point.

We’re the type that likes to share experiences with our family. We held a gender reveal party over Thanksgiving so we could all find out together what we were having. The staff at Clements University Hospital helped by providing a privacy card with the baby’s gender written on it. We had a cake ordered that was either pink or blue inside, according to the directions on the card. When we sliced open the cake and saw that pink middle, everyone in the room got really excited. It was hard not to look at Jessica’s sonograms before the party, but I’m glad I didn’t – it was really fun to be surprised along with everyone else.

We didn’t face any real complications during the pregnancy, but that’s not to say it was always easy. Around the time of the gender reveal party, Jessica came down with the flu. As a husband, you worry when your partner is sick. Being an obstetrician with a pregnant wife who is sick magnifies that worry. For a few weeks, I straddled the fence between doctor and husband to take care of her. It was nice to feel like I participated in the pregnancy, but I was relieved when she started feeling better.

Thankfully, the delivery was a breeze (easy for me to say!). Eva arrived right on time, and Jessica and Dr. Julie Lo handled the delivery well. I like to think I helped out, but let’s face it – they did the work that day.

Tips for new dads

Since we brought Eva home about a month ago, we have gotten into a pretty good routine. The biggest role I play as a new dad is supporting Jessica. I’m tired, of course, but it’s important for me to help care for Eva however I can and make Jessica’s life a little easier.

It’s easy to forget that real life is harder than doctors sometimes make it sound. For example, I was really surprised at how challenging breastfeeding is – there is a lot of work and equipment involved! It can be physically and mentally draining until both mom and baby get the hang of it.

We relied on the Clements University Hospital lactation consultants, both during and after our stay. They were so good about giving Jessica tips and suggestions for breastfeeding. It was such a relief to know that we could reach out to them and to the nursing staff – they were always happy to help us and answer our questions. Hospitals provide new parent resources for a reason – don’t hesitate to use them.

Pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting is a team effort that requires all hands on deck. It’s important to shoulder the responsibilities and excitement together. I have a pretty fun set of “daddy duties” at home – I’m responsible for the nighttime ritual of bathing Eva and getting her ready for bed. It’s one of the best parts of my day!

Becoming a dad has given me this overwhelming feeling of responsibility mixed with pride that is really hard to put into words. I have a new sense of selflessness. I’m responsible for so much more than myself now. I have a wife, a baby daughter – a family to take care of.

I’ll admit it. I’ve become “that guy” at work showing off pictures of my kid on my phone. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.