Dad Tales: The Fourth Trimester

Young baby

Photo Credit: Geoliv

Dad Tales

Today’s guest author is Steven, father of a 4 1/2 year old and 3 month old.

The Fourth Trimester

Before I had my first child, I was not aware that the first 12 weeks of my newborn’s life is sometimes colloquially referred to as the “fourth trimester.” I’ve since learned there a number of blog sites, chapters in new parent books, and websites devoted to sharing information about the fourth trimester written for and by women. Considering most men’s role in making a baby involves a (very) brief deposition of genetic material, this is fair. 

However, now that I am a father of two, I want to share for the dads some advice for their experience during this mysterious “fourth trimester.” 

First, people will ask you weird questions about your baby. One of the most challenging, “Is he a good baby?” How do I answer this question? What is a “good” baby? Are good babies the ones that change their own diapers? Are we talking “good” in the sense of good vs evil, or less formal than that? I don’t think my baby is evil. Can babies be evil? I hope not. (Sometimes at 1:00 AM, I am convinced that my baby is evil.) There must be good babies and bad babies because someone asked, right? Is there a way to make my baby more good? Is there some kind of scoring system I should be aware of? A training video? Maybe a tape? (Do they make tapes?) I don’t remember this in the stuff the discharge nurse gave us at the hospital. 

Truly, there is no such thing as a “good baby.” Just like any other human, babies are on a personality spectrum. Some cry non-stop, some never cry. Some fall asleep when you lay them down, some wish to be held. Some take to the breast the instant they see it, some of them treat the breast like a hot poker. Some let you know when they are tired, some act batsh*t crazy until they melt down. Like adults, some babies are jerks. 

Secondly, the amount of time people talk openly about their baby is directly proportional to how awesome their baby is. I estimate that only about 1% of babies are totally awesome. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, it is the parents of these 1%-ers that do 99% of the talking about their awesome baby. “He naps 3 hours.” “She takes 5 minutes to get down for a nap.” “He took to the breast 2 seconds after birth.” “He fusses for 11 seconds when his diaper is wet.” The rest of us don’t make these statements. We assume our baby is somehow deficient because of the rocking, napping, crying, mustard pooping, fussing, feeding issues we are dealing with. So we stay quiet. The reality? Everything is normal, including your abnormal baby.

Thirdly and probably the most important lesson, there are times during this first 12 weeks that you aren’t going to like this new baby as much as you thought you would. You love your baby, yes. But there are times when you will not like your baby. At 3:00 AM, while holding a handful of warm, mustard like poo as your wife sits in the bathroom crying because she hasn’t slept in 5 weeks, you will ask yourself, “What did I get myself into?” Fortunately, nature has done a nice job of ensuring we do not eat or donate our human young by inventing the smile. At 3:00 AM as you try to figure out what to do with a handful of poo while you listen to your wife’s sobs through the bathroom door, your angel looks up and socially smiles for the first time. It is then that you know you love your baby and would move mountains for him.

This post is part of our ongoing series “Dad Tales.”  Stories, triumphs, tantrums, tips, and real life experiences from dad’s point of view. 

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