As my wife entered 24 straight hours of labor, it became obvious I wasn't fully prepared for the birth of my first child. Snacks? Eaten long ago. Cell phone? Nearly out of juice. Change of socks? Nowhere to be found. My wife had everything she needed stuffed into an overnight bag or provided by the hospital, but, clearly, I hadn't thought this all the way through for myself.
Needless to say, I definitely learned the ropes — as well as I could — after our first was born. Here are some of the initial mistakes I made.
Finding food and comfortable sleep. While we'd taken a tour of the hospital's maternity ward weeks before our first was born, I failed to pinpoint the location of cafeterias and was ravenous. Plus, I neglected to make note of the hospital's sleeping arrangements for dads. So, I spent the night on a shoddy, broken recliner that repeatedly collapsed under my weight. Not that I was about to rest anyway.
Car seat installation 101. I had dutifully purchased and installed a car seat months ago for use during baby's trip home, but now realized I didn't have a clue how to actually use it. Five-point harness? What? A review of its manual beforehand would have been a good idea.
Paper not plastic. At the hospital, I dimly wondered how I would get my car out of the parking lot, since they only accepted cash. In my wisdom, I had decided to rely upon my vast array of credit cards instead. Even the nearby cash-only vending machine, which was stocked with all manner of tempting junk food, was off limits. Lesson learned — never underestimate the importance of real money in an emergency.
Patience is a virtue. At that point, the tedium was starting to get to me. I foolishly expected the birth to be a rapidly paced flurry of activity just like they always are on TV. But, in truth, it was a lot of waiting. I thumbed through the same gift shop magazine a hundred times that day, wishing all the while that I brought more forms of entertainment. But I would have traded all the magazines in the world for a change of clothes or, better yet, a toothbrush. Of course, I neglected to bring those too.
Either way, I vowed I wouldn't be caught by surprise again. Little did I know that none of our children would be born according to plan. Our second child, for example, was born in distress and narrowly avoided a stay in the neonatal ICU, and our third child was born via Caesarean. In other words, deliveries rarely seem to go as you expect, no matter how much you prepare.
Preparation aside, after our first was born and as I looked into his big, blue eyes for the first time, something unexpected happened — I let out a deep, wracking sob, which I'm sure everyone in the room heard. But, honestly, I wasn't really concerned with maintaining my dignity at that point. I did, however, remember to come prepared with an ample supply of tissues the next time.
Donald S. Deane is the proud papa of three little boys who provide endless amounts of joy and sleep deprivation. He has held a variety of jobs, including college English teacher, newspaper reporter/editor, internet project manager, dishwasher and dogcatcher. Don has written for AOL TV, Moviefone, TheFW, ScreenCrush, GuySpeed, and Arcade Sushi, among others.
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