Congratulations! YOU DID IT! That amazing bundle of joy is nestled in your partner's arms and you are about as happy as you can imagine. Now comes the really interesting part: going home with your newborn.
There are some obvious preparations for this homebound journey. The first outfit is important to your partner and her mom; the baby has to look adorable upon discharge from the hospital. Of course, you can't forget that car seat for the drive home. There are bottles and formula or nursing pads, sanitary napkins, alcohol swabs, and the list goes on and on. Soon, you will be on a scavenger hunt for all of this baby paraphernalia. And I hope you have the bassinet or crib set up and the room freshly painted, because your baby just won't tolerate a dreary room!
Besides all of the things you have amassed, you need to be prepared to help your partner emotionally and physically. I think the first point to realize is that caring for a newborn is hard work. You are dealing with a very small person with lots of needs and no verbal skills. You and your partner are going to have to learn what the baby wants by trial and error. A quick list for a crying baby includes: hunger, a wet diaper, sleepy, bored or a bellyache. A few sleepless nights will make you both experts on your baby's needs.
As for your partner, she is going through some tough times. Her hormone levels are shot. All those good-feeling pregnancy hormones are going, going gone. She isn't getting much sleep, her breasts are filling with milk and her bottom is sore. Post-partum blues are very common 3-5 days after delivery; they're associated with unprovoked crying, irritability and impatience, but usually resolve quickly with some TLC. Less commonly, she may develop post-partum depression by the second or third week after delivery. Its symptoms usually include fatigue, sadness, insomnia, lack of interest in the baby and a poor appetite. This can last for weeks. Treatment can help in this situation, so a call to the doctor is in order.
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to your relationship for you to be an eager participant in the daily chores of parenting. Taking care of the baby is a 24/7 job. As my patients say, it is the most exhausting and rewarding experience. However, your partner really needs your support and energy to survive. Change the diaper, do the laundry, play with your daughter or son, or take care of other household chores to help out.
Sometimes, you might feel a little out of the picture if your partner nurses. I remember feeling useless and a bit detached from my son when my wife was nursing. I couldn't feed or put my son to bed. That was mom's job. When she rolled out of bed a 3:00 in the morning, I couldn't do much other than change the diaper. Fortunately, once we added a daily bottle to his schedule, my son and I bonded nicely.
One last bit of advice to make your transition to fatherhood easier: the baby is a totally consuming event for your partner. She wants to be the best mom ever. In the process, your needs will be secondary. Don't let it bother you. Focus your energy on your family and it will all come together nicely.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.