Time. The most important lesson I learnt from being a dad.
When my wife and I started trying to have a baby, we were really scared. We had a million questions for each other. What were we getting ourselves into? Is this really the right time? What do we buy first? Is our home big enough? How much are school fees? How do you bath a baby? The questions never stopped.
Now that our daughter is 1, the most important thing I’ve realised is every milestone takes time. Time that helps you prepare and adjust for what lies ahead.
You’ve just found out you’re having a baby. Help!
Firstly, congrats! Secondly, take a deep breath and relax. You have 9 months to prepare yourself. 9 months! (Imagine the opposite and babies popped out a week after conceiving. Anarchy!)
The first 4–5 months after we found out, we didn’t change a thing. No baby shopping, no house hunting or worrying about things like schools. All we did was talk. Talking is easy. Talking about it helps you process and prepare yourself for your baby’s arrival.
Everything then changes. Everything also just stays the same.
The biggest thing we had to adjust to once our daughter arrived was sleep. Out of everything, this is the only thing that happens immediately that you won’t have time to prepare for. No one willingly wakes up at random intervals at night just to feel what it will be like once you have a baby. We know it will be shit, but you’ll get used to it pretty quickly. If all goes to plan, you’ll start getting solid sleep from 3–4 months again.
In the first few months, all your baby does is eat, sleep and poo. That leaves you to pretty much carry on with your (new) life and gives you time to adjust. You’ll spend more time at home, sure, but the times you do go out won’t be as stressful as you are probably imagining. Baby just sleeps in their car chair next to your feet at the restaurant, or in the spare bedroom at your friends house while everyone chills outside and enjoys a braai. Baby monitor on of course.
Once baby starts to be awake for longer spells — around 4–5 months old, they are very content to sit in their baby chair and watch the world go by. They are easy to please in this phase too. This part trains you to watch and play with them more. Training and time to adjust for the movement phases coming up.
Crawling. Believe it or not, a baby doesn’t just wake up one morning and start to crawl. It’s a slowish process and gives you time to adjust to them moving. You’ll start to child proof the main areas of the house — or like us, you’ll only move furniture and child proof stuff as they try their luck with things they shouldn’t be touching.
Next up is learning to walk and saying their first words. You’ll have been well prepared by their crawling when the walking starts. They just move a lot quicker now that they can walk, but your peripheral and spacial awareness to where your baby is, has been practicing. You just need to move quicker to catch them now. As a side note, this is one of the cutest phases I’ve found. The first time they say dada or mama melts your heart. Even at 5:15 this morning when my daughter woke up and said “daad”. I can only smile. With my eyes closed and head under the pillow of course.
After they turn 1, you’ll start to notice they are able to entertain and play with their toys on their own for short periods of time. By now your life has adjusted to the ups and downs and you’ll have settled into a new normal. A new normal that includes looking after and loving a brand new person. A new normal that you’ve been adjusting to since you found out you were having a baby. A new normal.
You’ll be just fine and so will your baby.
I’ve always been in the I-want-my-own-kids camp since I can remember and what I’m getting to with all of this is you’ll have time. Time to adjust to every single phase and bump in the road your baby will throw at you. Time to fix things and time to learn.
If you think you’re almost ready to have a kid, then start trying now. You’ll have time to figure it all out.