I have a story I like to tell people: Before my daughters were born, I had never held a baby younger than six months old because I had absolutely no idea how. Would I break the baby if I held it wrong? What do I do if the baby starts crying? The only reason I held a baby was because my sister-in-law practically shoved my niece into my arms during a family Christmas gathering in 2000.
Here’s the good news: I didn’t break my niece. Still, even though I was able to semi-confidently hold her, I was worried about the day I would need to hold my own child.
The truth is, babies spit up, and do all kinds of icky things in diapers, and there was the chance it would get on my clothes or my hands. I readily admit that I don’t handle things like that well. The mere thought of baby spit up – or worse – touching me really terrified me before I was a dad. I still feel a slight queasiness at just the thought of it.
So, imagine the thought process when my wife told me we were having a baby. I’m sure she believed I was looking for the nearest escape route, but in reality, I was trying to think of a way I could overcome my trepidation of becoming a dad to something other than a dog.
The good news? There are resources available to help you become prepared for having a baby.
A while back, I chatted with Libbie Schoenleber, RN, who has been teaching childbirth classes at North Colorado Medical Center for the past six years and, before that, spent time as a postpartum nurse. Her experience allows her to see the positive impact childbirth classes have on expectant parents, and she explained why she believes childbirth classes are so important.
“People are always going to the Internet,” she said. “It can provide information, but it isn’t always reliable. Being in class gives the hands-on experience.”
Likewise, in my own experience, when I searched online, I found a mixed bag of questionable advice and some terrifying tales of fatherhood. In class, however, I learned the important things I would need to know from someone who knew all about the childbirth process.
The instructors also shared some tips – like how to swaddle a baby and important things to have in a diaper bag – I used quite a bit for the first few months of my daughter’s life. The most important piece I got out of the classes wasn’t something I took home, but something I left behind: a lot of my worries.
“It brings ease to their fears, and they feel so much more confident when they have their babies,” Schoenleber said.
Expectant parents are no longer facing the unknown and can feel a little more prepared the day the baby is born. That’s not to say that taking a class or two erases all of the fears you might have, but for me, it was game changer.
Why did it have such an impact on me? Well, the instructors know expectant fathers often have a whole set of fears and concerns aside from the mothers’, and they address them. In fact, some Banner facilities have classes specifically for new dads to help prepare for the changes coming in their lives.
As Schoenleber said, “We really try to empower the dad because the dad is having a baby, too.”
I like to think the things I learned in those classes several years ago helped me become a better dad those first few months. Two weeks before my daughter was born, I held my first nephew, who was only a couple days old at the time. I was nervous, but I wasn’t worried that I would do something totally wrong. I knew that I could indeed do just fine caring for my daughter.
Of course, now that she’s in second grade, picking her up isn’t as much fun as it used to be, but the fact remains: she and I both survived her infancy just fine. Now, I have the teenage years to prepare for….