PART FIVE: THE CHANGE
You've conceived, you survived your wife's whims during nine months of pregnancy, you didn't faint during the delivery, the reality of fatherhood set in, and you've learned to take the good (sh@*) with the bad (sh@*). But, this is just the beginning, and you have no clue how different your life is about to become.
As a man, your life doesn't really change until around the second week after you take your first born home from the hospital. For the first few weeks, you are surrounded by helpers- family, friends- people much more familiar with the needs of an infant; people who have no problem taking over for a while as long as they get to leave at some point and go back to their nice, quiet lives. But, after about the second week, they all seem to disappear, and you and your wife are on your own. Your wife had nine months of changes- interrupted sleep patterns, puking, and internal bruising (from all the kicking)- to prepare for this. Unfortunately, reality doesn't set in for you until the last visitor brings over the last gift and there's no one else to give your baby to... and you have no one left to save you from a life of dirty diapers and dutiful dad-dom (my word)
Everyone leaves, and your wife says: "Finally, life gets back to normal." But, who is she kidding? Your life won't ever be the same again. For one, after the birth of a child, your wife is different (temporarily anyway). That sweet, laid back girl you married- the one with the great smile and fancy-free demeanor- is gone, only to be replaced by high-strung, low energy, no nonsense version of herself that has no sense of humor (possibly due to a serious bought of Postpartum Depression that you should keep a keen eye out for) and an even more serious issue with your lack of understanding. Translation- no sex, no rest, and no peace for you. From now on, your life is a series of brow beatings, all related to the fact that you don't understand the needs of both your wife and your child. Your needs? Well they no longer matter... in the context of having a child.
This brings us to a second fundmental change is your life - from this day forward, you will get no sleep. Whether it's the baby waking you to be changed, or fed, or entertained, or your wife waking you because she doesn't support your need for a sleep in, or a nap, or a healthy R.E.M. cycle, your days of getting a full eight hours is over. And, if you get more that three hours a night, consider yourself lucky. If your wife has to get up at 2, 4, and 6 a.m., it's only fair that you should as well (or at the very least, offer to get up).
Three, with a newborn,"time to yourself" is a thing of the past. My condolences to all the self-pleasurers out there, but unless you can do the deed in the shower, you may have to give up this time honored tradition until your kids go off to college. Your time is now better spent cleaning bottles (not your pipes), and watching your baby whenever your wife has to go run some errands (i.e. stuff you yourself don't want to do). And, if you think you can make last minute plans to make a tee time with your buddies, forget it- unless you can plan time out with the boys weeks in advance, it ain't happening. Your calendar is now a pre-planned parade of play dates and parental visits (your wife's) and productive outings to Costco. Accept it.
leaky gutters, or half an hour to re-caulk your tub? If it doesn't affect the baby, it's not a priority. But, not to worry, when your house starts to fall apart, it will be time to move anyway... to make room for your second child.
Lastly, and most importantly, are the changes in you. Seemingly overnight, you will go from a selfish, self-serving, self-indulgent dolt to a surprisingly sensitive and somewhat competent caregiver who only wants the best for his child. Sure, you no longer have the discretionary income that once allowed you to get out there and spoil yourself, so that could explain the change, but for most of us, its a conscious effort to do right by our children- to grow up and to be responsible... and to love someone more than you could ever love yourself... second only to your wife.
Oh, I forgot to mention... you're gonna get fat. Live with it.
Tune in next week when we discuss our next stage in the series: PART SIX- THE TRADE-OFFS
And, if you're a glutton for punishment, here's some more changes to consider after the birth of your first child: