Step 5 – Million Dollar Baby


According to some reports, raising a child can cost upwards of $1,000,000. The simple way to avoid this crippling cost is to:

a) not wipe their bum with $100 notes

b) read this list of what you really need.

When you become a parent it’s a bit like when you forget to tick that box at the bottom of a form – suddenly everyone wants to sell you something. Here’s the twist though, the products aren’t for you, they’re for your baby. Only… they’re marketed at you!

A whole host of gadgets and gimmicks are thrust under your nose, and in the next few lines some of them will be given the sniff test.

1) Baby Carriers…  Two categories. The ‘carriers’, like those made by BabyBjorn or Ergobaby, are expensive but enable you to wear a child on your front or back in mutual comfort from a few weeks old up to about age 4. The ‘wraps’, like those produced by Hugabub, are particularly good for cradling newborns – despite the smothering fear-stories. Modelled on the way that mothers carry children in developing countries they’re low-tech and pretty cheap. However, as they consist of one long strip of fabric that must be tied around and around the body, wraps are an absolute pain to get on, get off, or re-adjust.

Verdict – Very handy to keep baby close and free up both hands. Opt for a carrier that allows for front and back usage to get the most out of it. Wraps are good for newborns, but after that all you get out of them is Northcote street-cred.

2) Prams… shouldn’t cost over $1,000. The difference between wants and needs is the difference between the vastly overpriced Bugaboo and Stokke ranges, and the perfectly suitable selection from Emmaljunga or even Steelcraft. The price tag may lead some to say ‘bugger off’ to the $1,600 Bugaboo Donkey pram. Brand loyalty aside, as long as your pram is easy to steer and has a generous basket and sun-shade, then you’re good to go.

Verdict – Look at features, not the brand. As much as you may think you need a swanky, 3-wheeled ‘jogger pram’, trust me, you don’t. After 18 months your kid will probably want to walk everywhere!

3) Nappies… are important for obvious reasons! The question is whether you go disposable or re-usable. The choice for a lot of parents is ethical. Some disposable brands, like Naty, do produce disposable nappies that degrade quicker to avoid landfill nappy-mountains. However, the most environmentally friendly nappy is still the re-usable. Re-usable nappies also save money and have moved on from the ‘toweling and safety pin’ model, but the downside is that you have to scrape the poo off and wash them.

Verdict – If you have the time to wash, go re-usable as they save you a fortune – being adjustable to fit newborn to toddler bums. The Babyland brand has good elastic seals to stop leakage and inserts that can be removed, as well as a range of colours. Sadly, though, nothing for the smell…

Step 4 – Opening Night


If I can tailor the the words of Swedish playwright Henrik Ibsen to suit this important step: “You should never have your best trousers on when you go out to fight for freedom and truth… or help a woman through labour.”

The plays of Ibsen tell us a lot about giving birth, concerned as they are with stresses, inner pressure and self fulfillment. They have much in common, and so give Dads a peek through the curtain at what to expect on opening night. For example, the dialogue in both cases is a mixture of sentence fragments and exclamations, and what’s on view is potentially shocking to a conservative audience. However, the most obvious similarity between the two is structural – each is comprised of 3 ‘Acts’.

Act 1The Cervix Opens

The longest stage of labour, it sets the scene for the action and can itself be split up into three parts.

Scene 1.1 – Early Labour

The cervix thins out and opens up to a diameter of 3-4cm. Contractions can be gentle and more than 5 minutes apart.  To avoid discomfort, encourage your partner to move around, take a shower/bath, and try different positions.  For some women, early labour starts and stops, lasting for days. Others progress smoothly towards…

Scene 1.2 – Active Labour

The plot speeds up from this point on. Powerful contractions, coming every 3-4 min, rapidly open the cervix in this stage – but it can still last for hours. Employ relaxation techniques and back massage with your partner, and in between contractions give fluids and snacks to eat to keep her energy levels up. Also, cycle through the phrases “That’s it”, “Well done” and “Breathe”.

Scene 1.3 – Transition

A labouring woman’s waters will commonly break during transition, so change into your trackies. Covering the period from 8-10cm dilation, this can be an overwhelming stage for many women. Contractions come in double waves and your partner may become irrational – saying horrible things to you. She doesn’t really mean them. Still, write them down for later…

Interlude

After the transitional phase there may be a lull as your partner’s body gathers itself for the task of pushing baby out. You just might be able to nip out for a Choc-Top.

Act 2 – Down And Out

Now there’s a big enough gap down there, the uterus changes gear and starts pushing baby down into the birth canal. This is not a series of locks, but one of many euphemisms that refer to the vagina. Use gravity as an aid by helping your partner up.

Act 3 – Enter The Placenta

Once baby is out, smaller contractions deliver the placenta – a dinner-plate sized organ which has been nourishing your child over the last 9 months. You may want to have a look but there will probably be no resemblance.

THE END

There you have it. ‘Labour: A Three Act Play’. Now you’ve seen it, work with your partner to push your child out into the world – it’s good practice for when you have to do it again in 25 years time!

Step 3 – Coming to terms with the terms.


When a man’s got a job to do, he needs tools. But you won’t need a hammer or saw for this labour. All you need are some handy jargon words and definitions.

It’s time to run through some of the things a Dad needs to be aware of when his partner goes into labour. This is necessary because, unless you time-warp back to the 1950s, you will probably be there to see the show. Suffice to say : like a spectator in the front row of a stand-up performance, you will inevitably become part of the act. So know your stuff!

These are some of the terms that my wife suggested (insisted) I learn:

Dilation – From time to time in the hospital, a nurse will check your partner’s dilation, by seeing how many fingers she can fit through the opening in the cervix, the muscle wall that holds a baby in the womb. The goal is a gap of 10cm. That’s ten fingers. Two hands. Yep.

Epidural – At some stage during labour, your partner may shout this word at you, the midwife, or even the hospital janitor. An epidural is a potent anaesthetic administered into the spinal column. Like absinthe, it numbs from the waist down and usually has no lasting effects apart from involuntary shaking as its influence wanes. While a popular form of pain relief, epidurals greatly increase the chance of further medical intervention during the labour.

Oxytocin – Amazingly, this naturally produced chemical is referred to as “the hormone of love”. It is created as a result of such actions as kissing, lovemaking, hugging or watching ‘Love Actually’. What’s also amazing is that this description is not only used by people who sleep under dreamcatchers, but by doctors and scientists. Keeping oxytocin levels high during labour relaxes the mother and helps speed up the process – so why not put some Barry White on the iPod labour playlist?

Perineum – The stretch of skin between the vagina and the anus – not the ancient Greek who slew the gorgon Medusa. That was Perseus. You may have to summon some of his courage, however, if called upon to massage this area during labour to prevent it tearing during the final stage. If this does happen, perhaps follow Perseus’ example and don’t look, else you be turned to stone…

Episiotomy – If, when the baby’s head pops out, the attending doctor suspects that the mother’s perineum is likely to tear, then he will make an incision, increasing the diameter of the vagina. This is promptly stitched up after the baby has been delivered. NOTE: It is accepted practice for the father not to ask the doctor to put an extra stitch in.

Crowning – The baby’s head is beginning to come out. When you hear the phrase “The baby is crowning”, that is your cue to stop fiddling with the camera settings and get down there to greet the new arrival!!!

 

Step 2 – The Changingman


Mod muso and ‘Dadrock’ legend, Paul Weller, might not have written “The Changingman” in honour of the new father – but that’s what you’ll need to become unless you want to end up in a Jam.

We’re not just talking about the changes that involve wipes and bum-cream.  A child plopping into the mix can transform everything. Not only your fudge cake recipe. It’s arrival can create mere ripples in your previously smooth life, or you may feel like you’re facing down a tsunami. Either way, the best thing you can do is embrace it, prepare yourself and learn to ride the wave

Outlined below are some of the ways in which these baby-changes commonly manifest themselves:

Lifestyle

Dinner dates may increasingly be staged in restaurants whose ambient noise will drown out piercing cries. You’ll find that there are some places, perhaps even your former haunts, where babies are not welcome. Fair enough. No-one wants a sharp pain in the ear, while sampling the nose on their Shiraz or pouring a well earned pint down their throat.

There might not be as many pubs, clubs or live gigs on the cards as there used to be. That’s understandable. If the bouncers didn’t let the other guy in the door because of his Nikes, how can you expect your baby’s ribboned booties to elicit anything other than a “Not tonight mate. Not in those shoes”?

While these changes may seem restrictive, they are actually doing you a favour. No-one wants to have to deal with a child while nursing a hangover. A baby’s cries have been designed via the process of evolution to be impossible for its parents to ignore and, unlike mobile phones, you can’t switch their profile to silent and disappear back under the covers.

Physical

Do not operate heavy machinery in the early days of being a Dad. A lack of sleep can initally produce to a manic and slightly enjoyable mental state, but once that passes it’s all downhill and eventually it can kill you! As a new Dad, you’ll feel the effects of broken sleep.

You usually notice the change through other people’s behaviour. Women typing their PIN at the ATM may glance nervously over their shoulder at the the bloodshot eyes of the new Dad behind them. You may attract the attention of shop assistants more often, as you dither in the centre of a store wondering what the hell you came in for. You may even find that you have, like Mr.Magoo, wandered unknowingly through various life threatening (and comical) near-miss situations in your new Dad daze.

On the plus side, however, your status as a new Dad will endow you with almost superhuman abilities. Abilities that will allow you to:

  • Walk in complete silence on any surface and in any footwear.
  • Detect the rustle of bedcovers at a distance of 500 yards.

And, most importantly…

Fall asleep, when you do get the chance, absolutely anywhere!

 

Step 1 – The Buff Dad Workout.


Ok, so you’re going to be a Dad. Be embarrassed by your dancing – not what’s under your shirt.

Milliseconds after hearing those memorable words,
“Honey, you’re going to be a father”, you may have felt a strange sinking feeling. You may have detected a slight wobble in your balance. Don’t worry. It wasn’t a disruption in the Force. What you experienced was your gut relaxing out and down, sensing that its days of being worked out (or sucked in) were finally at an end.

After all, flat stomachs are for those young bucks who are still trying to mimic the Darwinian feat you’ve just accomplished. “We’ve been through a lot, you and I”, you may whisper, stroking your trusty tum amidst a mental montage of sit-ups, pies, pints and belly-button biscuit crumbs.

These gut feelings are understandable, but a ‘sympathetic pregnancy’ paunch is not.

Why do men feel that it’s ok to let go when their partner is prego? In parts, it’s unconscious conditioning and our perception of what is normal. It’s about what you’re exposed to when you’re young. Ever wondered why all of the stories your Dad told you, when you were lying in his bed as a kid, involved someone walking up a hill? It was probably because he didn’t know his BMI from his IBM. He certainly hadn’t encountered ‘The Buff Dad Workout’.

Created by American Mike Levinson R.D. (which, alas, stands for ‘Registered Dietician’, not ‘Real Dad’), this fitness and diet regime is tailor made to ensure that you have less blubber than your new bubba. Although ‘The Buff Dad Workout’ is designed as a four-week routine of good eating and exercise, in on-again-off-again ‘man-time’ that means you should finally complete the program just before you’re called into action.  It’s very masculine as you’d expect and consequently it’s all about dumbbells, big balls and Atlas-esque squats. And it’s only available in old, dependable book form. Very solid. Very ‘Dad’.

You can start ‘The Buff Dad Workout’ in pre-season, so to speak, and keep it going once you’re match fit and in the game. Why not include your new arrival in the routine – as a replacement for your weights? A great way to spend some quality time while setting a good example for the next generation. Similar sentiments are at the foundation of ‘Catflexing’, which sees a feline companion take the role of dumbbell/baby. This form, however, is less humane – as during the first few months of a child’s life the cat is actually the more intelligent life form.

So that’s ‘The Buff Dad Workout’. But will you need it?

You will if you want to:

  • Carry that ‘compact’ nappy-bag which, once it’s full, wouldn’t get past an airport check-in desk.
  • Make it to 100 in the ‘Daddy-I-want-to-touch-the-ceiling-again’ game.

…And most importantly

  • Have the stamina to keep rocking little Junior in your arms for just that little bit longer, so you know that they’re actually asleep. This time.