The “Vegas Rule” seems to be upheld for dad-to-dad sharing of experiences leading up to, during and after the birth of their first children.
What happens in the sanitized confines of the hospital stays at the hospital. It’s no wonder that new dad’s often enter the last few days of a pregnancy nervous and terrified.
I’m no expert, but I’ve felt that nerve-induced terror four times now – making me qualified to expose such secrecy.
I learned three lessons that helped calm my nerves as my wife got close to delivering – my New Daddy Survival Guide:
(1) Before you’re a dad, understand the plan
For the pre-hospital planning, dads need to know simple logistical elements to make the emergency tenable: which car to drive, the route to take, what keys to leave behind just in case, who to call on the way, when to go in, or when to wait it out.
More importantly, dads should tune up their soft-skills. Before the day comes, prepare to be your partner’s voice when you get to the hospital. You will be your partner’s only advocate in the heat of the battle so know the critical scenes in the script.
Are you good at reading how she is feeling?
Are you comfortable being insistent on her behalf?
Are you clear about the use of pain medicine?
Do you know everybody that should or should not be in the room?
Knowing the plan continues to be important after the new baby comes. Dads need to understand the phone tree – who to call when and in what order. Make sure you’re clear when to post the news on social media as well as what to say while doing so (i.e.: name, weight, length, and that your partner is doing well).
(2) Unless the task requires boobs, assume you can (and should) do it
With the glaring exceptions of having the baby or breast-feeding, dads aren’t exempted from the new baby related to-do list.
I’d suggest immediately eliminating “but, I’ve never” and “I’m not sure how to” from your short-term vocabulary.
Having to work tomorrow isn’t a pass for ignoring the screaming-every-two-hours, needy infant.
Changing the last diaper doesn’t mean the next one is someone else’s problem.
Fatherhood is like being an overnight, flare bartender at a hot, Vegas nightspot after working as an accountant all day – the nightly chaos does not care that you’re exhausted, or that you have other responsibilities tomorrow. Your customers expect to be served.
(3) Maximize your time-off
You’ll never get this time back with the baby, so figure out how much time you can take off and take it. Even better, turn off the phone and shut down your email if you can.
I’ve seen two approaches to maximizing post-delivery time off –
First, you could take time off right away. I chose to take a week off starting on the day we had the baby. I wanted to help with our family’s adjustment back home.
The downfall of this method is that two of my vacation days were eaten up by sitting in a hospital room – a place where baby-help is plentiful. In hindsight, I should have taken the “big day” off, returned to work the following day and then took another week off after discharge.
The second time off approach is to take days off as your partner re-enters the workforce. This strategy allows dads to extend their child’s non-daycare time after their partner’s leave ends. Doing so will allow new dads to be home when the new baby is more active while delaying the agony of having someone else care for your little one.
New dads will quickly learn that parenting is not a right or wrong proposition – it’s a daily grind to do your best.
There is no shame in being frightened by the unknown, just as there is nothing taboo about sharing what works (and doesn’t) after the fact.
New dads could follow a different “Vegas Rule”: the unwritten, but well understood, Sin City requirement to drum up the energy to ignore exhaustion and accept that the house will win – all in the spirit of creating a lifetime of memories.