I’ve spoken to multiple people about how they experienced the first 60 days of parenthood and every single one of them has struggled. A very good friend of mine, when I told her my wife was pregnant, simply said “the first two months are a shitshow, after that it gets better!” I don’t agree, and below I will explain why:
Our beautiful daughter was born on May 10th at the Boven Ij hospital in Noord Amsterdam via caesarean section, or ‘out of the sunroof’ as a colleague put it. Any fears I had about the hospital were very quickly put to bed. The staff were lovely, reassuring, warm. They informed us about exactly what was happening, what would be happening and no question was ever too stupid. If you don’t understand something, or you feel uneasy or unclear, just ask. The aim of everyone involved in your wife’s delivery is to have a healthy child and a healthy mother.
The most daunting moment for me out of the last two months was walking out of the hospital and the doors closing behind me. I was pushing my wife in a wheelchair and carrying my daughter in her maxi cosi. The enormity of the situation hit me like a tonne of bricks. It was a mixture of enormous pride, a newfound admiration for my wife who had been an absolute warrior, an overwhelming protective feeling, and pure fear. What the hell do I do now? Why is there nobody here to help me? Am I capable of doing this? Will one of the midwives be coming home with us who has looked after us all for two days? Will the taxi driver take us home? I’ve never felt so tall and so small at the same time. It was the three of us… just us. (FYI, of course the taxi took us home. Another irrational thought abated!)
Bringing our daughter home, helping my wife up the stairs as she is very weak from the C Section, taking the suitcase up, putting our daughter down as gently as possible as if she were made of porcelain….. Running off no sleep for 2 days, pure adrenaline, days have merged into one, time is just a social construct…. And it has only just started. This is day zero!
The arrival of the kraamzorg was a blessing and a curse. They are super knowledgeable and eager to help and teach you. They are a fountain of information and tips and tricks. But you are tired and probably moody, and this tidal wave of information can be overwhelming. Be very open and honest with your kraamzorg, if you feel it is all too much, let them know, and if you feel it is a bad fit then tell them. Don’t be shy, again everyone involved is their to achieve the same thing, so if things are not working then be vocal.
So… to address the big issues. Crying and sleeping (or not). All babies will cry, we know that, but your baby crying is the most heartbreaking thing you will ever see and hear. Sometimes they seem in so much distress you think their little head might explode it goes so red! In our house, I can cope with the baby crying better than my wife. This is not a criticism. Bringing up our daughter has really exposed our strengths and weaknesses as a couple as well as individually. For our daughter, luckily, when she cries she wants one or more of five things - Food, sleep, burping, changing, cuddling. As you get to know each other better and as time passes, this will become second nature. It’s daunting at first and really pulls at the heartstrings, but most of the time the crying will stop. Our baby is not pissed at me or her mother, she is trying to tell us something. Keep this in mind, especially during the witching hours…. It’s not your fault, and you are there to help.
And then there is sleep. To be honest, this is really brutal. There is not alot you can do to prepare for it, and very quickly your body adapts… but the initial hit is like a knockout blow. In the early stages, even when our daughter was sleeping, the slightest movement or noise would jolt me wide awake. Again, a bit like the crying though, this too shall pass. YOU WILL SLEEP AGAIN! It will just be different. My wife and I have routines, first shift/second shift sleeping next to our daughter. Some nights are better than others, but you adapt so quickly. It is amazing what your body can do also!
Below I have listed a few tips and tricks I wish I had known or done differently. Hopefully this will help:
If you don’t have a car, know some taxi numbers. Don’t just rely on Uber.
For the suitcase to the hospital, take 2 or 3 days worth of clothing for yourself as well, in case you need to stay in.
Have ready meals, a stacked freezer, easy food to make for the first week or two
If you have bought gadgets like baby rocker, bottle warmer etc, know how to use them before the baby is born!
Same for the buggy/stroller. Know how the attachments work, how to fit the basket to the frame, take it for a test drive once or twice
Know how to fit the Maxi Cosi in a car, again, do a test run. Even if you are getting taxis, you’ll need to know for the return leg!
Know where things are in the house/flat - where the baby clothes are, diapers, creams, shampoo, nail files etc….. Asking your wife thousands of times where things are will not be good for your marriage!
In conclusion, it is one hell of a ride, and each day is different. You will always love and adore your baby, whilst sometimes question why you had one in the first place when she is screaming at you at 3am! Trust yourself, trust your partner and trust your baby. Be kind to each other, you are all going through this together. Your partner will be experiencing so many mental and physical changes in the weeks after birth that you cannot even imagine. Be the person they and your baby need you to be. You’ve got this!
Luke and his partner Dushica live in Amsterdam West with their baby and were both part of Prepped to Parent.