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My partner was in hospital for a week after the birth, and was quite distressed. Obviously, at some point during the night, the hospital will need you to leave, and you'll have to go back to your house, which is normally set up for the mother and baby, without either of those people.

This is obviously going to be a distressing time for the dad as well as for the mum (baby seemed quite content, the little devil), especially if it lasts for a while.

How Can Fathers Best Deal With This Period?

(N.B. They're home now, and it's so much better, but I'm putting this q up because I wanted it to be there, but didn't feel up to asking at the time)

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An excellent time to be with your friends! –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen May 10 '12 at 11:20
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Depends on the circs. I was pretty worried and low, and alcohol would have been the wrong choice. –  deworde May 11 '12 at 13:55
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I cherished the last few nights alone that I'd have to sleep in a quiet house. –  DA01 May 11 '12 at 16:20

5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Some ideas:

Stay at the hospital. Some hospitals will allow the spouse to stay and may even have an extra bed in the maternity ward rooms for that purpose. See if your hospital is one of them and make use of it. Be warned, you might not get much sleep, though, between the low comfort level of most of such beds, and the night feedings and health checks.

Have a friend or three over. Think of it as another bachelor party. It's your last night/few nights of "freedom" before starting a new chapter of your life where someone else is dependent on you. You can also celebrate being a dad. Have a beer, smoke a cigar, have a Halo LAN party marathon, or whatever you do with your friends for fun. They can also help you get some of the other stuff done, too, especially if you still have a lot left.

Make a baby blanket. This one's a little off the wall, but I can't resist. Take up sewing, knitting, or crochet and make a simple baby blanket. If you have a few hours each day, you could knock it out within a week. It may not look like your grandma's blankets, but your baby won't care, and you made something. (Additionally, it doesn't have to be of this sort, if you have the woodworking materials, you could always make something that way, or whatever else suits your fancy. Knitting and crochet just happen to have fairly low barriers to entry.)

Train your dogs. If you have pets, you should be training them to be familiar with the baby, before baby ever even comes home. Up until now, you should be getting them familiar with the baby stuff. Now that baby's born, you should take home one of the blankets baby used, so they can get used to the smell. Give them lots of attention and love while exposing them to the baby's scent so they won't freak out at much when baby comes home, and to help curb jealousy.

Go grocery shopping. When was the last time you actually went shopping? Between Mom having no room to each much, and everyone's anticipation of the baby coming (and maybe even the excitement/anxiety of being in the hospital for a week), you're probably light in the food department. Also, now will be the time to determine whether you'll need formula and would be a good time to pick that up if you do. The same goes for diapers. Get that stuff and be ready to play chef. You can even cook up some meals ahead of time so you don't have to worry about it in the first couple of days that baby's home.

Go shopping for Mom. She's probably going to be feeling pretty "blargh" about now, between being worn out with baby, coming down from the high of the pregnancy and birth, and dealing with things like postpartum depression, C-Section scars, or extra weight she may have gained while pregnant. If you can, find out what her size is now, and go pick up something sexy (or at least nice looking), or something else that you know will make her feel good about herself.

Finish the nursery. Even if it's "finished" in the sense that it's ready for baby to move in, see if there's some final polish you can add to it. Hang pictures, touch up the paint, make sure the changing station is ready, dust, polish, etc.

Clean up the house. Like the shopping, some things may have been neglected. Now's the time to catch that stuff up, so you're not trying to do it around a newborn's "schedule". It's also nice to come home to a clean house. Don't forget to pay the bills, too.

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+1 just for the knitting! But the suggestion of friends also is a good one :P –  Zsub May 19 '12 at 17:53

When my little one was born, it was a C-section, so they kept my wife for a bit longer than they normally would have. I was able to stay with her the entire time, sleeping on a pull-out bed in the room; in fact, it was encouraged.

Some things I would recommend:

  • See if the hospital is "baby-friendly". Hospitals advertising themselves as such have to implement some policies and features that make the environment more conducive to new parents. One of those policies is a "sleepover" allowance; the hospital allows one or two other people (typically the spouse, but mothers/adult siblings are welcome if the father isn't in the picture) to stay overnight in the post-partum room, with furniture made available for the purpose. We chose the hospital we did for a combination of its nearby location, and its baby-friendly design and management.

  • Ask to stay anyway. It's virtually unheard-of anymore for a father to be forced to leave his wife's side. Even in a non-"baby-friendly" hospital, most night-shift nurses would welcome an extra pair of hands dedicated to that mother and baby during their stay. If they ask you to leave, ask why you can't stay, and if the answer is something along the lines of "it's policy" then tell them they'll just have to make an exception. The policy of overnight stays by family members is generally something you should know about before you choose the hospital, and if it's forbidden, I would find another hospital if there's another one feasibly close (here in the DFW area they're plentiful, but if you live in the outskirts or a rural area there may not be another hospital for a hundred miles).

  • If you simply cannot stay, go with Shauna's suggestions. Find some productive and/or stress-relieving way to stay busy. Our nursery was "finished" (in that the walls were painted and there was a crib, changing table, rocker and bookcase with baskets for "drawers") several months prior to the due date, but we didn't know whether it was a boy or girl, and as a result there was some last-minute decorating to do to add some pink accents. The idea of having a few friends over for a beer and some Halo is good, but ix-nay the cigars; the smoke residue on your skin and clothes (you'll even sweat the stuff out for a while so a shower won't do) is harmful to your baby. Cleaning the house is also a good decision; I had to work right up to the induction date and my wife was on bed rest, and as a result we'd let a few of the household chores go a little too long.

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  • Build up your support net prior to the delivery. Prepare friends and relatives for the birth and give them some reasonable expectations to support you just before, during, and after delivery.
  • Create a list of chores and work through it prior to the birth. Prioritize the chores by importance and attention. Your attention will be in demand after the birth.
  • Stay at the hospital as long as you can. There's no reason you shouldn't be allowed to stay with your family. You are their primary advocate. If you need to leave for work or rest do your best to have someone else stay in your place.
  • When you are home alone use the time to recover your strength to then devote your strength to supporting mother and child when you can get back.
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The first item is a good idea: lots of people will offer to come over and "help" but secretly they just want to hold your baby. When people do come by, make them do something useful before they get that first newborn cuddle (and sniff: everyone sniffs for the Baby Smell!), like put in a load of laundry, start the dishwasher, or something else. If you think you can push your luck, hand them the baby and go take a shower or something! Honestly, people will do anything to hold a baby, so you may as well use the leverage you've got, especially when you're so tired. :7) Good luck! –  Will E. May 10 '12 at 19:56

Get some extra sleep, cook some meals and freeze half of everything, quickly email out the good news (since you'll be to tired once they're home), fill the fridge & freezer, do all the laundry you can manage.... In short, "bank" as much sleep and house-work as you can while it's still quiet. Then have a stiff drink and go to bed.

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  • Mentally prepare yourself for this possibility in advance.
  • Have some other projects waiting at home, bonus points for extra manliness (to take the mind off the family). Perhaps a family website, or polishing that old motorcycle/sailboat/coin collection?
  • Guys night out - very last chance for a while!

That situation happened to me too. I had more than enough "stuff" to do at home to keep my mind off things, but the weirdest thing was repeatedly waking up in the middle of the night, convinced that I was sleeping on top of the baby - even though I knew he was still in the hospital.

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