As the male part of a pre-children couple, you have been used to playing predominantly a provider role, and your partner has been sharing in that role. In addition, you have been a protector-making sure your partner and you are safe and secure. But with a new child, you take on an additional role-caregiver. This may be one of the most difficult transitions of all, because becoming a caregiver means that you put someone else first. Life stops being all about you or all about your partner; and it really becomes all about the baby.
After all, you are presented with a totally helpless organism that is totally dependent on you and your partner for everything-safety, nourishment, emotional support, cleanliness, comfort, and more. And you will find that this new caregiver responsibility, at least at first, is all encompassing. It takes your heart, your time, your money and your attention and rivets it on this new baby.
And particularly if your partner does not return to work right away (or at all), the provider and protector roles expand at precisely the same time as the caregiver role does.
It is a huge and potentially overwhelming transition. But having realistic expectations about how it will go and what will be required can make the transition a little easier.
The most important thing to remember about your time commitment to this new baby and the new dimension in your family is that it will, at first, totally consume you. Most dads are startled by the amount of time that a new baby demands. I remember being frustrated at how long it took just to get out the door to go somewhere. Inevitably, about the time we'd be ready to leave, the baby would poop or spit up, requiring a change of clothes and/or diaper that would put us ten minutes further behind. And it seemed that the baby would cry for abolsutely no visible reason at all. Except for the fortunate few, dads will sleep a lot less than they were used to before pregnancy and birth.
The good news is that the intensity of the schedule change does not last forever. It is most intense for the first six weeks or so, and then more of a routine begins to set in. There is another little break around four to six months, when the demands of the baby are not quite as great as they used to be. Knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel can help a dad get through this scheduling transition.
One of the surprises a lot of new dads experience is how their relationship changes with their partner after the baby arrives. Particularly if she is breastfeeding, the baby by nature takes first priority with her. She will get a lot less sleep, and the baby's needs seem to take her every waking minute. And even when the baby is asleep, she will just not have the physical or emotional capacity to focus on you. The playmate you enjoyed before baby won't be back in the same form after the baby arrives.
That being said, there are some really good things about a post-baby relationship. Both of you working together for a common good (baby, family, home life) can be a really uniting experience. While the infatuation and lusty feelings of the pre-baby life may decline by nature and necessity, love deepens and expands when baby makes three. If you let it, and work toward it, you will find a whole new level of love, commitment and connection that you didn't know existed.
And speaking of your playmate, sexual intercourse will have to be put on hold for a while after the baby arrives. Your partner's emotions and moods will be different, and her body will not be responsive for a while. But you can cuddle, get close, and bask in this deepening experience. Usually her doctor will give her the go-ahead to resume sex after about six weeks, depending on how the birth process went. But take it slow and easy even after you both are ready again.More on the transition into fatherhood for a new father.