4. The maximum number of times you can make Alien references in the delivery room is zero.
Witnessing childbirth is the reality-TV moment of your life, only without the silly tiki torches. “When I saw my first baby for the first time, I thought, that ain’t right,” says Callahan. “I was asking the doctors, ‘So, what do you think? Everything OK?’ My girls looked like shaved monkeys that fell out of a UFO.”
Bonus tip: Even though you may be your wife’s punching bag, the delivery room is not the gym. Don’t encourage her as if you were cheering on Lennox Lewis. If she could push any harder, she’d have shoved you out the window already. Another thing: Go with plan B—nothing works as intended. “If she asks for drugs, don’t argue,” Carlen warns.
5. Ask not for whom the baby cries; it cries for you.
“In cultures around the world, parents know how to soothe a crying baby,” says Harvey Karp, M.D., author of an excellent book on the topic called The Happiest Baby on the Block. “But it’s not intuitive—it’s just that they’ve been around infants all their lives.
In our country, people need primers.” Karp took a male approach to the subject—he made a video of the techniques described in the book. Guys will watch any video! “Nursing aside, fathers are actually better at calming a baby than mothers are,” Karp says. “Dads tend to put more oomph into it: They wrap the baby snugger, they shush a bit louder and jiggle faster.”
Bonus tip: According to a study at New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center two years ago, 91 percent of couples with babies who cry a lot have marital problems. Avoid the tension by learning the techniques that give you control. Watch the video >>
6. Open your mind—and your checkbook.
Because you won’t be able to solve every problem yourself, you may have to hire one or more of a variety of helpful experts. Learn the following: A nanny takes care of the baby; a doula takes care of the mom; a lactation consultant takes care of the boobs. None of them costs as much as a losing night playing poker.
Bonus tip: Count your (nonfinancial) blessings. You may be spending more than ever, but you’ll be living with an embarrassment of intangible riches—and an array of neon-colored plastic gizmos that would astound the ancients. “You realize that what you used to spend your time and money on was generally worthless,” Carlen says. “I’m living happily without fancy dinners, new clothes or weekends away. Home has become the best place on earth.”
7. Your way, her way, the books’ way; just get it done, son.
How you handle and play with your baby may look rougher than your wife’s methods, but babies benefit from their parents’ dual styles. “Dads whistle and pop, while moms speak in high-pitched but even tones,” Karp says. “Mothers are strokers, fathers are pokers. Babies learn early to distinguish between the two.” Don’t worry: You won’t freak him out or break him.
Bonus tip: Start out slow. He may look too tiny to touch in the beginning, but in three weeks you should be burping and changing him like a pro. Some of the sights and sounds may even remind you of your college heyday.