My first 40 days as a new dad: an interview with James Matthews

by Gill Damborg

 

What’s the opposite of a deadbeat dad? An upbeat dad? Back in the olden times dads just needed to provide for their families, and bring home the bacon right? Well, for some, the times have changed. At Brood we celebrate partners, daddies, papas, and dads, of all kinds, but ESPECIALLY those who are leading the charge and leading the way for partners to become even more than just providers. Yes, you get extra points for being an active participant and co-parent from the very beginning phases and the first trimester, to beyond. And by points, we mean shoutouts by us and interviews on our blog. Worth it, right? Yes. 

But in all seriousness, there are so many incredible partners and dads-to-be who are wondering what it’s going to be like and how they can show up for the whole family unit, the best they possibly can.

So much of pregnancy, prenatal and postpartum education, literature, marketing, and content is geared toward the gestating or birthing parent. And we get it, there’s a lot to learn about our bodies and how this whole having-a-baby-thing works! But in our experience, the lack of education and content geared towards dads and partners – leaves so many questions unanswered, and in the end, can affect the whole family unit because one partner might not feel as prepared. It’s one of the reasons we started our mini-prenatal series, Doing It for the Dads. We want partners to feel prepared for everything from how to change a diaper, comfort your baby, support your partner, and navigate your own emotional experiences. And all in a space with other dads and a doula, where we can ask those “silly” questions too (spoiler alert: there are no silly questions!).

It was at our very first in-person Doing it for the Dads happy hour that we met James. A young, excited dad who was so unbelievably excited and nervous and ready to learn everything he could to better prepare as a partner. He showed up, had lots of questions prepared and genuinely loved learning about all the ways he could get more confidence before their baby arrived. We were smitten! So, when we had our family day photoshoot, we had to invite him, his partner Katie and their brand new 1-week old baby Louie to join us. I asked James if he’d be interested in us following up with him and finding out more about his journey to parenthood, especially in those precious first 40 days. In true James fashion he was excited and willing to share more of his experience so far, in the hopes of lending some insights to those who might soon become dads too. So here’s the interview.

Gill: Tell us a bit about you and your wonderful family.

James: My little girl Louie is 1 month and 1 day old! We feel like we’re hitting our groove pretty well here. She’s just been a treat to have in our lives—it’s hard work with a newborn, but we’re pretty smitten over here and she’s letting us get some sleep! 

We’re really lucky to have my wife’s sister and all four grandparents – super close and dialled. At family dinners, Louie’s being passed around, and she’s snoozing in everyone’s arms. She’s a real snuggler. She’s also an absolute pooh and pee machine. We have a midwife appointment this afternoon and I want to ask them, can they poop too much? Do we need to be worried? Haha. Shout out to the cleaning product Folex.

Gill: Tell me about before the baby came – versus now. What were you nervous about before Louie arrived?

James: The biggest thing that I was nervous about was sleep. I’m going to sound like a tech bro, but I’m a big circadian rhythm guy. I just like going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and that’s usually eight hours after I go to sleep. And that’s not the vibe with a newborn so I was quite worried about that. But once she was born we were just staring at her with these huge smiles and that’s when I realized, I’m going to be the most tired I’ve ever been in my life, but I’m also the happiest. It’s just so much fun, getting to know this little person. The energy that you have just kind of comes from a different source than you had before. I’m a pretty anxious person and that has translated into constant worrying about my kiddo, I don’t know why I didn’t think about that before!

Gill: That’s interesting to hear from a non-birthing parent because intrusive thoughts are common for the birthing parent. It’s good for us to talk about and normalize it as it can be kind of scary and it’s absolutely something any parent can experience! 

So, tell me if and how your partnership with Katie has changed, since having Louie?

James: There’s like the good Seinfeld clip that’s like, you shouldn’t say anything about a relationship if you can’t say anything bad about it. But I feel like Katie and I have blossomed in this new era. We give each other a lot more grace, especially me. I can be kind of a defensive cat sometimes, but I just feel like we have centered our relationship to be the best for Louie. I’ve been impressed with how patient we are with each other.

I adore Louie and will protect her with everything I have for the rest of my life, but as the non-birthing parent, Katie right now is number one, sort of like a 1A and one 1B situation.

” So right now, I need to give Katie the most support I possibly can and that’s gonna be what’s best for Louie. That will change over time, but in these early days, it works the best.

Gill: Ahead of the birth, how were you setting yourself up to be a support person?

James: I 100% want to plug Brood’s workshop Doing it for the Dads because that was awesome. It came up for me at a nice time because it was super early in the pregnancy. 

Katie had really bad morning sickness, so I became the “executive chef of eggs” in our house because that was the only thing that she could eat and keep down. So every morning for the past year, I made her three eggs, that sort of thing. My love language is acts of service so luckily for me that was a pretty easy thing to do with a super pregnant homie—like making her a little bit more comfortable, or running errands—that was easy. And then getting closer to the date, we started talking everything through and we had some great conversations. We did things like make a birth plan together, which was helpful for me so I had something to come back to. And then asking her what she needed from me, and making sure we talked through all those details. I found that helpful!

Gill: It sounds like you have an amazing family, which I think is such a blessing, as many new families don’t have a very good support system or community of care. Tell me a bit more about how they have shown up for you and Katie since Louie arrived.

James: Oh, man. Yeah, we are insanely lucky. We live in an apartment and you have to buzz in and the buzzer comes to my phone which shows up on the screen as “lobby”. If I look through my call records it’s just, lobby, lobby, lobby, lobby, lobby, lobby. A constant flow of people and food deliveries. So many times I’ve just been like… I need a nap. And then I could because I know my mother-in-law is snuggling the little one. Or my parents have visited us to go for walks and brought us some really fun meals because when you’re kind of going through this, it feels like a celebratory time. I’ve joked that it almost feels like I’m eating as I would on vacation, but I’m not walking like 20, 000 steps a day! 

Someone from our community of care is here every single day. And they’re all just doing something unique and showing us love, in their own way which is just so perfect for us.

Like you mentioned, not everybody has that, and we feel so lucky to have that. We have a pretty awesome network of friends too.

Gill: What support have you personally felt like you needed this first month? 

James: I think for me, the big difference for me is I’m a pretty introverted guy. So the flip side of having that amazing community is there’s just not a ton of room for alone time. Having people around so I can get a moment to myself or get out of the house and take care of myself whether that’s the gym or hockey, or to have a nap, that has been important. I just needed to know that I’m not a deadbeat dad if I play hockey, and that taking time for me is important too.

Gill: Hell yes! You are not a deadhead dad for caring for yourself! Now, tell me more about going back to work and how that’s feeling for you?

James: Yeah, that’s going to be a massive change, because unfortunately it’s going to be a large chunk of the day I’m not home—I have to commute for work so it’s a long chunk of time for Katie to be alone with the baby. I’m kind of fighting these emotions because I love my job but I’ve loved being with them the last 6 weeks. I’ve bonded with Louie, Katie and with my family. That is one of the things that’s been keeping me up at night the most. The small upside or flip side is that I’ll get alone time in the car, on the sky train with my podcasts, and there’s a gym at my office so I can exercise which is important to me. I’m trying to find those small silver linings and just know that everything’s okay. I have a good blueprint with both my dad and my father-in-law who are both career-oriented dudes, but also like fantastic and active fathers. 

Gill: How is Katie feeling about you going back to work? 

James: Similar sort of feeling just because it has been so good. And I know that’s something that we’re trying to navigate and figure out if we want to get help from our family or try it on our own for a bit. She wants to try it alone too, to see how it feels, so we are going to take it day-by-day. We’re just so lucky to have four grandparents who just wait to get their hands on the kiddo! 

Gill: I love that! Let’s say one of your friends is going to become a dad. What’s the top piece of advice or things you would tell them?

James: The biggest thing I would give them is that even if they have never been around or held a baby before, even if they are nervous about all the things like diaper changing soothing and skin to skin – you’re going to figure it out. The first baby I ever really held was my own and I felt comfortable with everything way faster than I could have imagined. Don’t be scared of handling your baby. You can do it, you don’t need to worry about that.

MORE ABOUT JAMES

James Matthews is on a winding career path that has featured opportunities as a marketer, broadcaster, and writer. At the intersection lies a passion for people and telling great stories. His writing can be found in BCBusiness, Canadian Tech Journal, and The Georgia Straight. He is also currently embarking on his favorite role yet: father. James spends his time snuggling with his daughter, Louie, ranking doughnut shops with his wife, Katie, and hand-wringing about his often lackluster fantasy sports teams.

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We work and live on the unceded and occupied territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. Since time immemorial, the original peoples of these lands have cared for their families and communities. We are committed to honouring their teachings, legacy and their sovereignty.

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