Embrace The Energy
The first seven weeks contain a mix of energy and different types of excitement when bringing up our girl.
There's the process of learning something new; procedures, processes, practicalities of taking care of the baby in the modern sense and way of doing things split between whoever's in the house.
I had taken the time to read a few books, so I felt I wouldn't be useless and could identify and execute on basics while figuring out the subtleties. While staying in the hospital, the digital guide had videos we had to watch if we wanted to access any of the public programming, and these videos were a checklist that covered basic baby care. I'm certain my wife was not entirely focused or conscious while I played them, but at least I did get a first hand view of some of the basics in baby manipulation and maintenance. In the hospital care process, as well, there were multiple opportunities where the nurses guided and showed us how to do basic baby tasks like diaper changing, feeding, bathing, and swaddling. Emphasis was on not killing the baby, but not showing you what was 'correct' or 'not allowed', just what was necessary to survive.
My approach had been to cycle through a basic state machine of baby status and have each state associated with an active pattern of handling the baby, proceeding towards checking that baby state, and then when to hand off to another state and mark this one as checked while wrapping up any mess you've made as a result. In this way, you can always guarantee that the baby is fed, clean, lonely, or rested; I had marked the priority in that order.
Developing a flow and partner 'mingling' technique is something you should definitely be looking to do with your partner. There can be a lot of jealousy, overlapping, smothering care, mis-intentioned care or uncommunicated actions that could cause friction if you are not working them out and aware of them with your partner. In my case, I could not always compete with the soothing ability of my wife, but giving me time and allowing for me to comfort the baby made future progress exponentially better while increasing the short term sufferage slightly above the normal. In allowing the baby to grow used to, and to develop a means to bond to, my parenting style and cycling of her needs, I felt that she began to communicate via bodily reaction at each state of the state checking such that I could arrive at the correct answer on the corrective action to remedy. Compare this to, whereas, my wife just swooped in and went for the direct guess of the situation; so that was a very big difference that had her interrupting or infringing on my process, but a step that I should have been much more than happy to oblige in. So staying calm and yielding as much as possible does keep things healthier in my observation; there's a different instinct among the parents and maybe trying not to extinguish one, or prefer the other, allows for a better balanced temperament of the child.
Although deference and concessions should be communicated as it happens, establishing overlapping fields of care and responsibility so that you feel you've always got the baby covered in time and space is important enough such that 1 person is always on the hot plate (DRI, if you will) and another is a back up, passively aware of the thing while the main is taking care. During the day this can be worked out on the fly based on schedule, routine, and daily activity, but during the night one person will have to sacrifice their sleep so that the other rests well. I found that this situation maximized the benefits and health of our relationship.
The baby only appears to eat enough to keep from waking up roughly half way through the night. She'll start with a smooth fuss, and then graduate to a roaring wail in demand of sustenance to quench her hunger. Totally unreasonable, the baby has no concept that warming up breastmilk takes time, trying to clean / fix the Brezza without blasting on the overhead lights with 1 hand is a delicate matter, and that her fussing, struggling, and kicking while I get things ready or before the reapplication of a swaddling is not helping the process. If one person just masters this capability, and if you properly top off the baby just before midnight, you can take care of the hunger, burp the baby, and then clean the dishes, prepare breakfast, package lunch, put together a shopping list, prepare the trash and recycling, catch up on news, and then whisk the baby back to the basinet all before and hour is passed. The downside is that you will miss out on that deep and some REM sleep cycles. This will definitely make you feel slightly different, emotionally, and pass the day with a different state of mind. For me, getting frustrated was a bit easier, and there were some other side effects with tiredness, lack of appetite, lack of energy, and I did not make up for a full 6-8hrs straight through at any other time, I ended up going the full 50 days with the baby driven interruption in the middle between 2-4AM. Maybe a nap would have helped, too, but while the baby's around, I don't think there was time for that without deferring responsibility to someone else. Unless you pay for it, I don't think a single parent can get that respite of deep sleep, sadly....it can definitely have negative affects on the mind and baby if you're not able to be nice by default during the waking hours.
Routine in our diet and schedules was critical to being able to allocate time for the baby's life and then to accomplish what we'd wanted to do in our daily lives. My spouse was keen on taking advantage of delivery services and online retailers but, to me, that does suck a bit of the soul and fun out of capitalism... I do enjoy my bit of sustenance shopping. Unfortunately, I was not able to convince her to help me drag baby along for the grocery runs inside the stores, so those were done with baby in the car with one of us or during return trips from my exercises. Simple meals are nice, however, my new pair of princesses appear to demand quite a bit more of me than I had thought they'd ask for, and so meal prep does take a bit of more time out of my day in it's current form. Soups, curries, stir fries, pancakes, sandwiches, and rice cake stews frequent our table as I try to make sure we're well nourished, well distracted, and taking the time to try and make it all happen.
On that topic of time, I would not have been able to do this without the parental leave afforded by the company and state of California. The first 7 weeks are typically all that are included, but I will be applying some vacation time to extend this trip past those first 50 days. The first 50 days are a test of survival, delegation, and adaptation to the reality of this loud ball of fuss now under your care. Getting her to thrive, smile, and start developing a sense of the world would be all you get to see. There's a different sense of energy in learning to see and let the friendly flow of behaviour take control and unroll itself before you. I take care to make sure that things are always safe, but I continue to laugh when people are not happy with the speed. By learning not to fight that energy and flow, you'll be happier about the process of being a baby caregiver to the baby.
And you'll sing better lullabies, too.
But for all this work and learning, all you're given is a nice, round, milestone marker that you have to count off on the calendar and an outfit you can slap on her. Oh, and, of course, those first 50 days of memories nobody else will probably remember; those are yours.