Letter from a Man on Being a Dad
Hello my love,
You have finally gone back to sleep after an hour of breastfeeding, changing, hugging, soothing our beautiful little baby. I am quite honestly in awe. I admit that just as you suspected, I slept through the first 30 minutes. However, I woke up in a daze when I heard you have a little cry and sigh as you snuggled back to sleep. My immediate instinct was to reach out and hold you, but I didn’t. I am sorry for that, but I would like to explain. You are probably asking why I didn’t say or do something, but if you want to know the truth, I was just overwhelmed by emotions myself. It seemed to me that I just could not go deep enough to meet the complexity of your emotions – or to even understand them. Not trying to reinforce any male/female stereotypes, but guys are sometimes just not very good with tears. Anyone’s tears, including their own.
It just felt like such a private moment and that you had to have that emotional release, but I choked up a little inside. It made me realize how hard you work and how much you love our child. I could see how much you love me and what you do every day for our family – things that affect your own health and peace of mind. It also made me realize how much I respect you, how much I love you. But in case you think I am totally oblivious to what you go through, I would love to share with you what it’s like for a guy like me being a new dad.
I know that becoming a mum has been an amazing journey for you. I watched you deal with all the changes through your pregnancy and was almost speechless (which is definitely not like me) as our baby was actually born. Wow. That experience was something no man on earth can ever prepare for. I am not sure most women know how to deal with it either, but mums are given the magical gift of hormones. In fact, I sometimes feel those happiness chemicals washing over me these days as well. Trust me; you were amazing – even if your language got a little colourful – you made very creative use of adjectives I had never even heard before! I know it was hard physically and emotionally (well that’s a bit of an understatement isn’t it?) but there was a lot going on in my mind too as a dad.
First, I feel like a stranger in a strange and amazing new land – a man with a huge responsibility. Dad is my new full time job description. I helped to make a little creature who speaks a language that has no translation service and no instruction book. I am pretty good at a thousand things and have several very useful talents, but as soon as I try to hold our baby, change a nappy or even wash your breast pump, my hands turn to jelly and my brain follows right along. No amount of technical ability or positive self-talk can help – I feel totally incompetent, alone and afraid. I know that is not a word men like to use. In fact, I think it’s the first time I’ve admitted that emotion that to myself since the ladder to my treehouse broke when I was about 9 and I had to climb down 30 feet. It is not a matter of wanting to feel brave, I just want to feel competent and in control. I imagine this sounds familiar. I am pretty good at hugging, making faces and changing nappies but the latter is definitely a work in progress.
Also, I feel like a huge weight has descended on me. Instead of feeling like the teacher, it seems like I am the student, learning all the time. The teacher is this little person who keeps asking the most amazing questions, at first with tears and then with words. I have absolutely no idea how to answer, but of course, I will always try my best. I will weave my values and my own life experiences with things my parents told me as a child. I’ll try to remember all the mistakes I made and the thing I swore I would “do better” with my own child. Usually I come up with a reasonably good answer – but I often doubt I said the right thing.
My first priority will always be to protect you and our baby. However, I know I have to let our child make mistakes. They have to learn how to bump their head a few times, be knocked down and pick themselves up again. Finding that balance is hard for dads who want the best for their family. I suddenly have realized that I am a dad now for life and that I am happy to be on this journey of discovery with you. Dad is a pretty strong word but I am happy to put it at the top of my priorities and life resume.
Thanks for everything you do for our baby and for me.