Fatherhood: Being a Dad

Today, we read a truly honest, inspiring letter on fatherhood…

"You have eventually gone back to sleep after an hour of night feeding, nappy changes and cuddles, comforting our gorgeous little baby. I am completely and utterly in awe of you.  I admit that just as you expected, I slept through the first half an hour.  However, I woke up in a sleepy daze when I heard you have a cry as you snuggled back to sleep. My immediate instinct was to reach out and hug you, but I didn’t. I’m sorry for that, but I will explain. You’re probably asking why I didn’t say or do something, but honestly, I was overwhelmed by emotions myself. To me, I just feel that I could not go deep enough to meet the complexity of your emotions – or for that matter, to even understand them. Not trying to reinforce typical gender stereotypes, but guys are sometimes just not very good with tears – including their own.

I completely understand that sometimes you just need a little private moment to have an emotional release and let it out. Every time, I choke up a little inside. It makes me realise how hard you work and how much you love our child. I can see how much you love me and what you do every day for our little family – things that affect even your own health and peace of mind.  It also makes me realise and reinforces my own respect for you and just how much I love you.  But in case you do think I am totally oblivious to what you go through each and everyday, I will share with you what it’s like for a guy like me becoming a new dad.

I know that becoming a mother has been an amazing journey for you. I watched you deal with all the changes throughout your pregnancy and was almost speechless as I watched our baby be born. That experience was something no man on earth could ever prepare for. I’m not sure most women know how to deal with it, but mums are given the magical gift of hormones and I sometimes even feel those happiness chemicals washing over me as well. Trust me; you were amazing – even if your language got a little colourful! I know it was hard both physically and emotionally (well that’s an understatement isn’t it?) but there was a lot going on in my mind too as a new dad, and your partner.

First of all, I feel like a stranger in a strange and incredible new land – a man with a huge, ever-growing responsibility.  Dad is my new, permanent and full time job description. I helped to make a little creature who speaks a language that has no translation and comes with no instruction manual. I am pretty good at a thousand things and have several useful talents, but as soon as I try to hold our baby, change a nappy or even help by sterilising 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 and I’ll be honest, a little scared – 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 I got stuck in a tree I was about 10. It is not a matter of wanting to feel brave, I just want to feel capable and in control. I am pretty good at hugging, making faces and changing nappies but the latter is definitely a work in progress. I imagine this sounds familiar to many new dads.

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 tiny newborn person who keeps asking the most amazing questions, at first with tears and then with, sometimes jumbled, words. I have absolutely no idea how to answer, but of course, I will always and forever try my best. I will weave my values and my own life experiences with things my parents told me as a child and as I grew up. I’ll try to remember all the mistakes I made and the thing I swore I would ‘do better’ with my own child (the things I am sure will be more difficult now I’m a parent) Usually I can come up with a reasonably good answer – but I often think I say the wrong things.

My first priority will always be to protect you and our baby, you are my world. However, I know I have to let our child make mistakes. They have to learn how to bump their head a couple of times, be knocked down to be able to pick themselves up again. Finding that balance is hard for dads who want the ultimate 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 forever and always.

Thanks for everything you do for our new family!"