So, the thing you should know about becoming a dad for the first time is you get a baby.
Yes, a real, bone-fide baby. One that is alarmingly fragile and strong; sleepy and screamy; gorgeous and terrifying; and completely dependent on you both for everything.
I’ll never forget that moment of cradling our little daughter and realising “Oh God, this is happening…HAS actually happened“.
It was the most incredible moment of my life – but one that also scared the hell out of me.
Whilst we might not remember the full details of many of those early days, due to a certain sleep deprivation filter, there have been certain aspects of that first month of dadhood that have definitely left an imprint…
Let’s be honest, the first month is about surviving.
Surviving nights, feeding times, sore cheeks from smiling so much, broken sleep and hospital interruptions were just the beginning (I swear some of the hospital food staff were waiting in the hallway for the exact moment we started our naps, and then tried to see just how hard they could smash through our door).
Something I wasn’t prepared for was this intense and pervasive sense to provide. It seemed to surround me as soon as this incredible baby girl landed in my arms. I had to provide. I had to do something to help the family. I had to get more money for us.
I had to do something.
The problem was that this led to me taking on second and third jobs…which took me away from my family, left me feeling more stressed and on edge. Over the last year, it’s taken me quite a while to realise one of the most helpful things I could do was to simply be there.
Brand New Emotions
With a brand new little ball of humanness coming into the family, I couldn’t believe just how completely overwhelmed I was with different emotions. Feelings of absolute joy, pride and contentment were also mixed with the stress and anxiety that built up with interrupted sleep.
Before having a child, I had never experienced that strange feeling I used to get when getting Little T back to sleep. You know that feeling. The one where you are staring down, patting this brilliant little baby in front of you (whilst also picturing all the things you need to get done at work tomorrow) gritting your teeth because she still hasn’t fallen alseep yet… and then laughing as she farts, cries and squawks simultaneously.
I call this new emotion Admiration Infused with Worry, Annoyance and Joy.
Or 3am delirium.
Any of the above works.
Being a Benchwarmer
When I was originally picturing being a dad I don’t think I ever really thought of the newborn stage. I always used to imagine playing, helping and being silly with our kids. In reality, I found myself being more like a benchwarmer in the beginning.
The substitute to be brought on between hour and half feeds, to take over rocking and swaying, or to undertake morning pram/sleep relief duty. Don’t get me wrong, I was more than happy jumping in and doing these things…I just thought I might have been able to do more.
The great thing is, as the months progress, so too does my daughter’s need for me.
Bathing is Like Rugby
If you’ve ever played in a game of football or rugby in pouring rain you’re well and truly prepared for bathing a baby. Picture all of those tackles, rucks, mauls or impacts where you desperately had to hold onto that slippery ball. If you’re like me, there were a few times where you nearly lost your grip, but somehow managed to keep a hold of it in the safety your chest.
Bathing a brand spanking new baby isn’t dissimilar. Except there isn’t as much grip as a brand new rugby ball. It will feel a little scary and awkward the first few times you cradle and support your baby in a bath – but the good news is they’re nearly as buoyant as footballs (plus I’m pretty sure your reflexes improve to a similar level as Spiderman).
Family and friends are the Best
During that first month, I couldn’t believe just how incredible family members and friends were. Pre-cooked or frozen meals, supportive words, hugs, and encouragement, even just showing some sort of interest in what we were going through helped during those tough minutes, hours or days (and made the great times even better!).
I remember being astounded with that calmness and safety I felt in confiding and asking questions to my parents, in-laws and mates. I was so lucky to have completely open people around us who not only wanted to share in the joy of this legendary baby, but I also realised the power in actually putting yourself out there to ask for help or advice – which you choose to use or dismiss. When in doubt, ask.
Yes, having a kid is full on, but like every other adventure really worth doing, you don’t actually get to discover the benefits without putting in the hard yards.
Do the hard yards – it’s bloody worth it!
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