From conception to birth, that was a period of fatherhood when I felt pretty much like a passenger on a bus. It was also a scary, nerve-wrecking experience with so much to worry about, so much to be afraid of. Thankfully, both my sons were born in good health and I’m blessed that my wife and newborn son came through without incident each time. Emerging from the delivery ward, I was just so relieved, grateful and of course, super duper proud.
I’m sure all Dads feel the same, that sense of pride and amazement that this amazingly beautiful bundle in your arms was something you had a role in creating. And when everyone around you, from friends and relatives, are just cooing and gushing about this child, MY CHILD, well that feeling of pride and joy is really hard to describe. No matter what religion you subscribe to, what God you believe in, (or don’t believe in for that matter), whether you call it mother nature or just biology, there’s no denying that the creation of every baby is truly a miracle.
I remember thinking, seriously, how did this baby grow and survive in my wife’s tummy for 9 months? No air to breathe, living whilst submerged in a bag of liquid, taking nutrients from my wife through a cord with no way to directly expunge any waste matter and this beautiful creation came from a simple fertilized egg?! AMAZING!
Much To Learn
I never did Biology in school and as a new Dad, everything was just so new and foreign to me. I knew that it was good for babies to be breastfed but I was amazed to learn that mother’s milk is able to continually change and evolve to suit the needs of the baby as the infant grows.
Colostrum? Yes, that’s the first milk from a breastfeeding mother. Meconium?! What? They even have a name for the baby’s first poop?! I didn’t even know that there’s such a thing as a umbilical cord stump. Seriously, I had much to learn.
No Longer Passengers
With the birth of the baby, Dad’s now get to participate in being a parent. I was up for most jobs, even wiping bums. Looking back, I think one of the jobs I enjoyed most was bathing the baby! Both my boys loved bath time and they were always so happy splashing about in the bath.
The other job that I did well was burping the baby! Somehow, I had the technique down ‘pat’ (haha! pun intended). When no one else was able to burp the baby, I was always able to squeeze out that last burp! Strange how something so simple and mundane can give you so much pride!
But Still Powerless
When the baby starts crying, and I mean really crying… that’s when you feel so small and inadequate as a parent. I think almost all parents will at this point feel so defeated and useless. I remember thinking, “What are we doing wrong? Do we suck so badly at being parents? Why can’t we even stop the baby from crying? How hard can this be?” The answer is, IT CAN BE HARD, SUPER HARD.
I may have seen glimpses of this on TV or in the movies but I had no idea just how hard it is to sit through a crying session from a baby. We tried everything, every trick I could google and even every tip from Supernanny herself, but nothing worked. We felt so lousy. It was only after talking to friends and family that we came to understand that sometimes we just have to accept that there’s just nothing we can do. Somehow, babies can cry for reasons we’ll never fully understand. And it doesn’t make us a bad parent. We are all born as unique individuals. So a technique that worked for another baby may not work for ours.
Good Parenting Is Hard
One of my first lessons in parenting was discovering that more often than not, the right thing to do will be the hardest thing. Giving in to every whim and need of your baby or child is a recipe for disaster. Most babies don’t like being strapped down in a baby carrier when traveling in a car. It takes them away from the warm comfort of being in mummy’s arms. The right thing to do is harder and that’s why you will often see babies being carried by mummy instead of being safely strapped down in the carrier.
Every time your baby cries, your instinct as a parent is to pick up the baby. You want to soothe and comfort your baby. It’s natural. But, we know that doing it too much is not good for the baby. Otherwise the baby becomes overly attached and dependent. The harder thing to do is to leave the baby so that he can learn to be more ‘independent’. Of course, that means you have to endure lots of crying and believe me, sitting still while your baby is crying his head off can put an amazing amount of stress on a parent.
We’ve all heard that becoming a parent changes you, but back then, I had no idea just what that meant. And then very quickly, I started to understand. My wife and I used to be very active socially. We were always going out, meeting with friends or family and going out for movies, dinner, drinks or coffee. Ok sure, having a baby does make it physically harder to do these things but we found that we didn’t miss or crave doing any of these things at all. We just wanted to stay home and spend as much time as we could with our baby. All of a sudden, it didn’t matter what the latest movie was or where the biggest sale was. What mattered was the little milestones in the life of this little infant. When was his first poop, when he started to turn, when he first laughed, when his umbilical cord stump fell off etc…
Suddenly, all that mattered was this baby. Keeping him safe, making sure he had his meals, planning schedules to ensure he didn’t miss out on his sleep, making sure he was warm enough or cool enough and ensuring that all his basic needs were taken care of. In the midst of it all, I realized that I didn’t care too much about my own life or my wants or needs. My whole world started to revolve around this little baby and somehow instead of feeling loss, I actually felt fulfilled. I felt like my life used to be so empty, just chasing temporal gratification and wants. There was now purpose and meaning to my life and I’ve never felt happier.