Finding out you’re going to be a new father usually sends you down one of three paths; once she shows you those two little lines on that stick, you could become the endless ‘totally candid’ Instagram poster, maybe it’s more of a vacant “Wow…” as the turbines of chaotic thought suddenly crank up to 11, or its very possible your first reaction is just ‘Ah… Fuck.
In any case, if this is your first baby then You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know. Men usually find that Going With The Flow works well enough while we try and understand it all. We tend to raise and solve our own concerns.
Is she Ok? Am I attending enough doctor’s appointments? Do I have the right baby furniture? Am I forcing gender roles on my child with this stuffed elephant? What does the elephant represent in society?… Well, some may overthink it.
All of that should change once you hear the first tiny cries of your new baby. Focus narrows and your reason for existing come sharply into light. At least that’s what happened to me.
…all I wanted to do was stand guard over this kid like the T800 protecting John Connor.
Once my little boy was lifted up by the nurses looking like a mucus covered Astro Boy in full flight, I had all the Feels. Life’s small stresses seemed to vanish; however, they were now replaced by a huge and singular screaming one. Despite the explosion of thoughts and emotions, all I wanted to do was stand guard over this kid like the T800 protecting John Connor.
While my wife recovered, I was awake when she was awake to gather the hungry baby and put him back when he was full, made sure she was fed and comfortable and I kept the house clean (well as much as I deemed it to be clean. When my mother turned up, she advised me otherwise). I was doing all the things that I thought would make me a good dad, but looking back I was just executing tasks. My baby was something that I had to care for and make sure stayed alive. Essentially, the highest stakes Tamagotchi.
I’d just gained a new role at work, my wife was recovering from a C-section, the house was in its final stages of renovation and I had no sleep, so while I tried to give all my energy to my wife and baby. I was stretched a little thin.
It wasn’t until one day while I was at home and my wife had been forced to go out for a coffee with a friend, that it shifted for me. The baby was about two months old and sitting in a little rocker beside me. He was gurgling as babies do. I picked him up and was playing with him, doing the standard noises and universal high-pitched baby voice when I pulled the dummy from his mouth to see if he was going to make noises back… Nothing. But when I put it back in, he began giggling, so I took it out and the giggling ramped up. This was the first time he’d reacted to me and it was a like a thunderbolt. I had made a little sentient person. But more importantly, he appreciated my humor. That’s all a Dad can ask for.
As stupid as it sounds, from that point it was the realisation that I had a little boy I didn’t have to raise, but that I had a little boy that it was going to be a tremendous amount of fun to raise. It’s since been two years of wife-annoyingly riling him up before bed time, testing the limits of flight across a recently made bed and endless promises that I won’t tickle him, only to immediately embed trust issues as I tickle him so much he almost passes out.
Getting a connection with the tiny version of you is a really strange concept. Some will have the Tears in the Delivery Room immediacy but others could take longer. And while there’s never any doubt a Dad wouldn’t love his baby, it’s almost like the next step in the relationship
I imagine the step after this is to severely dislike your child when they’re able to get out of bed by themselves.