This is a guest-post from an anonymous dad who wants to share his experience as a first-time father. Like us women, we thought we already know what to expect when the little bundle of joy arrives… that is until it actually arrives and we realize how wrong we were! So without further ado…
The First-Time Dad
I have always thought of having a child as a beautiful thing. It is one way for me to prove my masculinity, to prove that my “seeds” can bear fruit. Of course aside from that, I also want a child to complete our family. So imagine my excitement when my wife asked me to buy two pregnancy test kits (one to test, the other to confirm, as she said). And when both came out positive, I was ecstatic!
We believe we were prepared. We were financially stable and emotionally set. Every step of the way was an exciting moment for us. I helped her all throughout her pregnancy journey. I ate what she ate, walked with her, joined her during her check-ups, practiced the breathing techniques with her. We had a checklist of everything that we need for when the time comes, as well as everything the child might need.
And then came the day of his arrival. Yes, he’s a boy. A beautiful, healthy little boy who cried the loudest in the nursery. I had tears in my eyes at the first sight of him. Yes, manly tears of love. I didn’t know that that is going to be just the first among many tears, and not all of them are lovingly shed.
Please understand that I have a full-time job. But I am also a full-time dad.
In a span of 24 hours, my life changed. In the next days, weeks and months that passed, I realized that we were not prepared. At all. We thought we were, or at least I thought I was.
Here’s a list of what I didn’t expect:
1. You will have little to no sleep.
The baby will wake up at odd times at night, so you wake-up, too. You either help your wife up, or you lift her up because she is too exhausted she can’t even open her eyes. My wife breastfed our baby, you see, so I need to help her feed the hungry little one. If she has pumped milk on reserve, I can use that. She pumps milk at times, but there are also times when milk is hard to pump out so there’s nothing for me to give.
And for nights when the baby doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night, I am jolted awake by the thought that there must be something wrong! Why is he not crying? What if SIDS happen? (Thank you, internet, for giving me so much to worry about.) So I jump up, rush to his crib, only to find him sleeping soundly.
So whether or not the baby cries several times during the night, you are inevitably tired in the morning.
2. Be ready to get down and dirty.
Literally. Projectile vomitting (like the exorcist) and watery (diarrhea-filled) poop is a reality. It is not a horror flick or science fiction.
I didn’t want to, but there are times when I had to handle these things. I touched them.
3. Keeping your little one safe from viruses and bacteria meant offending some people.
A young child is extremely vulnerable to illnesses, which is why asking your relatives and friends to rub some alcohol on their hands or to not kiss the baby on the face will likely offend some of them. They will eventually understand, although get ready for some silent treatment or snubs during get-togethers.
I realized that I am less concerned about offending others rather than having a sick baby. That is scary as hell.
4. The internet will either help you or give you a heart attack.
I swear, when looking at some info about kids, especially about sickness and stuff, you’ll end up pulling your hair out.
There are some scary sh*t out there. And though it’s great to be prepared, I think I’m better off not researching. The fear of the “assumed” sickness is worse than the sickness itself. You think your child acquired a deadly virus that will potentially kill him, but it turns out it’s just common cold.
5. Mental health is as important as physical health.
Imagine a time when you literally have no time for yourself. Even your few sacred moments in the bathroom/toilet is cut short. That’s when you realize that you hardly have time for yourself, let alone your significant other. Watching a few minutes of TV becomes a luxury.
These things can wear you out. You have to find time for yourself. You need to find time for a date with your partner, even just once a month. Getting a babysitter for such instances won’t make you a bad parent. You need to rejuvenate yourself in order to be a good parent. You wouldn’t want to end up exploding, or worse, depressed.
Postpartum depression is not a made-up illness. It’s real. Imagine, me and my wife were both ready to have kids, but when we actually had one, our world was turned upside down. What more for unplanned pregnancies? If you know someone in such situations, physical and emotional support would be a great help.
6. Babies aren’t always cute and cuddly.
Sometimes they can be little monsters which will make you think how you were able to give life to such a creature. Such instances are hard. Breathe in. Breathe out. Understand that babies and toddlers don’t know how to control, manage and express their emotions properly. It can be maddening and you think you’ll go crazy. Count to ten. If that’s not enough, count to twenty or maybe even a hundred.
7. Everybody has an opinion on how to raise kids properly.
Cloth diapers or disposable ones? Breastmilk or formula milk? Getting a nanny or not? Vaccine or no vaccine?
Everyone has an opinion, and they will always think their thoughts are far superior than yours. But as long as your child is healthy and respectful, you’re good. You can’t please everybody, and really, that’s not the point of doing what you’re doing.
Raising kids is a struggle, but it is a good kind of struggle. It made me realize a lot of things. It helped me understand my parents more. It made me sing praises for single parents. It made me appreciate time with my partner even more. It made me know myself more. The things I’ve done that I never knew I had it in me.
And of course, it made me love my child more each day. He’s growing up so fast he made me wish he was just a little bundle once again. Soon he’ll be so independent he wouldn’t want to hold my hands anymore. By then, I wouldn’t know how I’ll be able to let go.
If you want more guidance on how to be a good parent (and how to minimize the shock of having your first child), we recommend the following books and guides: