From shock and new father depression to love, joy and confidence in being a father... Read Steven's wonderful and honest description of his first 8 months as a new father.
I don't know about most people, but I have always dreamed of having children and of being a daddy. It was all so exciting to me and I could not wait!
The day came when my wife and I packed up and went to the Hospital to have our first child. I was nervous, scared, and totally intimidated. Some sort of survival instincts took over in my body during the whole experience. I came off somewhat calm and collected. Maybe a little excited but my demeanor came off as someone who's almost been there before.
Inside I was screaming with fear. Fear for my wife and child, fear of all the change about to happen. It was hard to understand because this was exactly what I wanted. Was I second-guessing having a child all of a sudden? It was far too late to go back on that decision...
I believe that the truth of it all was beginning to be less and less surreal and less and less of a strived accomplishment. It was becoming a reality and I was scared.
After too many days in the Hospital they sent us home. I remember thinking, "that's it?" They are letting us leave with this tiny, helpless, adorable angel? How do they know that we can do this? Who is going to check up on us to make sure our baby is ok? That's pretty irresponsible of them to just let us leave with this little baby and not ensure they know we are going to be ok and she is going to be ok..."
The first couple of weeks were a tremendous rollercoaster of emotion. My wife was recovering from the C-section so I was attempting to tend to the whole family. My daughter slept a lot and often on me. This was a great time to just stare at what miracle came into our lives.
I remember being very concerned over the black grossness of her umbilical cord. It bled a few times and the transition of it falling off freaked me out a little bit.
However, the hardest thing was still the emotions. I still questioned my ability to be a father. This little angel in my life was so small and fragile. I eventually became fearful that I would injure her by just laying a finger on her. I would delicately change her diapers like I was performing some sort of micro engineering surgical project while disarming a bomb. I had officially developed a case of "china doll syndrome".
It all really stemmed from the emotional backlash of fatherhood; that paternal instinct to protect your child as a father. Even from yourself. The expectation for yourself is so high, that if you are found accountable for injury to your child, how can you question any other person's ability to care for them also.
It took me months to find the comfort level of being able to handle this issue. My wife often questioned me on how I was going about things. She was understanding and didn't press me but wanted to make sure I was aware of what I was doing. I must admit, at certain points I was not aware about how fragile I was being with my daughter's daily care.
I discussed earlier how the reality of having a child is quite powerful feelings. This doesn't really go away. In fact, during the first four months, it only got worse. It wasn't quite the expectations I had placed on myself for being the best father in the world. But the fact I questioned my abilities around every corner, around every milestone, around every slight moment of doubt.
It wasn't about the understanding that we all make mistakes. Or even the factor that this was my first child. It boiled down to the obvious that I could not see. I wasn’t really doubting or questioning my ability in actuality (maybe I was a little). I eventually realized I was severely depressed.
Why would I be? I craved the chance of being a father. I was learning still how to do it and on the right path to achieving this so far. How could I be depressed?
I felt deeply alone. I was very tired (ugh I wish I could go back to the first two weeks when she actually slept) and lost. My "china doll syndrome" returned and I was fearful of providing any care at all to my child. I would actually avoid it at times.
I communicated to my wife my feelings. I'm not truly sure about how in depth I explained it. And to this day, I am not so sure she really understands how badly off I was. I was a mess and very afraid of the one thing I could not stop thinking about; my own child.
I can't tell you how exactly I got over the depression but I did. It took time and it was single handedly the hardest thing I experienced with parenting so far. Worst of all it really never had anything to do with my child. It was all me.
I highly encourage anyone who is dealing with depression to seek out help.
My wife unknowingly (or was it?!) would only give me small increments of child care duties. Such as, she had to shower or do the laundry so it’s your turn. This was the most helpful thing possible. I was weaning back into fatherhood.
As the days went by, I started to develop more and more of a strong love for my daughter. It is nothing comparable to any feelings for someone I have ever felt. It's almost instinctual that this being is now your everything and you could care less what anyone else thinks about that.
The problem I now faced is an obstacle that many will come across. Due to a number of factors (ex. breast fed, my avoidance, working, etc.) my daughter began to become extremely attached to her mother. It was a bit disheartening at times. I felt partially to blame sometimes too. This factor actually made me the most frustrated. I felt like my own child doesn't like me and it is my fault. But instead of accepting that I decided to blame every other factor in the meantime and voice my warped point of view rather than point the finger at myself.
Call it hurt pride. Call it stubbornness. It was an avoidance tactic with some under lying need for attention seeking stuffed in there somewhere. I had suddenly realized that my wife and I have only left the house without our child once in the past six months and for a friend’s birthday party at that. We still had not gone out alone together since our child was born. It was time for a date...
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I asked to call home and check up on how our daughter is doing. My wife refused adamantly every time and I eventually sucked it up.
Not too long later, the tables officially turned. I took leaps and bounds to intervene with my child’s obsession with Mommy (ex. kicking her out of the house so I could have alone time, taking over doing playtime, etc.). And it worked, maybe too well. My daughter had now developed an obsession for Daddy too.
It could be she just needed a little more time to be able to associate our roles. Or it could be that she was being just as spiteful as Daddy can be sometimes. Whatever the reason, it turned out to be something wonderful in the long run.
I grow as a father everyday as my child develops. She never ceases to find ways to amaze me. I expect this to continue for a very long time.
Being a father is a lot of time and effort. There are many sleepless nights and many exhausting moments (emotionally and physically). It can often be a difficult struggle balancing it all. However, I would not trade any of them for the world. My wife and daughter mean everything to me.
As times goes by that awe of fatherhood never ends. The milestones and cognitive changes are glorious and exciting. The love you feel grows stronger and stronger. The bond of family grows. The one thing that hasn’t changed though, you can never be prepared for what Fatherhood has in store for you next...