“Here is my list of the unexpected things I learned upon becoming a first-time daddy. Overall, I felt I was ready. Man, was I wrong.”

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This guest post is from a first time daddy sharing his situation. His name is Chris, and he wrote this after his first baby was born. Do let us know if you can relate to his experiences by leaving a comment below!

By Chris:

I thought I was prepared to become a first-time daddy.

I was excited. We had Tessa’s name decided the day my wife had her ultrasound and found out we were having a daughter.

I was involved. I went to all but one of the doctor’s appointments. I attended the birthing classes. I helped Deb with whatever she needed.

Every friend of mine I talked to told me I would love being a dad. They all said my life was going to change. None of them seemed to deny that there was a lot of work involved in being a father. All of this made perfect sense to me. Sure, I was nervous about it, but I thought that was natural and felt that was mostly the anticipation.

Overall, I felt I was ready to be a first-time daddy.

Man, was I wrong.

I underestimated the changes that would take place in all of our lives upon Tessa’s birth. I had no clue about the impact Tessa’s arrival would have on me. I was totally clueless about the changes taking place in my wife (I barely recognized her, to be honest).

I remember it first hitting me when we came home. I felt safe and protected in the hospital and even though I wanted to leave, there was a certain comfort to staying there. But it was about ten days into being a dad when I really felt that the weight of fatherhood was so overwhelming, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

However, I got through that moment and many other similar moments along this journey into fatherhood.
I have no doubt that what I went through is something all first-time daddies go through. Although I felt unprepared in a way, I think many of the surprises for me were good things in the end. They made me appreciate my new role in life and made me appreciate the power of fatherhood.

Here is my list of the unexpected things I learned upon becoming a first-time daddy. Go ahead and add your own experiences below.

Becoming A First-Time Daddy – The Unexpected Changes

The powerful feelings

first time daddyPinI’m talking about love here. I’ve known romantic love and the love of a parent, friend or sibling. The love I felt for Tessa though was different though, and it was immediate. The power of this love I felt for Tessa was something I had never experienced before.

I now understand what all those people were telling me when they said that being a dad was the best.

The self-doubt and fear

Just as powerful as my feelings of love for Tessa were my own personal feelings of doubt and the fear I had that I wouldn’t be able to measure up. A lot, if not all, of these feelings had to do with my experiences with my own father (more on that below).
Like I mentioned earlier, some of these feelings were almost crippling in the beginning. I kept asking myself questions and these questions raced through my head pretty consistently early on: Will I be good enough? Can I protect Tessa? What will I do if something bad happens to her?

I came to find out that this self-doubt and fear is perfectly normal and part of becoming a first-time daddy. They have eased over time as well because I have become more confident in myself as a dad.

Your relationship/marriage changes in huge ways

I didn’t order this list in terms of most unexpected or surprising but if I did, this might have been the greatest surprise for me. Deb and I felt prepared to be parents, but we both underestimated how much our relationship changes. We were unprepared enough for this that we had more problems with each other than anything to do with Tessa. For a time, it looked like things might not work out. We’ve pulled through it, because of our love and commitment to each other and to Tessa.

My advice to couples, though: Make sure you understand how the baby will change your relationship.

For anyone interested in learning what often happens to new mom’s libido and why; read this article.

What is the biggest change for you as a new dad? You can vote in this poll here.

All babies do is sleep, right?

I was always under the impression that babies will sleep 14, 15, 16 hours out of a day. Apparently, most do. Most of our friends’ babies did as well. Tessa is a different egg altogether. She is not a napper. She was and still is way too interested in checking out and exploring her new world. I can’t complain too much. I was very much the same kind of baby.

How much I love being a dad

I can’t express it any better than this: I’m having a blast with being a first-time daddy. The reason for my surprise though is because I grew up without the best role model for a father. As a result, I have always feared to become a repeat of my own father. However, what the fear and doubt have done is to make me think really hard about the kind of father I want to be.

And I want to be the best father I can possibly be. I’m not in denial though. Being a first-time daddy is the hardest thing I have ever done, but the rewards are incredible. There is no better feeling I get than Tessa’s smile upon seeing me first thing in the morning.

The way things are now, I am not a new dad, I am a stay-at-home dad. You can read my survival tips for stay-at-home dad here.

You can’t beat it and it’s worth all the unexpected surprises in the world.

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Now it is your turn! How is it for you to be a first-time daddy? What were the most unexpected changes?

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Steven

    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 microengineering 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 about 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 of 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 compared 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. breastfed, 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 underlying 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 every day 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 time 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 the family grows. The one thing that hasn’t changed though, you can never be prepared for what Fatherhood has in store for you next…

    Sorry, this is the longest comment I ever wrote anywhere… I appreciate your post and being allowed to share my own journey of the past 8 months. Maybe someone can relate.

  2. New dad

    Thanks for this post. I am still a bit overwhelmed…

    The trauma of labour is hard enough. Seeing someone you love go through such a painful process (some people say it’s wonderful…good luck to them) is traumatic enough, but the stress and strain of bringing home your first born is beyond that. It needs it’s own word as traumatic doesn’t seem to do it justice.

    Doubts and fears will cross your mind, doubts and fears that were not there during the pregnancy. What seemed like it would be the simplest task, feeding (they make all kinds of noises when bottle feeding so don’t worry), or changing a nappy becomes the most stressful Mission Impossible, particularly when your baby is crying.

    Whilst we’re on the subject – the crying: don’t be surprised when it gives you a feeling in your stomach like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Terror, panic, stress…they all happen and then you feel an overwhelming need to soothe this and it can break your heart but it will stop and you will have helped it stop so feel good about this.

    From a mental standpoint I can only speak from my experience. What I feel now, 7 days in, is so much more complete than I have ever felt before.

    You may feel detached those first few days, particularly as you WILL be sleep deprived because you want to check on your little one constantly, but after the first week it will all start to make perfect sense.

    You and your partner have created something that is made from love and will be loved by you both like nothing else on earth. Enjoy every moment, but don’t feel bad if it takes more than a few days to get there. (One last things – remember your partner… show them as much love as you did before..they need it too).

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Thank you so much for sharing such an honest description of how it felt for you to go through childbirth and going home with a newborn baby!

      I recognize a lot of what you say, especially about everything being scary and difficult in the beginning.

      If your infant is now 7 days old, I must say you got used to the situation very quickly if you are already calmer! It usually takes time, up to a couple of months before the baby and parents really know each other enough, so that it is becoming easier for the parents to interpret the baby’s cries, for example. And it can take even 6 months before life with a baby feels completely natural.

      Anyway, again thank you and I really wish you a wonderful new kind of life now, as a family.

  3. Jeff Mccoy

    Great Post! After baby your and your wife life becomes full change and you have to give more priority to baby, Sometimes its feel good but sometimes its not, You have to do what baby like to do.

  4. Stephanie Hodges Murray

    Great post. It would have been interesting to read more on how exactly your relationship with your spouse changed. My husband and I are hoping to have children but I have no clue how being a parent will change our dynamic together. We have weekly date night now, and vacation twice a year, but essentially don’t see each other until the weekend. What changed, did you spend less time together, take each other for granted, did one feel like they were doing more than the other, etc.