My colleague is about to become a dad for the first time, but just listening to him I’m not convinced he is fully aware of what’s waiting for him. Although each parenting experience will be different, many aspects of becoming a dad for the first time are similar.
One similarity is that as a new dad, we all think and hope to be the best dad to our child. There will be plenty of advice on offer from meaningful friends, but really, I believe that you should wait for your child to arrive and do what feels natural to you.
At first you will fumble, and be full of fear that you are gonna muck up and hurt the tiny precious bundle you hold in your hands, soon though your confidence will grow and you will begin to recognize your baby’s cry as he/she communicates to you that they are hungry or in serious need of a change. There will be times that no matter what you try your baby won’t stop crying, take a step back, breath, calm yourself down and you will see the answer will come to you.
Soon, your little child will become your alarm clock. As they settle into their routine, you too will follow suit. Those impromptu beer meetings and accepting braai invites start to be scheduled around the child’s routine. The first week or two it will take some adjusting to their feeding and sleep routine. I love my sleep, so found those first weeks where I had to get up at midnight or 2am calls for feed are torture at the start. One quickly adjusts though as we have no alternative.
You will hear that you’re supposed to sleep when they sleep, honestly, that’s easier said than done. You will feel extremely proud the first time you’re able to make your child sleep without your partner or spouse’s help. The first time you are able to make your baby burp feels like an awesome achievement. We found that hubby was the best at getting our little boy to burp.
Changing nappies the first few days was awesome. If like us, you would take turns to change your baby’s nappy, I found that both hubby and I were honestly hoping that when it was our turn to change the nappy, it would just be pee. Changing a poo nappy was like watching a comedy, as we both had ways of changing while attempting to not take in the scent. Honestly, though, that phase doesn’t last long. You will be so in love with your child you won’t care. Just as the first few times you burp you child, and the next thing your clean shirt is covered in vomit! Agh! Soon, you will be so used to the smell of baby puke and that it’s more than just milk that they have decided to shower you with.
When your child begins to cut their first teeth, wow, fun and games the first day. It hits you from all sides. We had gone off for breakfast with mates that Sunday morning. We arrived home just before lunch. Next thing our young man refused to eat and all he wanted, was to sleep in my arms. Refused to be put down to sleep on his bed. The first few attempts after he had nodded off just resulted in crying literally seconds later.
The car you thought was spacious, suddenly isn’t. Every trip out the house is like you moving house. You have to make sure the pram is in the car, the baby bag has all the changes your little one may need, enough nappies, change of clothing, milk and food if they at that stage. It’s a mission, but you soon adapt and find ways to make it less of a mission.
It is weird, but for the first 3 weeks, I hardly left home. It wasn’t because you didn’t want to, but your life just isn’t yours. It now revolves around this young person. This part of daddyhood is only applicable if you’re a single dad for now, as only mothers currently get to be home on maternity leave. Paternity leave is 3 days but I’ve read that it may change. Also, South Africa doesn’t have specific adoption leave, so it’s left to the discretion of the company you work for.
You will receive loads of advice, suggestions, and recommendations. Take what resonates with you and chuck the rest out. You and your partner or spouse will find your best path and you will make it work for your new family. It will overwhelm you in the beginning, but you will adjust because you will be overcome by an unbelievable love for this child you have created or opted to rear as your own through adoption. Remember that going to the toilet alone, will also become a thing of the past.
The love for your child will make you believe that you can achieve anything, and you can. Remember to ask for help, when you need it. If you still have your mom around … call her when you need help. Once you’ve settled into your new routine, make time to spend quality time with your partner or spouse. It’s important for your relationship, that you don’t forget that your partner or spouse was around before the children came along.
Just know that you will survive, don’t sweat the small stuff, you will make it work, you will be proud and you will compete with other dads! Do your best to spend as much quality time as you’re able to, because they grow up so fast … I know you hear that all the time … it’s not an exaggeration … it is true. One minute you are bottle feeding them … and before you know it, they are talking back to you and repeating your words back at ya, so watch what you say.
Love them, because all they want is your love and attention, be ready to learn from them too.
Embrace and love your new role… DAD!