Dad Blog: 4 Weeks in...
On the 29th of December I became a Dad. I watched the doctor hold my son up and when I heard his cry I was so relieved that everything was ok that I found myself crying too. The poignant moments continued throughout the day: seeing my wife cuddle my son, feeding him for the first time, looking at him sleeping and serene. I couldn’t have hoped for more.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
You see, I’d heard about this feeling: this instant connection that you feel when you see your child for the first time. The I’d throw myself in front of a bus to save you from harm feeling. I’d heard about it from other Dad’s and I’d heard about it through pop-culture. And I was looking forward to it!
But that feeling never came. I didn’t feel it in the hospital, and honestly, 4 weeks later I don’t feel it either.
What the heck is wrong with me?
It took quite a bit of guilt and denial before I was brave enough to open an incognito tab and divulge my feelings to Google. But when I did I discovered thousands of accounts from new Dads saying the same thing. They all felt the same guilt and frustration I was feeling. And the source of this pain all came from the instant connection narrative - the romanticised view that love for a child is overwhelming and unconditional from the very first moment.
Let me tell you about my first 4 weeks of fatherhood. Honestly.
Newborn babies cry a lot. They cry, they poo, they feed, and they sleep. And that’s about it. Sounds easy right? Well, it’s not.
I remember thinking that if a God (or super scientist, or whatever) were to try to invent the perfect test of adulthood it would be a human baby. Newborns demand infinite patience and infinite empathy. Two characteristics that as a young adult you don’t need too much of, and two characteristics that I will readily admit I don’t have in abundance.
Newborns also cannot be reasoned with, but if you’re like me you might try nonetheless. I would find myself in the early hours of the morning pleading why, why? while my newborn son continued with a cry that is literally biologically constructed to make you feel anxious.
It’s moments like these that test your resliance. I felt frustration, exhaustion, desperation, hopelessness and a sense of failure - A long way from the instant connection I’d been promised.
But that’s ok.
I know that I’m going to be a good Dad.
I know that I have a lot of love to give and that when the time is right it will all come pouring out.
And I know now that I’m not alone feeling detached, exhausted, and frustrated, rather than overflowing with joy. I’m ok with it. And if you happen to be a new Dad (or a new Mum) you should be ok with it too. The common response from more experienced parents in forums is that sometimes it can take time. There’s nothing wrong with you, you just need to wait.
That was all a bit heavy so I’m going to finish this off with a a few positive and funny anecdotes that we’ve experienced in the last 4 weeks.
- Dancing to jazz to get him to sleep.
I love a bit of late night jazz. And when I can feel myself getting overwhelmed and frustrated I’ve found that the best solution is to turn off the lights, put on a late night jazz playlist, and bob around the office for a while. This usually calms my son down, and it calms me down too! It’s been these times where I have felt the most connection with my son. There have been some beautiful moments where we’ve both found comfort and relaxation bobbing around to some Chet Baker or Bill Evans at 2am.
- Getting wee’d on.
If you’ve got a baby boy you’ll get wee’d on too. It’s inevitable. On one memorable occasion he was due for a bath. Right before the bath he wee’d on me and right after he wee’d on my wife. Both times the other partner got to witness it happening and got to laugh at the other. Maybe my son has inherited my fervent desire for equality too. 🤔
- Watching my wife be a Mum.
My wife has been patient, caring, and reslient, and I’m very proud of her. We’ve always been the type of couple that compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses and I think that there’s a lot I can learn from her when it comes to being a parent. For all my own worries about being a Dad, I’ve never once worried about my wife. She’s going to be a great Mum - she already is.