Don’t panic. Having a baby is the best thing you’ll ever do!
I’m an older dad. It’s not that I didn’t want kids. It’s just that somehow life kept getting in the way. Being an older father, I had heard my friends with kids say things to me like the statement I just made above, many times before. It’s not that I didn’t believe them. I just didn’t pay much attention to them. Maybe I sometimes thought it was an excuse for something that looked like hard work or was some kind of inside joke.
But 10 months into this adventure, the joke’s on me! All the things about my life that I thought were great, have changed. No spontaneous overseas holidays, no big nights out with friends and never ever sleeping in, even after a small night out with friends. And that’s ok…because now I have Freddie.
Instead of trying to feed myself or entertain myself, I now have a little man who relies on me to do all the things I used to do for myself. Now, I feed him, I entertain him and I make him laugh. And that’s hard work and is exhausting. But when he finally goes to sleep at night, it’s the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done.
So here goes… some top tips from a new dad who feels sometimes like he’s just about surviving.
1. The mother of your child is a GOD(DESS)
No matter how many nappies you change, feeds you do, or bath times you give, someone has had a 9-month head start on you. Plus they go through the actual process of childbirth. Respect your goddess. Us dads will never comprehend it, but once the baby is in your arms, you’ll know who’s done the hard work. Carly, my wife, never ceases to amaze me. Watch in awe at what the mother does and how you might be able to help. But more importantly, respect what motherhood is and you’ll fall deeper in love with her, a thousand times over.
2. You’ve done it. Now, own it!
This little thing that your partner just spent nine months growing inside her body, well, it is just about to be shared with you. Man up, new dad! You’re on. This is no time to be flaking out. You’ve just got to keep showing up. And you will. Let your instinct drive you. Look after your child on your own. Five minutes at first, working up to an hour and then maybe half a day. This is a special time for you, your baby and your partner. Look into your baby’s eyes, hold them tight, change their nappy but just as importantly, give your wife a few moments to herself.
3. Keep going until they smile
That first smile will blow your mind. Literally. You will forget about everything else. The lack of sleep, the vomit, the poop – that smile is what makes it all worth it. It is what makes you complete. It will make you go to bed looking forward to getting up again sooner than the old you would. And maybe that’s what this is all about. Recognising, moving through and appreciating the stages in life.
4. Your baby is tough
Hong Kong hasn’t been easy for the past nine months but our little bundle of energy thinks it is the best. The protests and the coronavirus outbreak may have been scary for me as a new dad, but not for Freddie. For him, every new day is a big adventure. Every discovery is as fun as the last. I think no matter what your circumstances, the bond you develop will transcend it all.
5. You can prepare
Read up and take some courses. We did Hypnobirthing and First Aid. Freddie was born by emergency C-section and we haven’t had to use the first aid knowledge (thankfully!). So both courses haven’t been used in a practical way. But that doesn’t mean any of this was a waste of time. Knowledge is power. There are so many resources out there. I found reading a book or two extremely useful. I am a science graduate and so, I like my science. “Brain rules for baby” by John Medina was a fascinating read. He’s is a developmental molecular biologist. It is amazing how my baby reaches milestones like so many other babies in ways that science has discovered, and yet, is also so unique. Learning about how your baby’s brain will develop, will develop yours.
6. If you choose to get help, respect the helper
My wife’s career is important to her, as mine is to me. After putting hers on hold for me, when I worked in countries around the world, Hong Kong has presented her with the opportunity to continue working, even after having a baby. That means we need help. Maybe something my own mother or a family member could have helped with if we were living somewhere else. Here we have a “helper”, but in reality, she is the boss. She is the best! She looks after our boy with love and respect. We both couldn’t do what we do without her tireless professionalism and dedication. She has her own life outside our family and we hope we show her enough respect to understand her situation.