Is there anything scarier to a guy than the birth of their first child? Most men who have been there will tell you point blank that it’s nothing like they’ve ever experienced. And while that’s true, that moment after you first hear your child cry makes it really easy to overlook perhaps the scariest thing of all—fatherhood.
Whether you realize it or not, you now have to help care for a little human for most of the foreseeable future. As a parent, you and your partner now have to make infinitely more decisions throughout the course of a day as you ever did before you saw that line on the pregnancy test.
But you know enough to get by, right? You’ve heard what dads have to go through plenty of times over the years. Plus we live in a day and age where it’s easier to stumble upon parenting advice than it is one of your baby’s dropped pacifiers. But it’s a tough task in many respects and there is probably nothing harder than trying to separate fact from fiction in terms of being a father.
You Will Break Your Baby
This is probably one of the most pervasive fears you’ll have as a “pending” father and it is by far the scariest if you don’t know any better. Just about everyone you know will ask you if you’ve practiced holding a baby; your wife may even try to convince you to hold some of your friends’ newborns ‘just to see how it feels’. This is because most babies don’t develop full control of their head and neck until around the six month mark.
I can’t tell you how many times I thought that I would be that father to damage my child’s neck. However, it wasn’t until after the birth of my son that I realized the likelihood of that happening was pretty slim. The first time you hold your newborn they’ll most likely be swaddled by a nurse, midwife, or some form of medical professional (so relax…at least a little). This makes holding the baby as easy as holding a small watermelon. Not only that, but as you’re sure to find out, as long as you offer some form of neck support, your little bundle is technically good to go.
The same sort of thing goes for burping your baby. During the first days, you’re likely going to have to lean your baby forward and pat their back until they let out the gas. The entire process is pretty frightening as you’re not only hitting the baby repeatedly, but you also look like you’re preparing to chokeslam Junior. But again, you shouldn’t worry about this because you’re not only doing it right, you’re also doing your child a favor. If they need to burp then the trapped air is affecting their ability to consume milk.
You Won’t Be Able to Connect
Speaking of consuming milk, don’t think that just because you’re not your newborn’s primary source of nourishment that you can’t settle them when they’re angry, sad, or fussy.
It’s true that mom’s ability to connect is on an entirely different level from us dads. After all, they are the one’s that are usually the very first to hold the baby after they’re born. Not only that, mothers who breastfeed capture that form of bonding exclusively. However, there is still something to be said about the bond between a father and child. Believe it or not, there are a number of ways dads can strengthen their connection to their child. One of the easiest ways is to help with the feedings or be the one who gives a bath.
The latter suggestion is one that is surprisingly fun as well as opportunistic. Your baby will most likely be at their most alert once you have them soaking in that little plastic tub. It’s a great time to try making faces and it’s truly worth it to see your little one mimic those same faces back (maybe not immediately, but you’ll be surprised what they pick up when they are wide awake).
You Can’t Enjoy Them Until They’re Older
Sure you won’t be able to teach him how to ride a bike or show her how to kick a soccer ball. They won’t even be able to talk about that funny movie you watched together for a couple of years. But that doesn’t make your baby any less enjoyable.
While it won’t be clearly defined, your baby will start developing a personality before they’re even able to crawl. From how they squeeze your hand to the seemingly carefree smile they’ll flash at you while they drift in and out of sleep, your baby will bring you more fun, excitement, and joy than you ever imagined they would after that first night in the hospital.
In truth, every baby is different and how to be a good father can’t be learned by reading about it in a book or online. But if you take anything from this article it should be to not let any preconceived notions about what you can and can’t do as a father get in the way of you and your experience with your new addition. So, like me, you should enjoy the early days—I’m told they’ll zoom by before we know it.