I was scared – I thought that I would be inadequate
Pre-pregnancy I used to joke about not wanting to start caring for my kids until they were at least 1 year old. The women in my life and my wife’s friends would laugh and shake their heads. Sure, it was somewhat funny, but like most jokes, it was born out of fear. I didn’t think I could take care of something so small. Eventually, I whittled my joke down to 9 months, and then 6 months, then after holding friend’s babies, I settled on starting my job as a father and caregiver to 4 months. Soon everyone quit laughing and I became the joke.
The truth is that I was scared, frightened that I’d be inadequate, that I wouldn’t know how to hold her, wouldn’t know how to change a diaper, that I’d mess it all up. The thing I didn’t realize back then was that most parents, new mothers and fathers don’t have much experience caring for infants before their own children are born, that it was okay and perfectly normal to be scared, but waiting to enter my new baby’s life at a prescribed older age wouldn’t be good enough.
A father doesn’t really feel like a full father until the baby is born. The mother bonds with the baby while in utero, and the father is on the outside of this experience. However, when my daughter was born, I realized that the last thing I wanted to do was to wait to hold her, to take care of her, to even change diapers, and to struggle to get her wiggling arm into a onesie. This was my chance to cement my bond with my child and if I had waited even four months, that relationship would have been very different and too distant.
Besides, from day one in the hospital, though you have a safety net of nurses, you and your partner are responsible for this child’s care and well-being and it helps so much if you and your wife are on the same team. Your partner, you realize, is just as frightened as you are, not to mention physically and mentally exhausted. Baby and mommy both need your best, undivided attention. And that fear, though vivid, burns in the peripheral, because you’re in love in a way you’ve never experienced before. A love that simply conquers fear.
And you’ll need all of this you can muster, because those first days and nights at home are rough, but you’ll be so glad that you forgot your little joke, that you’re there from day one, forming your father-child bond, the one you didn’t think you had in you until you saw your child for that first time.