So today’s my 34th birthday and as with most years, having a birthday close to New Year’s always makes me reflect on the last year and make plans for the year ahead. 2016 was a huge year for me and with a couple of requests to do another blog entry I thought sharing my views on becoming a father would be a good idea.
Reflecting back with Daisy, 2010 was the year we married and laid the platform for our growth. A huge life changing year where we celebrated love and family, made commitments to each other to be above average and to strive for awesomeness in everything we do.
2013 then became the next huge milestone in our journey, a life defining trip to Asia gave us the head space to dream and ask difficult questions about our future. We committed to make a change and within 3 weeks we had new jobs, a new flat and found ourselves in the greatest city in the world.
It seems we’re in a 3 year cycle as 2016 proved to be the next new height we’d reach – overcoming some practical milestones such as buying a house (which as many of you know is a stressful, unfair and soul destroying activity in the best of cases). This house is a place we can call home and build memories.
Alongside the practical, fortune allowed us to travel to a beautiful destination wedding, followed by some quality baby growing time in Sri Lanka, my father-in-law’s 60th took us on a once in a lifetime family holiday to Greece and work took me to Atlanta, India, Dubai and Barcelona allowing me to build on 2015’s progress.
Throughout all of the above was this ticking time bomb that we’d prayed for and were blessed with at the beginning of the year…a jelly bean, a baby, the first grandchild and the extension to our family.
I’ve always loved kids and people have always told me that you don’t fully understand how life changing it is until you go through it yourself. I was fortunate enough to be 7 and 10 when my younger brothers were born so I remember both practically and emotionally what it was like having a new born in the family but when it’s your own, created by you, it’s truly magical if not mind-blowing that this being can come from nothing.
From speaking to many fathers it’s clear that everyone connects to their baby at different times. For me it was at the first scan where we saw, what I lovingly call our Jelly Bean, waving at us on the screen (that’s what it looked like to us), letting us know that it’s here, that it’s active and that our lives have changed. It was a bit surreal and talking a lot helped, seeing Daisy fight through the first trimester also made it real that change is in the air. I didn’t feel qualified to call myself a father/dad yet but I did feel the cloud of responsibility come in overhead.
We live in a very different generation to even our parents, only 30 years ago, going through a pregnancy. The information available to us is both overwhelming and invaluable. Both of us read ‘What to expect’ and ‘A dad’s survival guide’. Like TripAdvisor reviews you’ll read 8 views in favour of one idea and then hear 2 completely in the other direction. We took in all the information and made our own judgments on how we felt and what we felt was best. Inevitably the first time around as parent you have to re-look at choices but we never took what we read as gospel.
The thing I found fascinating is that even though in pregnancy every woman is different every baby develops at the same speed. We’d warmly watch the weekly development video every Saturday morning to see how our little one was developing and it was amazing how spot on the descriptions were to how we were feeling and what was going on.
The pregnancy was so giving to us both, Daisy really warmed to it and as we got through the initial sickness we really glowed through it. Tracking the size of the baby against fruits and veg allowed our friends and family to really relate to the development and brought us all closer in the excitement of the imminent arrival.
There’s an online survey that you can do called Baby Hunch which allowed friends and family to guess the sex, weight, eye colour, hair colour etc of our baby which was a really fun thing to do with everyone and even though it was me that won I feel like it showed how much love existed for this little being before it even arrived. (You’re probably wondering why I keep referring to the baby as it, but if you didn’t clock on it’s because we didn’t find out the sex until he was born. If you or anyone else is in this predicament to find out or not my simple advice is DON’T FIND OUT… it’s an amazing surprise and all the gender specific things can be done once they come in the world.)
Travelling whilst pregnant gave us really special bonding time, allowing the two of us to do the things we love, being in the sun but also focusing on the little one. As the bump grew, the connection and reality grew stronger. My fondest memories are of sitting on the sofa with Daisy, singing to the bump and seeing this left foot kick out and react to my voice.
Serious thought alert! – I really struggle to understand how anyone can terminate a baby. I understand the argument of circumstance or disability, I personally wouldn’t make those choices but when there are so many people praying to be blessed with a baby when those who do get the chance to have one and make a choice of their lifestyle over life I really struggle to comprehend that choice.
Anyway, alongside the books, videos, speaking to friends and family and trying to get our parents to think back to when they had us, the biggest support which gave us the most value was the NCT antenatal classes…I was conscious that there were times I’d speak to friends or work colleagues about the baby and you’ll notice because it’s so high on your radar it’s all you talk about and every conversation comes back to babies. Even if I spoke to someone who has children the emotions and the tiny details that I was cherishing didn’t seem that interesting because they’d lived it and actually they’d survived it.
So going to a place where like-minded parents-to-be, who all live in a couple mile radius with due dates only days apart, allowed us to whole-heatedly share concerns, ask those silly questions and prepare for what to expect. We have met some lovely people and formed strong bonds through this course. Our instructor was great and even though you have to pay for these classes you should see it as investment into your child. The hospital run classes in my opinion are too high level, too quick to run over important stages, over crowded and not personal to you. This class prepared us for what turned out to be a very challenging 12 hours of labour and without that knowledge, preparation and confidence of what to expect and do the outcome may have been different.
One piece of advice I did get however that I will pass on is ‘to cherish every moment’. This was the resounding advice I got from every parent I spoke to. Some told me how they didn’t really pay that much attention at first and how they missed many small moments, others told me that it’s never the same again as when you have a second child you never get the same time or attention because of the first child needing you. Because I heard it so much made more of an effort to be present at every step, take pictures, videos and to keep all the little things (keep safe box, write emails to the baby to capture moments and feelings that are so easy to forget as time goes on and sleep deprivation eats your brain!)
Saturday September 3rd 2016 – 12:43 pm – is a time that will stay with me forever. Many have asked me how I felt at that moment and over time trying to articulate that feeling I realised that what I felt was ‘instant love’. I know it sounds obvious, of course I’d love my new born son but what caught me by surprise was just how much love I felt the very first time I saw his tiny face.
Through your younger years you fall in and out of love in search of ‘the one’ and then you find the one, fall so deeply in love, where every touch of the hand causes butterflies to stir within and as you go through those experiences you rise in love with every step and adventure taken. You get married and turn those flirting, exploring emotions into romance and never look back. Then you have a baby and suddenly all those emotions come flowing back, you second guess yourself, are you allowed to love so openly, so excitedly for something other than your partner? You look up and see that your partner is doing exactly the same, both of you so immersed in new love where every noise, smile, poo, causes so much joy and it happens instantly.
What also caught us by surprise is how little sleep you get with a new born. I wasn’t expecting to get 7 or 8 hours like before but 5 or 6 would have been ok. For the first 2 weeks we were practically up the whole time taking 2 hour power naps and not only trying to keep this little person alive but also not cause any damage to ourselves. It’s relentless and unforgiving. As the sleeps got longer and I went back to work I started to see how much you can actually function on with 5 to 6 hours of sleep. It seems it takes us a long time to realise in our lives that we can do a lot more with our day and going through this sleep deprivation exercise has given me a new found perspective on capacity and how much I can get done in a day.
As well as getting extra hours in the day I’ve found this new capacity to do things beyond my imagination. One thing no one tells you is when you become a dad you get with it a new motivation and energy to do things for your child, for example his nursery has a weird configuration and storage was proving a bit challenging so I built a wardrobe from scratch which I’d never done before and never knew how to do. Something inside of me found a way to solve the problem and get it done. I believe this was the first of many things I’ll do for him.
Time is a funny thing, on one hand so much has happened as you can see from the above, all that happened in 365 days, we went from being 2 to 3 in that time frame which feels like a long time and on the other hand Daisy and I are getting back to doing the things we like when we were two already, Friday night date nights (once he’s gone to sleep), travelling, watching our favourite shows, cooking together etc which shows that you can have a child and get back to you quite quickly.
Having a baby is a life changing experience and so far as a new dad I’m loving every step of the way. I don’t want him to grow up but I also want him to develop through his phases, it’s truly bitter sweet.
The next few months and years will be a real adventure!
A proud dad!