Now that our daughter is two months old, there are a few distinct stages that I have gone through as a dad. From when you first find out you are going to be a parent to the chaos and uncertainty when labour starts, to the point where you are getting on with the new normal, these are the seven stages of dad.
1. I’m going to be a dad!
For a few weeks after finding out that you have a baby on the way, you start to do research and make plans. You look at what pushchairs are on the market, you read about how the pregnancy will go, you feel panicked and excited and proud and happy, but what is ahead is completely unknown. All of this passes and you reach a steady state. Your wife is pregnant and glowing, you get on with life, and this new dynamic, having people congratulating you and tell you to get as much sleep while you can.
The steady state you reach during the pregnancy, begins to dissipate as the due date nears. The feelings of normality are replaced by a mild panic again which builds to the crescendo of full on labour. Throughout the labour you have moments of clarity and rationality that see you through making the right decisions, but there are also moments of pure terror and feelings of absolute helplessness as your partner goes through the later stages. You think that you will lose everything you had expected of your future, which then out of nowhere becomes a feeling of pure elation as your child is eventually born to the world. Nothing can describe it.
3. Proud dad
Now the baby is in the world you walk around the hospital insisting that you push the crib around and hoping that everybody sees what an amazing baby you have. You’re not just proud of the baby, but you have this new found level of respect for your partner for what she went through. You beam every time you hear someone say what a cute baby.
You’re back home and feel left some what out in the cold. Isolated with a new baby that has no instructions book. The first reaction when you walk through the door is, “what do we do now?”. As the days go on you lose focus on everything else in your life, you have one pure and simple responsibility which is caring for your partner and child. Something new and something scary happens everyday. Is she still breathing? Are her eyelids supposed to be red? Is she pooing too much or too little? Should we wake her for a feed? You lose all concept of normal time and everything now takes about four times longer than it used to. You are completely reactive to everything that happens, fighting the fires as they ignite. But you love it.
5. Back to work
The worst thing that could possibly happen happens. You have to pull yourself away from this amazing new person you have spent her entire life so far with. The things you do feel meaningless, and have lost any degree of appeal they had. You want to be home with them. You try and rationalise quitting your job so you can spend more time with your new family, only to slip into a reluctant submission, sulking as you realise that you need to work to make sure that the three of you can be cared for and comfortable.
6. Self doubt
At work all day, only getting home when it’s bedtime, limited to being an evening and weekend parent, you feel like you are losing touch with the baby and her development. She seems to stop crying when you hand her over to your wife. You question if you know what you are doing.
You have finally gotten used to being back at work. Routines between you and your partner and you and the baby have formed. You look forward to, and cherish the time you spend with them. You engage with your baby in new ways and see that she loves listening to your voice and that she recognises you when she sees you. You begin to know how she is going to react to you and the environment. You now expect the unexpected, and embrace the chaos and the unknown, because these moments reveal more about what it all means. You’re doing it; you are a dad.