I was 28, married, and was contented with couple-hood and could not imagine it ending. How then could I prepare for fatherhood/parenthood? Would it catch me by surprise? Will I ever be ready for fatherhood?
The knowledge and information about fatherhood was passed on to me by mothers. Fathers? We rarely spoke about it!
Sure, there were the online guides for first-time fathers, giving advice on what to expect during your wife’s pregnancy and life with a newborn. They were well-intentioned, but not really helpful. Looking back, it told me nothing about what I would genuinely go through.
Childbirth is like watching a movie after having read too many reviews beforehand. I knew about the part where I was supposed to scream and/or weep. So the whole childbirth business came loaded with much expectation. From a father's point of view, giving birth resembles a day out at the theme park with the children: it is mostly about waiting. My wife had to undergo a C-section (due to a medical condition) but even so, the wait for her to be wheeled into the theatre was no less an excruciating one.
Going by the online guides, I found that a husband’s role was to hold his wife’s hand and shed manly tears at the sight of the new baby’s arrival. But in reality, it was nothing of that sort. Not only would I tell new fathers not to worry about the crying or the wife’s or baby’s crying, I would also tell them not to worry if his newborn would look weird. I knew I was meant to think my son was the most gorgeous tiny form on the planet. I had been told that I would instantly fall in love with this creature the moment I laid eyes on him. Instead, I found myself staring at his little face, thinking: "Oh my, he looks like an alien!"
Of course that feeling would almost instantaneously be replaced by yet another: an intense love, awe and admiration for your wife. It also taught me a valuable lesson: to support your wife throughout the pregnancy months, learn to appreciate her growth and be there for her in all situations.
One of the hard truths of having a baby is that it does interrupt your sleep pattern, especially the wife’s. I was fortunate to be the father of a baby who was breastfed exclusively, which meant there was no reason to wake up in the middle of the night. But I did, and gladly wanted to, to be there for her.
Even before I assumed the title of ‘Dad’, I had resolved to be there for my children wherever and whenever I could. From diaper-changing, bathing to playing and putting them to sleep, I was there. And it was well worth it.
I have three children now and before they were born, many told me how much my life would change with the pitter-patter of tiny feet. I smiled and knew they meant well and wished in my heart they would someday know what it is like to have children.
Of course, life does change after children but I have found that the extent of that change is held in your hands. I would tell fathers-to-be that the fear of fatherhood is much worse than fatherhood itself! When you are waiting for the baby, you anticipate the things and circumstances that are going to change, but you cannot imagine the new things and experiences that will come with the little bundle of joy.
The numerous parenting books and websites will teach and warn that children come with diapers, tantrums, lack of sleep, added financial responsibility and the challenge of finding places to hide vegetables in their food. But what parenting books do not tell are the things that make being a parent the most amazing and rewarding experience. And it has been a wonderful journey for me. There are so many milestones that make my heart swell, mixed equally with pride, love and joy.
What has been my delight as a father to three children? The first time they grab my finger, smile at me, take the first step, say the first word and then “I love you,” write their name, go to school, sing the alphabet, use the potty and many, many others. If someone were to tell me before the birth of my children that I would willingly change clothes for Barbie, serve tea to Hello Kitty, Dora and my daughter, I would have laughed at them and then do something manly, like flex my one-pack tummy!
Today, when my child looks at me with loving eyes and asks me to cut paper flowers with her, the word “yes” comes out before I even realise it. Although it is not at all masculine, it is surprisingly quite fun and enjoyable!
A word to all men – baby remains an abstract notion right up to the point baby pops. The bond with baby may not be as strong as that with mum but that also means there is the surprise of finding out that fatherhood is not a dreadful, but a wonderful experience. And that to me is immeasurable.
Contributed by Kelvin Ang, father to three cheeky monkies and a Maybe Baby blogger. Click here to read Kelvin’s blog!