Today is a very special “Fatherhood Friday”. I want to thank my guest blogger Josh Chalmers for his vulnerability, openness and honesty. I know that you will be blessed by his words, and I encourage you to check out his blog: http://joshchalmers.wordpress.com
Becoming a Dad and Being a Dad Are Different Things
When your wife gets pregnant, it starts a new season in your life—a season of anticipation. If you are like me, you likely don’t have the same kind of burning desire your wife does to have a kid. After all, most people don’t make parenting out to be a very appealing prospect. Think about the last time you heard new parents talk about their experience, what always seems to stand out are sleepless nights and bleary-eyed days, endless crying, and diapers full of strange colored poop. So when I am fully honest, I can’t say I was especially pumped when I found out Laura was pregnant.
My lack of excitement about this new season lasted quite a while; which is why I’m grateful babies don’t arrive instantly via a stork, but take a while to arrive. I remember thinking, at least I have a full nine months to get used to the idea of my life radically changing. This was good but faulty logic. As soon as the announcement of your pregnancy is made public, everyone conspires to keep the immanent arrival of your baby in your face with helpful comments like: “If you don’t like babies now, you will when its your own!” or, “You are going to be sooo tired…” or the most helpful, “Enjoy your freedom right now, because you’re not going to have any for 18 years!!!”
When did my attitude change? It wasn’t when the doctor said, “It’s a girl!” or the so called magical moment when I got to hold her. Under normal circumstances, these moments might have flipped some kind of happiness or awe switch inside me, but our daughter was whisked away to NICU because of a birth defect in her esophagus. The day following her birth she had to have surgery, and she stayed in the hospital for 2 full weeks. It was so surreal, especially since we weren’t allowed to hold her for the first week. This experience didn’t make things any easier. When we finally brought her home I felt so relieved, but not excited.
When we got home the anticipation was over; it was time to try to enjoy this new season. I can’t say it suddenly got any easier; in fact, all the pre-game mental warmups I had performed did nothing to prepare me for the changes to our lifestyle. Some of the things people said about sleep were accurate, but I was never a walking zombie watching myself from outside my own body like other new fathers describe. My wife found it easier to have our daughter in bed with her for nursing, so she gave me the freedom to sleep downstairs, explaining that I was the one who had to work in the morning. When I talk to other new fathers most have expressed surprise at this arrangement, which makes me very grateful for my wife’s sacrifice—they do say misery loves company. Nevertheless, I did my share by staying up with our daughter until midnight or 1:00 AM when she couldn’t sleep at night; which was quite frequent in the first three months. This period was the hardest for me, because I felt like I should be so excited, and so in love with my little girl, but I just wasn’t.
It was even harder when I compared my emotions to my wife’s. She seemed to find it easy to express love for our daughter, whereas it always felt forced for me. I mostly kept these kinds of thoughts to myself, but my excitement started to grow not as a result of interacting with my daughter—at least not at first. My excitement to be a father sparked when my wife would make comments like, “I love watching how gentle you are with our baby,” or she would ask “Aren’t you so excited to take your daughter out for dates when she is older?” These moments were great because they built my confidence, and affirmed that my wife was seeing me as a capable and trustworthy father.
But after my baby started smiling at me something happened inside my heart—real joy at being a father sprouted. Once your baby is able to return your love, and celebrates your presence, you can’t help but get excited to see them. The first smile happens around three months, and the first laugh happens around six months! Now its hard to remember not being excited about being a father. The first few months might feel long, but trust me, it doesn’t take long for things to seem normal.
Now there are so many bright moments I could never go back. My favorite time of day is when I come home from work and my daughter is so excited that she practically hyperventilates with joy. Other great moments include playing during bath times, when she falls asleep on my chest (especially if my wife wasn’t able to calm her down), memorizing books like Moo, Baa, La La La together with my wife, seeing the grandparents loving on my daughter is more fun than I could have ever expected, reading my wife’s blog, and watching her develop in her giftings and enjoying being at home as a mother. Although becoming a father wasn’t easy for me, being a father is awesome!
If you are struggling with becoming a father, the following book resonated with my experience and helped me cope with my emotions (and lack thereof): David Jacobsen’s Rookie Dad: Thoughts on First-Time Fatherhood – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0310279216/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=jochmyraraanr-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0310279216 (please use this link on your blog, because if anyone buys this book, I will get a percentage of the sale).
Check out Josh’s blog at: http://joshchalmers.wordpress.com