When I realized we are going to have a baby, I started reading blogs on real life parenting experiences. I was just trying to get myself ready for the challenges ahead! Most of the blogs I read are written by moms and found very few daddy blogs. That gave me the thought of why shouldn’t I share my experience of parenting?
April 20, 2016. Before that day I used to think it would be great to be a dad, but never realized just how much. At around 7 pm I became a father! One can’t even imagine how good it can feel! Now, I don’t want to turn myself into a laughing stock here, so I do not even dare to write what I felt! I could barely hold my tears seeing that pink little thing, “Samarah”. I am trying to remember how I felt when I held her for the first time, it was likely a moment of relief, amazement and yes, a little shock too. I am pretty sure most of the dads out there had the same emotions may be a little up or down the scale.The first couple of days went through in a rush, getting everything ready for my daughter, things like her baby cot, car seat, bassinet and some other stuff. Samarah and her mom had to stay back at the hospital for 3 days and I was not allowed to stay with them overnight. My days started with visiting them at the hospital and the days went by cuddling my baby girl and watching her sleeping. That wasn’t a tough time at all, not for me for sure!
Then came the first challenge, “Car Seat”. We live in Australia and trust me it’s a blessing when you can have your first baby at home with families around. And of course, you don’t need a car seat for a 3-day old in Bangladesh. To be very honest, you can take a taxi if you want to avoid the hassle of using car seat for the first time, but I thought why not give it a go. To my surprise, the 20-minute drive ended with only a few minutes of crying, I was so relieved.
As she is our first baby, I felt a little strange to be home. I had an overwhelming sensation that life has changed forever! What was an adult home before the birth was now our family home complete with the extra little person we had brought into the world. Now, then came the tension of watching out for her every need - Is she crying? Why does she not sleep? Why does she not eat? Does she need more milk? Did she have a poop? Etc. etc. I would say the best way to understand what the baby needs is to start bonding with your baby. I remember waking up suddenly in the middle of the night with my wife, trying to understand why is the baby crying, why she is not happy, and believe me it does not take much time to get the answers. Mostly, crying meant it’s time for feeding or a nappy change, and then she used to fall asleep again. Sometimes she was cold or warm and sometimes she just wanted a cuddle. See, it’s not so difficult to understand what your baby wants; you only got to try a few things.
When Samarah was born, I luckily had a job which allowed me to work from home most of the days. I was home a lot during the day with my wife and baby. Sometimes, when I saw my wife was exhausted, I would try to help by shooing her off to bed.“I’ll look after Samarah. Get some rest.” I know it’s a bit scary when the baby is crying, and you have no idea what to do! I used to give my baby a cuddle and walked around the house. Sometimes a little bit of singing is an effective way to soothe your baby. To be very honest I never had much trouble feeding Samarah as she was breast-feeding and it was her mom who took the hassle all the time. The dads or to-be-dads who are reading this, its not possible to act like the mommies but you still can take the load off her for few hours a day.
Okay, I am diverting a little from the main theme there. It might seem odd to begin an article about fathers and babies with writing about a father and mother. However, I think that’s where we must start because, while a mother has a pretty direct line to her baby, a father’s connection goes through the mother and in the beginning, the father-infant relationship can never totally exclude her. When a new dad wants to build his relationship with the baby (which we’ll get into later) he must remember that it develops within the context of the mother-baby relationship. If you don’t understand this, you may run into trouble!
There was a time when we didn’t need to think about this. Gender roles were clearly divided and babies were seen by everyone as women’s territory. But now, fathers have invaded that territory. I personally believe most fathers want to be and are expected to be involved with their babies. That’s good, but we need to keep in mind that some of the realities from the past still hold true today.Women are still socially and biologically programmed to be parents much more strongly than men are. Mothers expect to be “in charge” of babies and, in most families, they assume that role early on. When a father moves in to pick up the baby, he’s moving into her world. Therefore,you need to understand a little about that world as well and I am still learning!Now, let’s come back to the real story.With Samarah, there are two essential tasks I started with: taking care of her and getting to know her. From my experience, looking after babies involves relatively simple skills. You need to feed them, interact with them, comfort them when they’re upset, keep them reasonably clean and give them a safe, comfortable place to sleep. Mind you, the skills may not seem so simple the first time you’re confronted with a little mass of waving arms and kicking legs who, upon being lowered to the change table, reaches desperately as if you had dropped her into an abyss. However, baby care is easily learned by almost anyone who is willing to (or has to) get in there and do it.
Getting in there and doing it also helped me with my other task, which is getting to know her. In fact, the two are interdependent: I got to know her partly by handling and caring for her. At the same time, knowing her made my life easy and I became more attentive. And all of this helps you bond with your baby.
I remember asking a friend once - this was before we had Samarah - how he knew what the baby wanted. “They will tell you,” my friend replied. I had no idea what he meant. How can a baby tell you? But now that I’ve looked after Samarah, I understand. The baby does tell you, but not with words or gestures or even looks that pass between you. It’s more that, as you spend time together, you learn to read the baby’s cues—her body language or her cries or coos in various situations. Whatever you might think of your wife’s apparent instinct for this, it’s an acquired skill that requires time and togetherness.
The writer lives in Melbourne and work for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia