So you’re thinking hard about having a kid?
Good for you. That’s a very mature and dad-like thing to do. Decision making is an important part of fatherhood. When it’s 4AM on some random Tuesday and your screaming child has slept for 6 of the last 600 possible minutes, a good decision can be the difference between a dad who goes to work tired and one who ends up on the news.
Before the girl was born, I had heard enough horror stories to know that fatherhood changes a man. Now that she is here, however, I realize that while new dads freely share tales of sleep deprivation and baby poop, discussing the REAL challenges of fatherhood is more taboo.
A baby stirs up emotions and feelings, so the unwillingness to talk about it isn’t surprising. But it is unfortunate, because a lot of soon-to-be dads are entirely oblivious to just what in the hell is coming. What follows is everything I wish I knew before baby: 12 confessions from a brand new, worn out, but still sane (and still married) father.
I am Emotionally Unstable
I thought I was done with emotions, that I had outgrown them like Ninja Turtles and bed wetting. Men are supposed to be unflappable, so for years I buried all that emotional shit deeeeep down inside. And there it has stayed. But now it is back. And I’m handling it poorly.
The girl gets shots, and I’m as hysterical as she is.
She WILL NOT fall asleep, and I want to put my foot through her bedroom wall.
She recognizes me for the first time and smiles, and I break down and fuckin weep, because I’ve lived 29 years without ever experiencing this emotion, and my brain cannot compute the appropriate response to just what in the hell is happening to me.
Of all the changes, becoming an emotional train wreck was the least expected. I had no idea I could feel so strongly, which is awesome but also terrifying, because now I worry.
Oh, How I Worry
The girl had reflux (colic on steroids) and torticollis (a crooked head due to a constricted neck muscle), both of which are surprisingly common and 100% curable/outgrowable.
Still, my wife and I spent the first 5 months of parenthood OBSESSING over these symptoms. And while babies are diagnosed every day with worse and often heartbreaking conditions, I know the panic that arises when things are not perfect.
A terrifying realization that every dad makes, and one I wish I had made earlier, is that you control very little. The rest is up to fate, or God, or chance, or the universe, or whatever you want to pin it on.
Could your baby have a currently undetectable and eventually inoperable disease? Of course. But so could you. Just like you could drop dead from an aneurysm upon finishing this sentence…
Caution and diligence are different than hobby worrying. If you can’t make the distinction, you’re in for a loooong rest of your life.
My Marriage Has Never Been Harder
Just look at this fuckin chart, man.
Pre-child, I cannot remember the last time I argued with my wife. In fact, I don’t think we ever had a real argument. But fun time is over, because three years of harmonious coexistence is apparently no match for a mini human who eats every hour and shits on the half hour in between.
You will need to take some night shifts. You will need to miss some football games. You will need to compromise. You will need to take a breath and let that snide remark slide right off your back. You need to find a way, because love alone will not.
I Wonder if My Wife Will Ever Be the Same
You think life as a new dad is one of hardship and sacrifice? Wait until you witness life as a new mom. While you may lose some sleep and free time, you — the person — remains intact.
Your wife, however, experiences hormonal and physical changes that alter her very being, like some monster strapped to the table of a mad scientist.
The role of a new mother…it is admirable, man. It’s emotional hijacking, nipple cracking, stomach stretching work that will make you pause, reflect, and say to yourself, Christ, I have spent a lifetime underappreciating my mother.
Christ, I Have Spent A Lifetime Underappreciating My mother
Go call your mother. She loves you.
Sometimes I Miss My Old Life
Life with a baby is full of tiny events that are a giant fuckin deal. The girl rolled over. She grabbed her feet. OMFG she laughed at the dog!
Mundane milestones mean THE WORLD when you’re a parent. The day the girl fed herself with a spoon, I snapped 200 pictures and then about shit myself in wonderment. And since babies change seemingly by the day, the progress is new and continuous. This makes fatherhood fresh and rewarding and that is awesome.
But sometimes I think about the good ol’ days; free of babies and commitment and full of whatever the hell I wanted. Sometimes I miss them. I remember the recklessness, and freedom, and mobility, and lack of responsibility. Sometimes I get tired of responsibility. Sometimes I CRAVE irresponsibility. Sometimes I just want to drive to the nearest dive bar, crush 20 different rail drinks, crash on a buddy’s couch, wake up and barf in his toilet.
My Dog Always Misses My Old Life
Mo was the baby before the baby. And as much as I told myself that would never change, it has.
I wonder if he’s realized that his walks are shorter, or that nobody takes his picture anymore, or that the guests he greets at the door are here for the baby. Thinking about it now…I’m gonna cry again.
I don’t dismiss him intentionally, but take yesterday for example. I’m scrambling to ready a bottle because the girl is hungry and screaming like a slasher movie victim. Meanwhile, Mo is whining at the basement door for his abandoned stuffed hippo.
It’s like how different in importance are these two needs? Where does this stranded hippo rank amongst the universe’s problems? If we delay the hippo’s rescue, how will it impact world hunger?
But he is getting better. I’m hoping as the girl grows, he’ll start to acknowledge her as a human. Maybe, one day, each can provide the other with the TLC they both so desperately crave. Maybe, one day, they’ll be BFFs.
I Ask For Help
I was never a big fan of asking for help. Too proud. Too cool. Too manly. But with the girl here, asking for help has become one of my absolute favorite things. I will ask for help from anyone. I will sing it from the rooftops. I will ask multiple times per day, because I NEED it.
You will have some desperate moments. There are times after a long day with the girl where I am willing to sacrifice a small animal, a cat maybe, for an hour of alone time. Just one hour. In college, an hour was useless. I pissed away hours like they were tuition dollars. As a dad, an hour is an eternity. I can change the world with an hour.
Luckily for new parents, people love babies. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, are usually more than willing to step in. So get comfortable asking for and taking help. If only for an hour so you can eat, bathe and remember how it feels to exist with your dignity intact.
I am Resilient
What will you do on that rare occasion when the sky opens and the lord shones his heavenly light upon thy rooftop, blessing thee with a child who actually falls asleep before 9PM? How will you spend those free 3 hours? How will you not use them to drink beer and watch tv?
Willpower is a finite resource, and nothing drains willpower like baby having. I gained 15 pounds by the girl’s 4 month birthday, because I used every free minute to lay on the couch and eat stuffed crust.
If this is where you let yourself go, then see you later. But if you’re not ready for that, you will have to dig deep, and get your ass to the gym and away from the delivery menu.
I am Embarrassing and Egoless
I live in constant fear of making a boner of myself — of stuttering during a meeting, or waving to someone who was waving to someone behind me.
To protect my fragile ego, I avoid activities that could portray me as lame or weak (karaoke, voluntarily speaking in public, meeting new people, etc.). I go to great lengths to avoid potential embarrassment. But not when it comes to the girl. With her, I’m a lullaby-singing, peek-a-boo playing dynamo.
The love, man. It’s crazy. It makes it all worth it.
It is All Worth it
I have changed. The sanity-having, worry-free, zip-a-dee-fuckin-doo-dah-ing me is gone, lying face down in a heap of poopy diapers and burp rags. But that is ok. Because from the ashes, like a goddamn phoenix, springs a new life — one oblivious to worry, or house payments, or performance reviews, and focused on discovering toes and cheesing at the dog. And I experience it every day. So in a way, it’s my life now. My old life is in ruins. But it’s worth it, because now I get to see what grows from the rubble.