We aim to publish meaningful stories of perseverance amidst mental health struggles.
For a lot of men, there comes a point when people tell you that “life will change forever,” and that “things will never be the same again”, and they are right.
Life will change in the instant you become a daddy, and it is truly the best thing in the world.
From the day your partner tells you the news, to the agonising wait for the first scan, and then every week leading up to the birth, you may feel levels of anxiety that you may not have felt before. You may question your life choices to date and whether you are actually ready for the next chapter in your life. You shouldn’t worry though, because you are ready.
You may have doubts over your income, and whether your maturity levels are acceptable enough.
Income can rise over time, don’t worry, but you may always stay an immature kid at heart – it’s just important to know that it won’t make you a bad dad. Your partner may appear to be full of knowledge, while you’re at the sidelines wondering what the f**k is going on, not knowing a thing. But rest assured you won’t be the first to feel that way, and if anything, you will be surprised at what comes naturally.
In order to not feel like Jon Snow – knowing nothing – you may decide to do some reading beforehand. You will find that books are either very educational, or overly bloke-ish and laddy, trying to be comical in an effort to be relatable. Depending on the style that works for you, it can certainly be beneficial to get some reading in, just so that things aren’t a total mystery to you. For a nice easy read, I recommend “The Expectant Dads Survival Guide”.
The attention will probably be solely on the expectant mother from the time you announce the pregnancy, (usually after your 12-week scan), and you need to accept that. You have done your job, so to speak. Let her have her time to shine.
Your new job from here on is to be her support, learn your stuff, and make sure things are as stress-free as possible. You simply need to do the right thing and be there for her, make the most of her, and enjoy each other. My main advice for parents-to-be is to make the most of the time you have left as a couple, because before you know it, you will be part of a treble (or more!), and taking babies to spa breaks, romantic weekends away, theatre and the cinema is sort of frowned upon…
Get the date nights in before bubba arrives.
Because once Baby is here, a night out together will be a thing of the past.
When the time arrives, and your baby is en route, it is time for you to really step up.
Your bags should have been packed, pram & car seat should be in the car, the route to hospital should be planned and it is now your time to shine. My tip would be to download the parking app (if there is one for your hospital) to save yourself the time it takes to pay in the car park. Once inside, you will need to stay calm and supportive, and communicate clearly with the medical staff and family members texting and calling for updates every few minutes.
Understand your partner’s wishes in advance but be prepared for any birthing plans to get thrown out of the window if things go a certain way. Despite the sheer confusion and panic which you may feel, your partner needs you to step up and simply be there.
However, brace yourself for feeling totally helpless when things start happening. There is nothing you can do, and you should not think that you know best. You don’t. The professional medical staff do. They will have delivered hundreds of babies. You probably haven’t even watched a full episode of “One Born Every Minute”.
Let them do their jobs and stay out of the way.
As mentioned, your partner will need you.
You will hold her hand, you will stroke her hair, you will tell her how well she is doing, and above all, you will offer positive encouragement. You will see her going through agony that you cannot even fathom, and you will see her in a totally different light than you ever have before.
Before you know it, things will be in full swing and Baby will be minutes away from being born. The staff will be in and out of the room, and you may feel like everything has gone a little surreal.
When my son was born, he had to be delivered promptly due to his heart rate dropping.
Our delivery room had been very calm. The midwife, although young, exuded that calmness and confidence. However, there was a sudden change to the atmosphere as the midwife learned that the baby's heart rate started dropping. She pulled the emergency cord, and in an instant, I was overcome with anxiety. The midwife was quickly joined by a host of medical staff who explained that he had to be delivered immediately.
I had no idea what the hell was going on, but I knew that my missus needed me, and I needed to be calm, despite my own heart rate going through the roof. The midwives, doctors and other staff are yelling their encouragement, and readying themselves for the arrival. “Three pushes Katie, your baby needs to be out in three pushes,” is something I will remember for my whole life.
Everything seemed a blur. There were screams, there were things I saw that cannot be unseen, there was anxiety and there was fear.
And then he was out. And he was crying.
It was 16:12 on March 13th, 2015, and he was here.
I became a daddy.
After controlling my wobbling bottom lip and wiping the tears from my eyes, I kissed my partner and told her how amazing she had done, and how much I loved her. Before I knew it, my top was off and I was holding my son to my chest, skin to skin, with his little eyes looking up at me, feeling the warmest, proudest, most emotional I have ever been in my life.
At that moment I promised him that I would do everything I ever can to make him have the happiest most fulfilled life that I possibly can.
In those moments I graduated from being a 30-year-old boy to becoming a 30-year-old man.
Life had certainly changed in that instant. The room cleared, and it was just the three of us. My family. I looked out of the window, with my son in my arms, and as clichéd as it seems, I told him the world was his, and that he would bring much love and happiness to many people in it.
That evening he met his grandparents, and by midnight I was told to leave by the midwives. Despite my protests, they assured me that my partner and son were in good hands. I trusted them. They had brought him into the world safely and looked after my partner when she needed them.
Despite still feeling today that I should have stayed with them on the ward, in hindsight I was so grateful that I went home and had a full night’s sleep. That drive home was something I will never forget. I was in a state of shock.
I was up at 6am, having not moved in my bed all night, and I returned to the hospital for the first real day of parenting. We were lucky to be allowed home within 24 hours of his birth.
And it is then that the realisation kicks in: You are now parents, and this little baby is relying on you for everything.
My advice is simple: if people offer help, say yes. Even if that means simple things like bringing you dinner, or doing your washing, etc. Let them. If family members want to sit with the baby to allow you to get some sleep, do it. Make the most of the help offered.
Two weeks of paternity leave will fly by, and soon you will be back at work. Don’t expect a big song and dance. You aren’t the one who has given birth, after all. So, after the initial welcome back chats, you will be expected to pull your weight in the workplace. You will then go home after work and be expected to take over parental duties. The place may be a pig sty but know that your missus has been non-stop at home looking after your baby all day.
If you are like me, you will no longer yearn to be out with the lads every weekend, as the little bundle of joy in your arms will have stolen your heart and will be the sole focus in your life, but do make sure you get time in the diary to see your friends and to have some time for you. Just as your partner will need time for herself too, if possible.
People will tell you to get your sleep in advance of the birth, as if it is something that can be stockpiled. The truth is that you and your partner will be shattered beyond belief.
It is how you manage the tiredness and communication between each other in these moments of sheer exhaustion which will be important. My partner and I made a deal, that anything that was said in a heated argument at 3am would be forgotten by sunrise. You are not your regular self, when you are tired. She will not be her usual self when she is tired either. Let it go and move on.
So yes, life will have changed, but it will have changed for the better.
The fun will have started, but I promise there is so much more to come. There will be highs and there will be lows. Especially when your baby keeps eye contact with you the whole time they are straining to poop. However, the love and pride you will feel will be like nothing you have ever experienced.
And don’t forget to cherish every moment, as they are not babies for long!