A lot has been written by experienced fathers and psychologists about the challenges a father faces during the first year of fatherhood. Very little has been written about this dimension of parenthood from a mother’s perspective. An aspect yet unspoken and undiscovered.
Our little Miss D will turn five years and Monsieur RD will turn one year next month. Yes, both of our kids are born in the same month, which seems like a cosmic conspiracy to me. Same month and same date too – really? To top it all, it is merely a coincidence that their birthdays fall within the same week as Father’s Day. Now, really?? I was the one carrying both of them and the universe conspired to bring them around Father’s Day. If only, I could change that.
Unlike my first pregnancy, this time around my experience was not-so-joyful. I had complications and I was on medication throughout. This time around Daddy was on his feet and was always ready to take on his role. His first experience made him more confident, empathetic and understanding. He was handling Monsieur RD with utmost love and care. He wasn’t scared anymore.
Rewinding five years, when I was expecting Miss D, my 9 months with her inside went like a breeze. I felt great and I was happy and peaceful. Both of us were very calm until the very day Miss D was born. A sudden realisation struck – we have another human (yes!) with us now who has actually come from inside of me. That day DADDY was born. It was a major change and a massive paradigm shift in his life too.
During the first 30 days of fatherhood, Daddy was back to work. I was sleep deprived, tired and turned into a milking machine, quite literally. As much as I was prepared and was already hands-on taking care of Miss D, I hoped same with Daddy but he offered no help except for trips to doctor, buying household and baby care stuff. There was also a fear factor – like every new father, he was scared to hold Miss D in his arms. He would just make an excuse whenever I told him to pick her. We were both learning on-the-job, and his learning was slightly delayed. Maybe he was too busy with work at that time and still trying to figure out the head and tail of the whole fatherhood thing.
In the next 90 days and by the time Miss D had turned three months, I could see him bonding with her. He had started burping her, soothing her, giving her medicines and also changing her clothes & diaper. He never felt uncomfortable while cleaning her vomit or poop. He never complained. Whenever I panicked, he came to rescue and took charge. He was still trying to strike a balance between home and work. I was happily watching him progressing with fatherhood.
I was out of work for almost a year and I was itching to do something to make my time at home more worthwhile. While Miss D took most of my time, I was still fixated on the idea of doing something that could help me use my free time productively and also make some money. I decided to take baking classes. The class would last until late afternoon and I still wasn’t sure if I was ready to leave Miss D back at home with Daddy. I still did not trust him. He never showed I could. I decided to wait for another 120 days to take the next step and by then Miss D would have turned 6 months too. All this while, Daddy was trying to make most of his time with Miss D. As for me, nothing had changed. (But this one is not about me, anyway!)
We were halfway through; Miss D had turned six months and Daddy’s 182 days of fatherhood went by swiftly. When it came to my role in the life of our newborn Miss D, it required a complete 360-degree involvement. Daddy was stepping up. He was more confident and experienced in how he approached Miss D’s needs but was still not able to strike a better balance between work and family.
Six months later Daddy had become more attached to her; he had started massaging her, bathing her and putting her to sleep as well. He was not only bonding with Miss D but also inculcating trust and love between them. I could see him spending more time with her, enjoying babbling with her, showing her things out of the window, playing along with her toys, and taking pictures together and funnily. He started missing her after she had gone to sleep or when he was travelling. He just loved buying toys and clothes for her. He was head over heels for her. And boy, I was happy.
In the next 62 days, Daddy made numerous trips to the supermarket to buy nibbles for her darling daughter. It was time to introduce solids to Miss D in her 6th and 7th month, and I was massively relieved. Finally, the time had come to wean her and I could get some more time to myself. He was very excited about her trying new tastes and flavours. Little did he know that his daughter is fonder of home cooked food! He hadn’t started feeding her food yet because we were still trying to understand her taste and likes/dislikes. Feeding her made him nervous. I was the best person to take charge at this stage, not just because I am the mother, but also because I was at home and could cook up things for her.
In the next 60 days, he became more sensitised towards her. During Miss D’s 8th and 9th month, Daddy started realising that bringing up his baby requires more time, patience and a lot more attention than before. He was gaining more confidence in understanding what Miss D’s cries are trying to tell. He did not miss the spontaneity in our previous life which I totally missed. During this time we figured out our roles and had a clear understanding of it. Miss D has started sitting, crawling and was becoming more responsive. Her chuckles were loud and giggles made us laugh too.
During the next 61 days of fatherhood, it was probably hard for him to remember what life was like without Miss D! In the 10th and 11th month, Miss D was trying to cruise and walk with support. It was an exciting time for both of us as she was learning to walk and was speaking few words. He understood his priorities and started working towards having a balanced work-life equation. Her mobility was accompanied by his need to keep a closer eye on her. I have to admit that he was more vigilant and cautious than me. I began to trust him and his instincts more than ever.
Daddy was clearly breaking the stereotype during these two months. He was becoming an emotionally supportive father and for him being with Miss D was becoming much more than the “family need”. He wanted to spend more time with her and get more involved towards her needs. He was feeding her, taking her for a walk, listening music with her, teaching her dance moves, hi-fives & handshakes and doing silly things with her. However, he was still not able to find a work-life balance and that was completely eating me as we couldn’t find any time for ourselves. Our days and nights revolved only around Miss D.
It was time for Miss D’s first birthday. In these 30 days, Daddy learnt to make his family life more meaningful. He completely evolved from a ‘man’ to an extremely caring and loving ‘father’. Miss D became his world. There is nothing in this world that he would not do for her. He started giving his family more time than before. He became more tolerant and open to learning new things. He overcame the year long phase of “uncertainty”.
There is no greater contribution that a man can make than preparing his children to find their way in the world. In the first 365 days of his fatherhood, Daddy went through many emotional changes; the most profound being discovering himself and evolving as a Father – a Father whom I love evermore and I am so proud of!
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