Once your baby is born, it takes time to get to know each other and bond. Those initial weeks off were vital for us to do so.
Besotted from the word go
After Noa was born, Meg, my wife, was besotted with her. She spent the first few hours just staring at her. Meg already says childbirth was one of the best experiences of her life. It was almost like Meg was built to be a mother, seamlessly gliding through any challenges parenthood could throw at her. It has been as though Noa has always been with us.
My first few hours after Noa was born were very different. As I held Noa in my arms and I knew that Noa was perfect for us, I also knew that we needed to bond. Accepting that I had a child and just learnt what sex she was was a lot to take in for me. I had a look of shellshock as I tried to process the birth of my daughter. A few hours afterwards, I had to go to sleep; I don’t think my mind could handle what had just happened.
After arriving home, it took time for me to adjust to the massive change in our situation. I still assumed I could do everything that I was doing before Noa was born. I knew that everything changes once you have children, I didn’t realise that this literally means everything. You can’t do anything you used to be able to do a few days ago.
As someone who prides themselves on trying to be productive every day, I found this change extremely challenging. For example, I used to have an hour by hour breakdown of every day ahead, so I knew what I needed to prioritise. After Noa arrived, my daily process plan I had maintained for the last year suddenly fell apart. I couldn’t plan out my day as it was focused entirely on Noa, especially as she couldn’t be left alone. Meg was far better at accepting this than I was. As you will learn, Meg has been far better at adapting to all of this than myself!
Learning to love
As a male, I don’t get all the hormones and natural maternal instinct that a mother typically gets after giving birth. The lack of hormones essentially means that fathers need to learn to love their children by spending time with them.
It’s strange getting to know your child from scratch. Babies don’t do much apart from sleep when you first have them. It is not as though you can make an introduction to each other.
Bonding is a slow process; you can spend hours reading or watching tv with just each other for company. Over the days, you will realise it is the small quirks you look out for, such as the expressions when burping or the little noises made when sleeping or at bath time.
However, over a couple of weeks, Noa started to do more; she became more active and observant. Every day I felt a little bit closer to her and was able to interact with her more. I started to get more comfortable with my role as a father.
The importance of Paternity leave
After my experience, I would argue that taking as much time as you can for paternity leave is vital for fathers. If we don’t take the time to bond with our children over the first few weeks, then there is a massive risk that an entire parent-child relationship could be negatively affected because that initial bond isn’t created.
Unlike Meg, it took me a while to adjust to the rhythm of parenthood. I found it more difficult for things to click. But when it did, it was beautiful.