Today, I get to show off my better and funnier half. My husband Scott wanted to do one of his famous sports rants (and you may see one of those someday), but this being our Fathers Day week, he discusses his first impressions on fatherhood.
As someone who likes to ease into new experiences, becoming a dad was a shock to the system. There's no warm up. Day one may be as hard as it gets. At least I hope so, because it has been so far. Right after the birth, the child at its most vulnerable and least able to survive on its own. Is she healthy? Any issues? How will she nurse?
And the crying. Oh the crying! I recall our obstetrician noting that baby cries have evolved to be particularly attention getting. And how! I'm hard pressed to think of a more jarring sound.
All these things to learn or acclimate to. How to hold, care for, and feed a baby. Okay, I didn't do that last one at first. Diapers. Lulling them to sleep. Functioning on very little yourself. I think I lamented missed sleep more than anything else.
A small but intriguing story hit the news recently -- fathers can suffer from postpartum depression too. I'm not claiming that diagnosis for myself, but I didn't exactly find it surprising. Becoming a parent is an awesome responsibility.
Too bad I'd only heard rave reviews of that magical day before my own experience. I probably would have benefited by talking to others who felt that burden. Or remembered feeling that burden and were willing to admit it. Consider this my admission.
One dad I spoke to even told me the birth of his first child was the happiest day of his life. I wish I'd talked to the mom then, because she burst into laughter when I relayed that quote. According to her, he sat in the delivery room with a blank, stunned, almost shell shocked look on his face.
Clearly there was some revisionist history at play. But the silver lining is that a child's birth can be both -- a weighty, trying experience, and something looked back on as the most positive, life changing event you've ever felt. It was for me. I just needed to let it sink in. I adore my children and wouldn't trade being a dad for anything.
Before parenthood, several people told me you can't possibly understand what it's like to have a child until you have one. That used to drive me crazy. I'm a reasonably intelligent and empathetic guy. Try me! After becoming a father myself, I felt like the best description I heard came from an unlikely source. There was an episode of Frasier where Dr. Crane noted that you don't just love your children; you fall in love with them.
But do you believe in love at first sight? New mothers may seem like they experience it, but the maternal bond doesn't start after the delivery. Mothers nurture their children with their bodies long before they expel them. Don't tell me this arrangement doesn't seep into every aspect of their being.
Meanwhile, dads-to-be wait for the big day. Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't trade places with the "fairer" sex! It's staggering to think of what women go through. After witnessing childbirth, that occasional inopportune erection in high school now feels like I won the gender sweepstakes.
But women also get a jump on that parental bond that men can't possibly compete with. So take heart new dads. Maybe the joy of fatherhood will just hit you like a thunderbolt. But a slow burn can be just as effective.