Originally written: 10/17/17
It’s hard to believe that exactly a year ago at this moment, we were told by the gynecologist that Stef had already starting dilating and Isabella had a good chance of coming in early. Stef was 37 weeks pregnant so it came to us as a surprise and we went home that day anxiously waiting for the big moment. That moment came at around 7:30pm when Stef’s first contractions started…and less than 3 hours later, Isabella was here!!
I had prepared immensely for her delivery…I gowned up and told the doctor I wanted to deliver her. I was the first to touch her, hold her, carry her in my arms; and the moment she looked up at me there was a brand-new sense of purpose in my life. I thought I knew what it felt like to be a new dad, I mean I had 37 weeks of preparing for that moment—but it wasn’t until then that I felt it all.
And changed me she did. This past year, I’ve learned lessons in patience, kindness, humbleness and motivation that have only been possible because this little angel came into my life. Through every rough moment in parenting there were dozens of absolutely perfect and incredible ones. Stef and I saw new sides to ourselves as parents, and we had the amazing support of our family and friends for the whole ride.
- Your Life Doesn’t Stop When You Have Kids– There have been so many times before I had Isabella where I was told to delay having kids because “my life would stop” or that Stef and I wouldn’t be able to travel and do the things we enjoyed once we had a baby. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a challenge at first to learn how to integrate, but with enough persistence, patience and understanding, you will begin to see how a child can integrate very well early on. We’ve continued to travel and eat at great restaurants; and now Isabella enjoys those experiences with us.
- Stigmas Around Fatherhood Are Still Present- Sadly, we live in a society where traditional gender roles still push through as mainstream. I wasn’t provided what I felt was adequate paternity leave in my previous employer and thankfully landed a job where they appreciated that aspect early on. After Isabella was born, I used to get comments all the time when I was with her saying things like how I made a great dad because I knew how to change her, or because I played with her, or did anything normal that a father should be doing with their kids. Many stay-at-home dads go through these comments and more, often made to feel less manly. During a trip to Washington DC, I was with Isabella at a gift shop where a lady put on a high-pitched baby voice said to Isabella: “Hi Baby, Where is Your Mommy?”. WTF. What if I was a single father? What If I was a gay dad? Why is it so difficult to grasp the concept that a father can be involved? A father should play an integral role in their kid’s life beyond the traditional provider role.
- Kids Are Hungry to Learn, Don’t Spoil It- Babies are so quick to absorb things and they are learning through their experiences. It is a great time to play with them, provide them with the right stimulation and encourage them to enjoy concepts like reading books. So many times, it is so much easier to plop on the television to a cartoon or provide an iPad with a non-education game but try to resist when you can! They can have an equally great time through learning-focused, imaginary play, or exploring the world around them.
- Co-parenting with Your Partner Isn’t Automatic- Just like when for the first time, moving-in with a partner or getting married, there are multiple things that need to be figured out and worked on in order to ensure two different people can come together to produce a beautifully aligned outcome. Each parent brings a unique perspective, have had different upbringings and may not agree on all aspects of child rearing. Communication is key here and can really go a long way in making sure you’re also continuing to nurture the relationship you’ve had as a couple.
- Time is Limited—But You Can Cut Inefficiencies- There’s not enough of it to do everything you want. Having a newborn can also get you physically and emotionally tired and the lack of time to do certain things can sometimes feel overwhelming. The important thing to know is that sometime down the line, energy starts to kick back up again, and you somehow start to function fine even with a bad sleep night. At that point, it’s good to begin taking care of your needs, prioritize and eliminate waste. More recently, Stef and I decided we would cut the TV and implemented a no tech zone during a certain window of time. This saved us so much time and it’s opened the door to a lot of things we felt like we just didn’t have to enjoy.
- No One is A Perfect Parent-. It’s important to remember that for the most part, a parent is trying to do what’s best for their own child. There are varying topics that in the parenting world usually spark debate. These things usually revolve around child care, food/health, discipline and even education. A parent may feel like their approach is best but there’s the reality is that there’s no correct way. Children are all significantly different, and everyone’s situation is different. It doesn’t help to compare, judge and attack others for the decisions they make for their own kids. Instead it’s valuable to use that time to resolve any potential holes
- Some Friends Stay, Others Go. You Also Meet New Ones- I think that right from the start, both my wife and I knew that we were going to be having kids first than any of our friends. That came with knowing that many of friends wouldn’t know how to hang with us or include us because we already had a baby. We also were happy to see that our closest friends still stayed in contact. The first few months we had a few of our friends come meet Isabella, and they did some sweet things like bring us food. (so hard to cook when you have a newborn). As Isabella got older, we got involved in more kid-stuff, and we got an opportunity to be friends with other people that we would’ve otherwise never had the chance to.
- The Father Daughter Bond Is Crucial- I can’t stress this enough. My daughter feels safe around me, she loves me, she wants to spend time with me. I have to prioritize my time to ensure she gets that. She looks up to me and all my actions, including how I am with my wife. If I am now to model what she is to look for in her life partner, then I better be the best damn dad I could ever be.
It’s been quite an amazing year. My daughter is healthy, loving, hilarious, smart and has quite the personality. I couldn’t be happier in this point in my life and I’m so damn proud to say I am Isabella’s father.