Father-To-Be: Advice for New Fathers

How can someone so tiny strike so much fear into the heart of a grown man? The love he feels is equaled only by the fear and questions that plague the man's mind as he wonders how in the world he's going to live up to what he believes a good father is supposed to be. The reality of fatherhood strikes within a very short time after the baby is born. Until then, expectant fathers experience movement and hear the baby's heartbeat on a Doppler - but seeing really is believing. After the baby is born and Dad gets his hands on that tiny person, everything changes.

Love At First Sight

For those men new to fatherhood, the changes are sometimes subtle, sometimes they hit like a Mack Truck, and always, they are surprising. The conflict of emotions between pride of virility and power at having co-created a human being versus the inability to understand or satisfy the needs of his baby create confusion. One thing for certain, with the first glance new dads experience a new kind of love, something so deep and protective that it defies comprehension and definition. There just aren't any words, and if there were, there aren't enough of them to describe the depth of love he has for his child. Then, this overwhelming love is replaced with a sense of numbness. Can it be? How can such intense love be eclipsed with ambivalence. It does, and it changes back and forth for fathers many times over the years.

These are but a few of the emotions a new father experiences within the first few weeks of being a new dad. There is no shortage of advice for new fathers available in books and on the internet. Most of it is the same, just expressed differently - the guidelines remain stable and we'll share some of them here.

Fears Of Fatherhood

First of all, the baby is not breakable - but if there is a doubt as to how to hold baby, ask someone with experience. Nurses, doulas, midwives, mother-in-law or mother - if they've had babies, they know how to hold them and will gladly help with instructions. Feelings of isolation may seep in, it's not intentional. Babies demand a lot of attention and time until everyone gets in the groove of having a new person living with them. If it's straining, talk about it. The new mom will have lots of emotional ups and downs as hormones rearrange one more time. Patience is imperative and a listening ear is helpful, but sometimes neither is enough. Postpartum depression is a difficult thing for both new moms and new dads. Knowing the signs enables a new dad to seek help if it becomes necessary. It isn't unusual for new dads to experience postpartum depression as well, as the realities of life begin to settle and sleep is a distant memory. Life has changed significantly and if feelings of depression are creeping in, seeking help is imperative.

Settling In

New daddy info includes understanding that your instincts are okay and can be trusted. Even though it all feels stiff at the beginning, it isn't long before "pride of ownership" kicks in and changing diapers, comforting the baby, and doing the little things that seem so overwhelming for the new mom are easy and natural. For the first couple of months the baby isn't going to give much indication of what kind of job dad is doing and that can lead to a feeling of uselessness. Hang in there - it gets better very soon and it is well worth the wait.

What To Give To A New Dad

So, what kind of gifts are best for a new dad? Usually, a new dad is so taken with his offspring that he can't get enough of the baby. A great camera is always popular. If the family is a going concern, a strong, manly, baby backpack is just the ticket for hiking and long walks. If he's athletic, a jogging stroller gets dad, baby and the dog out for some exercise. If he'd prefer movies, a gift certificate for a local video store will likely make him very happy. Of course, there are those lovely and treasured things that most everyone loves - pictures and poems. A wonderful frame with a picture of Dad and Baby with a heartfelt new fathers' poem written with it becomes a keepsake and memory of those first precious times.

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