I remember the midwife handing me a newborn baby vest. "Would you like to dress him?"
'Him' was Noah, my second child, who was just a few hours old and therefore still in that phase when he's all icky and squished and wondering what the hell just happened. He looked so small, lying there in that clear plastic tub, and I took the vest from the midwife and froze.
I know how to dress a baby. I don't mean that to sound smug - it's not listed under 'Skills' on my CV, or anything - but at that time I had a three-year-old son at home whom I'd dressed regularly. I knew how to do it, I just...froze.
In the end the midwife dressed Noah, and I felt a little bit useless. Turns out I'm not alone, though: a recent survey commissioned by Galt Toys revealed that four in 10 new dads feel completely out of their depth at times, with one in seven fathers knowing 'almost nothing at all' about parenting before the birth, or what to expect from pregnancy and labour.
The study also came with a few suggestions for new mums as to how they can 'help' their partners in these difficult times. I put 'help' in handy inverted commas because it's difficult to see me air-quoting when I'm writing stuff down. You see, these handy hints are more than a little patronising.
"It's good for dads to be given the chance to do things their own way without mums writing lists for them," says one. "Dad's way isn't necessarily the wrong way, it's just different."
There are eight tips in total, and they continue in a similar vein, with my personal favourite at number four: "Sometimes it's hard, but mum should try to resist the temptation to laugh at dad's efforts or criticise, saying: 'You're doing that wrong'."
Firstly, I doubt many mums laugh at their partner's efforts. Secondly, enough of making dads sound like hopeless fools, please.
Contrary to (what seems like) popular belief, dads don't carry babies around by their ankles because we're just too stupid to know how to hold a baby properly. We don't panic and wrap the nappy around our baby's head like a tiny turban because we happen to have a penis.
And mums, please stop laughing at us when we hoik up our shirt and attempt to breastfeed our children because WE JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT WE'RE DOING, DAMMIT.
But we do sometimes freeze, because it wasn't that long ago that dads were found in the pub or on the golf course when their child was being pushed into the world. Guess what? We're pretty new to this whole thing. It's only been in the last few years that fathers have actually been given the option to have antenatal classes specifically aimed at them; I remember sitting through countless classes in which the leaders spoke to the mums, about the mums, about their bodies, and barely anything was said about the worries a dad has, or how scared I was to become a father.
In fact, the only thing I was taught was how to rock my baby. The class leader made all the expectant dads stand up and rock an imaginary child. I'm not even joking. I was grateful, though, because obviously being a hopelessly useless man I presumed one rocked a child by putting it in a carrier bag and swinging it around.
Look; dads might be worried about being a father, and we might freeze from time to time, but we're certainly not stupid. We will get involved, plunge ourselves in at the deep end, and do all we can to look after our newborn baby, despite not having the wealth of information given to us that mums have access to. We're new to this, catching up, but we have parental instincts - and that's something that can never be taught, or overestimated.
Do you agree?
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