Nothing could have ever prepared me for fatherhood, not even those overly judgmental and opinionated parental advice magazines could have explained to me what my relationship and my body would have to go through in the first three months of fatherhood.
There has been plenty said about the effects of child-birth and parenting on women before and after child birth, but rarely will you find brutally honest advice given to the dads on the effects of such events and the sacrifices we have to make during the most precious time in a new-borns life.
Clinging on to some sense of normality during the first few weeks of fatherhood is the single most difficult change a father will have to deal with. Routine is thrown out of the window as all concerned try to familiarize themselves with the new-borns needs; something that takes a considerable amount of time, energy and patience.
Paternity leave gives families the chance to settle-in at home (Nesting) and the opportunity to invite every family member, close friend and work colleague around to your home for a viewing of the miracle child. The process once started cannot be stopped, this quickly became the norm for me and I still find myself sacrificing nights of the week to entertain guests instead of catching up on that much needed sleep, the Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. Weekends and week-nights will be sacrificed to family members, love it or hate it, it has to be done.
My new found family commitments inevitably placed a pause on my social life outside of the family: birthday parties, rounds of golf, nights out and trips to the cinema all stopped instantaneously. Another sacrifice made in the call of fatherhood - a sacrifice that was and still is hard to make as I hate and refuse to sit withering away in front of the Television every night.
The toughest thing about reducing my social commitments was that some of my friends took it personally as those without children failed to understand that I was now obliged to new-born needs night and day, rain or shine. The balancing act of the friend and father came into play here and it is at this point I started to feel guilty when I was being one instead of the other.
The biggest and most painful sacrifice I made was sleep- a lack of sleep can lower your immune system, make you put on weight, reduces your sex drive, effects you mental well-being and decreasing your fertility. Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions including obesity, heart disease and diabetes - and it shortens your life expectancy.
I haven't slept for longer than 5 hours in 14 weeks and the first 4 weeks it was difficult and can only be compared to torture. It did take a while for my body to adjust to operating on only a few hours' sleep; something I call Zombie-Mode. The less sleep I had the more energy I needed to keep going, creating the urge and need to consume food on a more regular basis. I have eaten Jaffa-cakes in bed at 4.a.m. whilst watching 24 hour news channels whilst feeding because I was that tired and hungry to go downstairs - now that's fatherhood. Since I no longer have time and the money to go to the gym, play squash or to go play golf on a weekend, I have now put on a stone and a half!
My body and mind have most certainly taken a battering and when you sacrifice sleep to feed a new-born when you do get chance to sleep the last thing you think about is sex. Sex is out of the question for the first few weeks of fatherhood as any spare time is devoted to catching up on much needed sleep. It will probably be the last thing your partner wants anyway after the trauma of childbirth but it is still hard to deal with when you take all the other things you have sacrificed into consideration.
If you do sacrifice sleep, friends, time, money and sex you do get to experience one of life's greatest miracles. There is nothing better than holding you new-born in your arms for the first time and waking up to a smile every morning. The sacrifice maybe short lived but the pride and honour of raising your own will last a lifetime and is priceless.
Three piece of advice for those who are expecting:
• Go to maternity classes and get educated
• Sign-up to Twitter as you can get loads of honest advice for parents in the same situation as you
• Download loads of new games on your phone - you will need to kill a load of time