This is such an exciting time. It might be only a few weeks or days to go until you will enter a completely new stage of your life. Yes, you probably have heard it so often already: nothing in your life will be as before. That's true. Fatherhood will change everything.
I wish you enough time for you and your partner to get prepared. I don't mean buying stuff (you actually will be surprised how little you'll need, especially for the first couple of years); I'm talking about you as a person, a man, a partner, a father-to-be.
In this letter I will not talk about all the beautiful things a life with a new baby will bring. I'm sure you'll discover all that yourself. I'm convinced you'll give and do your very best to be a loving father.
I remember being very excited during my wife's first pregnancy. I couldn't wait for the due date to come nearer. I also felt a little nervous and unsure, but hey, I read books, my wife and I talked a lot and I thought we will be fine.
Let me tell you about some truth: Yes, my wife and I were fine-ish. But the first eighteen months with our baby were an emotional roller coaster. Did you know new fathers can experience some sort of depression as well as new mothers? I didn't know then and it took me a long time to figure it out.
I had moments where I felt very low; my wife and I argued a lot; I tried to help wherever I could but it didn't seem good enough to her and when it came to the baby, I thought she's constantly checking whether I do things right or not (obviously I didn't do them right). At the same time my wife felt depressed, isolated and often exhausted. We worried a lot but didn't talk much.
Such depressions can have various reasons: birth trauma (the birth of our son went actually fine; apart from having a midwife who seemed more nervous and shaky than us), health problems, being isolated etc. But what really struck me was when I found out why new fathers can get depressed too.
It's linked to our own childhood and how our own attachment needs were met back then. I, for example, wasn't breastfed and when I was about two months old, my parents went on a two-week-holiday and left me with a neighbour. I can only imagine how much I must have cried and screamed, being in care by a stranger. From very early on, my ability to trust and love people got destroyed. More disappointments later on shaped the way I was forming relationships and chose partners as an adult.
papababyI was looking for relationships where I felt safe, unconditionally loved and appreciated for who I am. But still, I couldn't really trust. Fears of being dumped by my partner made me end relationships first. I didn't know it, but I was looking for that loving mother-care I had missed as a baby and small child. In my wife I found that person. She gave me that instant feeling of security and filled my empty glass with love, respect and empathy.
But what happened after the birth? All the attention I was receiving from her went suddenly to the baby. She had only eyes for him; all her unconditional love and nurturing seemed to be withdrawn from me. So where and how could I meet my attachment needs? You might think what a selfish guy! Of course the baby is the centre of life, isn't it?
Indeed, all our parental love, attention and nurture went to him: 24/7. But we are human beings, who need nurturing too. Slowly and step by step my wife and I learned that. Our starting point was to talk. Reflection, empathy, crying, hugging, holding and talking were our tools to start the healing process.
Both our children are nearly six and three years old now. With our second child we didn't experience such depressions. With more confidence and experience we solved problems before they got too big. And yes, we're still working on us; on our non-violent communication and the way we deal with the emotional wounds from past and present.
So why am I writing all this gloomy stuff? To get you ready and prepared for fatherhood. As I said earlier, you can buy the coolest buggy, the softest baby duvet, the most colourful sling and the flashiest organic cloth nappies in the whole world, but that won't help you in dealing with your emotions, worries and expectations. But to be a loving and caring father yourself, your glass of emotional confidence and security should be rather full.
Start talking - the earlier the better - to your partner and explore your past: go back to your childhood and see what actually happened there. Look at your current conflicts. Ask yourself questions like: What makes me angry and what do I do when I get angry? Are you able to see the emotions underneath that anger; often they are linked to our attachment needs and fears. These could be sadness, fear of abandonment, the need to feel safe and loved. If you learn how to communicate these emotions clearly, your partner's reactions will be very different to when getting angry. Indeed the matter you are fighting about suddenly seems irrelevant - as what you probably really want to say is, "I am afraid, please hold me" or "I feel helpless and unsure of what to do, do you still love me/care for me?"
Reflect, think, cry, laugh, let it out, allow yourself to be vulnerable. The best thing you can give to your child? It is the ability to form close connections with your partner; it will make you a gentler parent and your kids will hugely benefit by seeing you work through life's ups and downs together. That's where your journey starts in becoming an authentic father.
I am wishing you the very best. Have a beautiful birth and enjoy the days and weeks when walking into the land of parenthood.