The exact moment a father bonds with his child can differ massively from dad to dad. For some, it might be the first time they feel their unborn baby kick – or the moment their newborn is placed in their arms. For others, it happens a little later, a few months down the line when they’ve got to grips with their new role.
HuffPost UK wanted to speak to fathers about that moment. These dads didn’t spend nine months carrying a baby in their belly. They didn’t go through the – often painful – experience of giving birth (although we’ve previously spoken to a dad who did). What they all described is falling head over heels in love. Here they tell us when and how it happened.
‘We forgot everything else about the world’
Han-Son Lee, 35, creator of DaddiLife
“The bond was not instant with me. I didn’t see my son and fall head over heels at first sight. It built over time. I’ve always loved him, of course, but that sense of a true bond, I’d say, was the first time we went out just by ourselves. He was a few months old, crawling. Everything up to that point had been really just making sure he was fed, bathed, and changed – it felt like all the functional stuff was the priority. But the first time we went to a park, just the two of us, and we forgot everything else about the world and had a grand old play – was joyous.
“It was wonderful. Like discovering a new best friend, but one you have to cook, clean and dress, too! I didn’t see it coming. I’d got myself into a mindset of being very particular about making sure all his needs were met. He’s five now, and he’s changed my life – I didn’t imagine the transformative effect fatherhood would have on me.”
‘I sobbed uncontrollably, thinking of my own dad’
Cathal Morrow, 54
“My eldest son was born in Spain. His mum had a caesarean and I wasn’t allowed in the room, so I waited outside. The midwife brought my son out and then left me alone with him. I just looked at him in his little cot, and I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. I sobbed uncontrollably and thought of my dad, who had died a few years before, and phoned my mum. I sobbed uncontrollably when I spoke to her, too.
“My youngest son was born in London. When I first held him, I felt he had this incredible energy, a real force. It was the same hospital that my father had died in, so I had this wonderful sense of the circle of life. The room was full of doctors and nurses, and I cried non-stop the second time around, too. I adore being a dad, each stage is special in different ways. They’re 15 and 13 now and I just love being with them.”
‘Bonding isn’t a textbook experience, it’s messy’
John Adams, 43, author of Dad Blog UK
“There seems to be this idea that men don’t bond with their children until after the mother, but that wasn’t the case for me. I don’t know if I saw it coming, but I was worried it wouldn’t happen. It can be confusing for guys because you hear so much about the importance of the mother-baby bond and you’re conditioned to think that should take precedence.
“When Helen (now 10) was born, the midwife wrapped her in a blanket and placed her in my arms and walked off, leaving me with my child for 45 minutes while my wife received medical attention. At that point I knew I had become a dad and, along with mum, was responsible for this young infant. I also bonded very quickly with my second child, Izzy, who is now seven.
“I felt a complete mix of emotions, both times. I felt unconditional love for my children, concern I wasn’t going to be a good enough father, a desire to protect my kids and also utter confusion because I didn’t know what I was doing! Bonding isn’t some kind of textbook experience, it’s messy.”
‘After losing my sight, holding my son in my arms was amazing’
Amit Patel, 39, who tweets at @BlindDad_Uk
“Fatherhood has changed my life for the better. I lost my sight six years ago, so despite attending the antenatal appointments with my wife and hearing they baby’s heartbeat, I wasn’t able to see the scans. It was only when he was finally born and I got to physically hold him that it felt real. I really bonded in that moment I first held him in my arms, three years ago.
“It was truly overwhelming. I felt such a rush of love, of pride and joy. It was the most blissful moment, too – I didn’t want to let go. The one thing that struck me when I held him was my determination that my blindness wasn’t going to stop me from being a hands-on dad.
“Holding your newborn child in your arms for the first time is the moment everything changes. I was so worried before my son was born, unsure how I would cope, whether I would be able to look after the baby and do all the things that I wanted to do as a father. But I can honestly say I’ve never been happier, even being knee-deep in nappies and sleepless nights.”
‘I felt a bond before they were even born’
Joe Clapson, 37, author of The Diary of DaddyShortLegs
“I can honestly say that I felt a bond with both of my children while they were not yet born, in my wife’s belly. While in-utero both babies responded to me, talking with little kicks and punches which could be seen and felt.
“With my first child, it was the most incredible moment of my life to meet this new human after nine months of ‘chats’. When she looked at me after hearing my voice just after she was born, I was overwhelmed with emotion. The same happened for the second – but I was more prepared!
“I’d expected to have this immediate strong bond with my kids because I’ve always loved being around children and was always set on being a dad. My girls are aged two and they are the best things to happen to me.”