Fathers’ day is a chance to celebrate the men who have cared for us and helped to shape who we are. However, it’s also a time when fathers themselves reflect on their experiences, and the transformative effect fatherhood has had on their lives. Here one father, Basil talks us through the period leading up to the birth of his son last year.
Both my wife and I were always extremely enthusiastic about having children and I’ve known I wanted to be a dad since at least the age of 12. I’m from a huge family of around nine kids and I’m the second eldest, so I was involved in the raising of my siblings and it always felt like I already had my own kids! I wasn’t necessarily sure I wanted the traditional family until I met my wife though but once I did I was smitten and I knew it was time. We’d got the careers, we’d got the marriage… we thought “let’s get the baby!”
One thing that wasn’t as well planned, however, was that we bought our first house six weeks before the birth of our son and it needed a lot doing to it – new plumbing, gas pipes, new bathroom… the lot! We had friends working on it and I was labouring past the baby’s birth, so we had to live with my wife’s parents when the baby was first born. This made me a little anxious in the lead-up. I felt ready as a father-to-be but I still was nervous about the overall idea of having a baby. Like most dads, I was excited and happy and joyous but the actual reality was scary. It’s a big deal, and I think that if you’re not nervous about it you need to rethink!
One funny thing was doing the group classes with the midwife beforehand where they talk you through looking after a baby. She kept asking questions and nobody would answer but having had so many siblings I just kept putting my hand up because I felt uncomfortable with the silence. She took me aside afterwards and asked me what I did for a living!
“I want him to bond with me!”
This filled me with confidence but the last days of the pregnancy were a little tense as the midwife was worried about his weight, which had really jumped in a short period, and wanted to get my wife in for a scan. I justified it to myself as I’m a very tall man, so I thought ”well, he’s going to be tall… He’s my son.” Oddly enough though she went into labour before the scan took place. The contractions started and we were walking around the house and ringing to check about coming in, but we told not to bother yet. Eventually we just went as we felt it was time to head in and when we turned up they said they were glad we did as they rushed her into theatre straight away.
The birth went fine and my child was placed in my wife’s arms. She was very keen on doing the skin to skin stuff, which is important for bonding with the child, but I was standing there like “I want him to bond with me!” And then I got to hold him for the first time. There’s a picture I have of that moment on my phone and it’s my favourite picture ever. One thing about me is that I don’t ever smile naturally, but that picture is the one I have where I’m not faking it. It’s a natural smile because it’s the most amazing moment of my life.
Although there were no problems with the delivery we were in the hospital for quite a few days as he wouldn’t latch and feed properly. I’m a bit of a problem solver and I just went into my usual mode, doing everything that I could do to make it easier. We bought breast pumps, strange bottle-things – you name it. I think in hindsight we just listened to too many people and didn’t let nature do its job. It took a few months but he was fine. It’s all good now. They come round to show you how to change a nappy in the hospital which was quite funny as I changed my first nappy at six years old… I was like “I’m sorry madam, but I think you’ll find you’re doing that wrong!”
Leaving the hospital was the strangest thing. I was talking to a friend about it the other day. They just tell you it’s time to leave. I was walking out with him to the car seat thinking “you’re just going to let me walk out of here? Can’t you send a midwife with us? You haven’t thought this through, have you? What’s wrong with you people?” When we got him home the work really began as he still wasn’t latching properly and my wife had to keep on feeding him again and again. She was amazing and patient but we were both absolutely shattered.
We were at her mum’s house and when I wasn’t there, I was with my friends at our new house working and assembling furniture… I remember staring at my friends at one point and saying “I can’t do this… I shouldn’t be awake”. They were great. They just told me to get on with it! Having her parents around was amazing as they would cook for us and help with the baby, but it was difficult as friends kept visiting to see the baby and we’d be hosting six or seven people in one bedroom. It was difficult.
Now, a year later, we’re back in our own home. There’s still a lot of jobs to finish – we still don’t have a fully working kitchen – but he’s walking around happily. He’s been a really early developer in that way, just like I was. It’s the way we’re built… We’ve got solid legs! I’m now most looking forward to when he can talk. He burbles constantly and you can hear that the words will come. That’s the next stage, but when he starts I’ll probably regret it!
Parenthood and being a dad is incredibly rewarding but it can be tough too. If you or someone you know is struggling get in touch with our FamilyLine for free information, guidance & support, or even just a chat.