My son, Perry Edward Gilbreath, was born to my wife and I at 11:33 pm on February 28th, 2018 and its already been a week now since he was born! Seeing your baby come into the world is exhilarating and quite a frightening scene to behold as well :) All I can say is that women are amazing!
Seeing my son each day is like seeing your heart outside your chest (metaphorically speaking) and I have been in love with him ever since. When I thought about writing this, I wanted to write this with the intention of hopefully helping another soon to be Dad feel comforted by the fact that being a Dad is one of the most amazing experiences you will have and yet one of the most frightening moments as well.
Here are three things you should definitely know during your child’s 1st week of life:
1. Understand your role as a Dad
Me, my wife and Perry — Photo by Anna Russell Photography
Being a Dad is one of the greatest roles you will have in your life and understanding your role is key! As a millennial man, we have the greatest opportunity to break the “bad dad” stereotype and be actively involved in the care of our babies (and the moms too!). There is no better feeling than to comfort your crying baby and watch him fall asleep in your arms so peacefully.
Taking a class on becoming a new Dad really helped. If you haven’t already, I would recommend taking a “Daddy Bootcamp” class offered by Boot Camp For New Dads. This amazing half-day workshop is for expecting fathers in need of baby 101 and “veteran Dads” to help mentor them during the class. However, the real jewel is the workbook they provide during class. It has been a LIFESAVER and offers a ton of advice, tips, and practicals on how to be an active Dad and take care of your baby. This book is especially useful when your wife is frustrated with breastfeeding and your baby is screaming like a banshee at 3am.
2. That nervous feeling you have about being a Dad doesn’t go away immediately.
1st night at the hospital with my son (Perry)
Let me tell you that its ok to have those feelings because it means that you care about your child’s future. When the doctor told me that our son had a high level of jaundice and we had to stay an extra two days at the hospital for treatment, my heart sank into my stomach. I was so anxious and nervous for him that I needed to take a minute outside the nursing room to collect myself at times. I’m starting to realize that I will receive news like this for the rest of my life but how I react to it is important.
Being a dad can be an emotional rollercoaster. The role comes with the thoughts and feelings of “Am I good enough?”, “Am I capable of raising a child” and the worst one yet: “Am I a good provider?”. Being a provider doesn’t just mean bringing in a paycheck each week to support your family. Even though that is very important, being there for your son/daughter is just as important as well.
3. Prepare to look at life differently
I always knew I wanted to be a Dad, but I always say it as a far off desire. But as a 29-year-old African- American male, something was missing from life that a dream job or hobby couldn’t fill. When I saw my son for the first time, I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement… like THIS IS MY MINI ME! That feeling is indescribable. The responsibility part that most Dads feel didn’t come until we were discharged from the hospital and on our way home with the new addition to the family.
I can honestly say that certain things in life that I wanted either amplified or went away. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my dreams and aspirations (don’t let others scare you into thinking your life is over) but they are starting to alter to include my son. That’s when I knew that things had changed but for the better.
Being a dad has made me a more responsible, patient and loving person. I dream about the things I will teach my son like how to read, catch a football, how to be a man, respect women and how to brew beer (when he’s 21 of course).
I wish nothing but the best for other soon to be or new dads who are trying to figure out this thing called fatherhood. Like my father told me (see the picture below), loving your child is the first step.
My dad holding me