I used to be a boisterous young fella, and when I say boisterous. I mean Boisterous (with a capital B and bold print). I drank too much and was the life and soul of the party. I lived for the weekend, all my money went on ‘entertainment’. I didn’t save or plan for the future. Life was lived day to day and I’m sure my now wife questioned if I’d ever settle down. We met at age 17 and 18 and grew (and partied) through this time together.
Then about 12 years ago (as 30 was fast approaching) we sat down and had a big heart to heart. What did we want from life? What was our future plan? Did I see myself working in a call centre or a pub as an older man, scrimping from pay check to pay check? (Basically, would we ever settle down and were our plans compatible?). The cards were laid on the table and I said I’d love to be a Dad. That at the back of my mind I always wanted security and a family (but with our ‘party party’ lifestyle this wasn’t obvious).
With our plan in place; we bought a house together and I started a respectable job in auctioneering. We got married soon after. We were grown-ups, or so we thought. Although, in reality, not much had changed on the partying front even if the ‘family foundations’ had been laid.
Then the time came and we decided to try for a baby. Now I’d settled down a tad at this stage, well, settled down in comparison to 18-year-old me that is. My wife was ready though (in full on ‘now is the time to have a baby mode’).
I was ready to bite the bullet and commit to this. I felt, like many others around me, that becoming a Dad would ‘make a man out of me’. Although I was mainly looking forward to the ‘trying part’ at this stage. Unfortunately it didn’t last long, ….Haha ….that sounds so wrong. (What I mean that she fell pregnant very quickly).
Once we discovered the baby was due in March I knew my party lifestyle was soon to be over. Strangely enough rather than easing into the change like a sensible person would do this actually made me try fit in as many parties and drinking sessions as possible in the meanwhile (after all ….I was drinking for 2 now!)
I knew a shock was on the cards with the child arrived. All the books you read (in my case 1, handed to me by my wife with the instruction ‘read that’) couldn’t prepare you for the birth of your child and how your life will change afterwards. No matter how many ‘One Born Every Minutes’ you are forced to watch (in my case a lot more than 1, again under the instruction ‘you’re watching this’) will prepare you for the emotion of childbirth. If you are reading this as a ‘soon to be dad’ then I don’t think I’ll ever be able to advise you what becoming a father is like, (I’ll do my best) but it’s the biggest ‘you have to be there’ moment of your life.
Ben was born on the 25th March 2010 and it was the scariest yet most exhilarating day of my life. Once your first child is born you feel different. The only way I can describe it is; initially, it’s a glow, the glow of fatherhood, you’re proud and can’t help but smile from ear to ear. Blessed, that’s it. you feel blessed. You’re getting patted on the back and are elated. Everyone and their cousin is wishing you well. Life couldn’t be any better. The ‘Birth Party’ is in full swing and you are ‘the host with the most’
(This buzz and the help and support of family and friends is what get you through the first few months of fatherhood). Then: the parental leave finishes, the visitors get less and less frequent and it’s you, your wife and a little person; who doesn’t sleep, you can’t help feed (unless you develop boobs), poops the kind of messes you only thought possible in horror films and cries and cries and cries. Did I mention they cry?
The ‘Birth Party’ is well and truly over and all your left with is ‘the fear’; the comedown from the high of birth and the thrashed house to put in order (both metaphorically and in real life).
It’s a harsh reality. From the fun of your previous party lifestyle to parental responsibility and the dejavu of another sleepless night and another shitty nappy. (It’s a time that you can feel empty and drained). Depression can often occur with both parents around this time and with such a momentous change in your lives and routine it’s easy to see why. The flowery preconceived notions you had about having a child may not have come to fruition. It’s human nature to feel down about this (even if it’s an impossible standard you’d visualised). Then there’s the stresses and strains of fatherhood (how can I afford this? Will I be the type of parent I want to be? All the questions that run around in your head) on top of this you’re experiencing the kind of sleep deprivation that you’d find in SAS training. It’s a far far cry from ‘living for the weekend’ and it’s enough to push most people over the edge.
So, here’s the serious bit:
If you need help after having a child or any other time just reach out and ask. A lot of people suffer in silence. The rates of male suicide are huge, they don’t need to be. Until you speak up it might not be obvious to others that you are struggling. Don’t carry the weight of fatherhood (or anything else for that matter) on your shoulders. Talk to a mate. Get on the internet and do it anonymously if you want. There’s a huge dad community out there. You aren’t alone. Everyone who’s a dad has felt the elation of birth and I’d wager most felt the slump that can occur after it. Draw on these dads’ experiences and use their lessons in your life.
As with any tremendous change it’s not easy. I’m not going to sugar coat it. It would be wrong to do so. Some nights you’ll yearn to be a carefree partygoer again but once you find your feet you’ll realise that it was all worth it.
I loved being a Lad. But now that I’ve got here (even though it wasn’t easy) … I really really love being a Dad!!