Becoming a parent leaves many people feeling quite different about themselves, their priorities and even their place in the world as they begin adjusting to parenthood.
You suddenly move from being a couple to being a family. I think women probably adjust more along the way through pregnancy, but for guys, it all suddenly becomes real in the first hours and days after the baby is born.
Many new fathers may describe feeling an overwhelming sense of protectiveness towards their baby and/or their partner.
It was when I was holding my daughter for the first time that it really hit me: I’m a dad! and we were now responsible for this little person for many years to come.
As a new parent, your relationship with your partner, family and friends may also be influenced, as can your feelings about your work and hobbies.
The birth can be an overwhelming experience for many fathers as they may initially witness their partner in pain, yet later feel relieved and overjoyed once the baby has arrived. With most of the energy and attention directed toward the mother and baby, men often don’t have an opportunity to discuss the impacts that this may have had on them.
In instances where the birth may not have progressed as planned and you may find that you have strong memories of an unplanned or traumatic birth that you witnessed. Often partners may have lingering feelings of distress as a result of the birth experience, but feel that you have to ‘hold it together’ and be the strong one. These feelings can intensify over time, so discussing these thoughts with someone that you feel comfortable with can be a helpful way to debrief.
Following the birth, fathers often describe feeling a mix of emotions. Initially this is likely to include feelings of joy, pride and relief once the baby has arrived safely, but the effects of exhaustion may also be there.
Taking the opportunity to rest whenever possible in this early stage, and spending important time holding and getting to know your baby whilst giving your partner time to rest and recover can assist you both to get your energy back, and make things seem a little less ‘surreal’ or ‘like a blur’. It also provides you with a great opportunity to start connecting with your baby at this early stage in his or her life.
Once you return home with the baby, you are now beginning to get the feel of how life is really going to be with this new baby in your home, and in your life. The first few weeks can be tiring as you both are constantly learning and adjusting to the needs of the baby (and your partner), whilst also trying to function, run the household and deal with surviving on less sleep.
In addition to these practical, obvious changes, there can also be other adjustments that are happening, or beginning to happen – often without you realising. There may be times when you feel different, sometimes stressed, pressured or overwhelmed.
Many of these feelings can be explained by the changes and adjustments that you are constantly facing, and the numerous impacts that this is having on your life. These changes may include changing roles, adjustments to work and home life, and your relationship – with your new baby, partner, family and friends.