On November 18, 2022, my fiance and I welcomed our son into the world.
We didn’t plan for him. In fact, before this, I was indifferent to the idea of becoming a father. Now we laugh that he manifested himself since we talked about him so much in the two years prior to becoming pregnant.
The experience of having an unplanned baby differs depending on where you are in your life.
At this point I’m 37, I’ve learned to make a good income based entirely online, and I’m established—something I couldn’t say until about 5 years ago.
So I can say every week of pregnancy was filled with joy and anticipation. It feels like a natural continuation of things in my life.
However, if you’re a teenager, in your early 20s, or less established, your experience may be filled with more fear than joy.
Women have 40 weeks of pregnancy to get used to the idea of having a baby. Even having a menstrual cycle is a constant reminder from childhood that your body is made for the task of childbirth.
Becoming a parent for the first time is stressful for anyone, but men don’t have this biological pressure to let us know a baby will be here soon.
So in this post, I want to share what happens when you get a baby—from a father’s perspective.
There are plenty of articles on obstetrics, amniotic fluids, c-sections and natural birthing methods, etc. so you won’t find that information here. My hope is you’ll instead find a path to becoming the best version of yourself by knowing what to expect when you become a first-time father.
1. You won’t be ready no matter how ready you think you are
Newborn babies can’t do anything on their own. Their neck and core muscles aren’t strong yet so they need help holding their necks up and passing gas. They even need help getting to sleep. So the first day or first weeks alone with a newborn can feel bewildering.
In preparation for going into space, NASA sends its crews through rigorous underwater training for over 2 years. They work through every disaster scenario that could possibly go wrong and attempt to fix it in real time. So by the time the launch comes, there isn’t much more preparation you can do without actually being in space.
Having a baby is like this. There’s only so much prep you can do without actually having the kid. And you still won’t be ready for it.
Before now, I didn’t have much time on task in handling baby needs. I wouldn’t say having a newborn is difficult but it is **non-stop. **Which is the part I was completely unprepared for.
2. You learn you’re not as important
From pregnancy to birth to becoming a new mother, I have a newfound respect for my fiance’s resilience. It’s very cool to watch her with our son and just be a kind and nurturing mother.
Women change physically and mentally when they have a baby. Not in a bad way. But you are no longer your girl’s focus for a while. Even healthy pregnant women can struggle with the emotional and physical demands of pregnancy and childbirth. Afterward, the epidural and oxytocin cause swelling and general discomfort. So she may even need help to get to the bathroom.
Then breastfeeding, clothing, and essentially keeping the new person alive is a full-time job. Children develop an attachment to one parent over the other during the first 2 or 3 months.1 This may last through the first year but it’s most intense at the beginning. During this time, even the most hands-on father may not be able to help much simply because the child doesn’t want you.
Don’t take it personally. Your role as a father is to be a supporting character with the child in the starring role. Use this time to practice your mental toughness and see where you can help best.
3. You’re the most tired you’ll ever be
There is no transition from pregnancy into parenthood. If you’re lucky, the hospital stay eases the first few days for you.
Aside from the SIDS fears and the logistics of having a new little one, the first months are actually pretty monotonous. Babies sleep about seventeen hours but wake up to feed every two hours. This means you don’t get to sleep eight hours straight for about four months. We weren’t overly worried about SIDS because we know that newborns sleeping on their backs dramatically lowers the chances of it happening. So we are diligent in that regard.
4. You learn what real love is
This can’t be understated: having a baby is a great feeling. The best. The love you have for a child is unfiltered and unguarded. I hope to help my son become a man that makes the world a better place than how it was when he entered it. And, if he can’t do that, I hope he doesn’t mess things up.
That being said, having a newborn baby can make things more frustrating in your relationship. We treasure the moments we have alone even more. It’s not that we ever took each other for granted, but this little guy requires so much time and energy. We rarely get a chance to hang out without him. It’s just a new part of life now.
You’re always on task when caring for a baby. This can lead to overwhelm, exhaustion, and misunderstandings. Then there’s postpartum depression.
Even after a healthy pregnancy, women can still develop postpartum depression. It affects 1 in 7 mothers and commonly manifests within 6 weeks of childbirth.2 Symptoms range from mild irritation to anxiety, to extreme sadness. Some women may even experience thoughts of harming their child.
How you behave during this time will be integral to her experience.
These articles can help you build a stronger relationship:
- How to take the lead in a relationship
- You can’t force relationships to develop
- Relationship and dating advice
- How to stop arguing in your relationships
And if you think your child’s mother may be experiencing postpartum depression, seek a medical professional’s help.
5. You gain a new perspective on your parents
You can’t understand what it’s like to be a parent until you are one. Though I had my trouble with my mother, I understand that she was doing the best she could.
As children, we think our parents have it easy or have it out for us, or just don’t understand us. The truth is, we don’t have the capacity to understand them. No matter what, you have to deal with your childhood trauma if you want to be the best version of yourself for your child. This is serious work and both parents are required to improve their lives and set a great example.
Becoming a parent doesn’t mean you have it all figured out. Over the years, I’ve developed myself in leadership and being a role model. These skills feel like the fundamental principles you need to be a good parent. But really all that’s truly needed is the desire and decision to do the best you can for your child, and taking action toward it.
6. You face your mortality
Having a child makes you aware of the fact that you’re going to die.
I’ve always been a healthy guy. Even after my boxing career, I’ve stayed in the gym and eat with my long-term health in mind. But now my time in the gym is more intentional.
Since I’m having a child at an older age, I want to be sure I’m around at least long enough to ensure that he (and whatever siblings he might have) are raised into adulthood. I know that I don’t know the day, but I can do a lot to prevent things from taking me out early. Even if my son decides to have children at a later age, I want to be around for him to become a father.
As some of you may know, I lost my father when I was 18. He wasn’t a consistent part of my life but his death still impacted me. Heart disease is the leading cause of death3 but 80% of all heart diseases and strokes are preventable. The bottom line is that now I’m a bit worried about checking out within the next 20 years. I never worried about that before, but now I do.
7. Your habits get exposed
Currently, the most ‘difficult’ thing about having a baby is trying to figure out how to get things done. At this stage, holding a newborn baby is a two-hand operation. And since I’m a writer, it’s far more challenging to work.
Babies emphasize your unorganized life. There’s a bit of chaos that ensues immediately after having a baby. Pregnancy due dates really should be called date suggestions. It’s not a hard and fast date like college graduation so you can get caught off guard if you aren’t planning ahead.
Aside from the logistics of clamping the umbilical cord and keeping it clean, your habits become more difficult to maintain. You have to build them back up little by little incorporating your child. I’m not neurotic by nature, but If I didn’t already have a flow, this would be far more challenging than it is.
Final thoughts about what happens when you have a baby
Caring for a new baby is inherently stressful. You are going through changes as well, though not as drastic as your child’s mother. Your changes will happen predominantly on the inside. But they’ll make you better if you allow them to.
Here’s what happens when you get a baby, from a father’s perspective:
- You have a baby whether you’re ready or not
- You take a backseat
- Sleep deprivation starts immediately
- You learn what real love is
- You understand your parents
- You realize you’re going to die
- You learn to incorporate a baby into your routine
I hope that helps. The rest is up to you.
Dean, J. Dr. When Babies Start Showing A Preference For Their MothePsyBlog. July 2022 (accessed February 2023) ↩