Ah, those first days of being a new father...days that should be filled with, joy, love, rainbows and unicorns.
As you learn (even on the drive home from hospital), you are in a new world of uncertainty, weird smells, strange noises and complete unknowns.
Where you were once King of the Castle, a man in charge, a go-getter, a do-er of things and fixer of wrongs, you are now lost, confused, frightened and wondering if that smell is coming from you or the baby.
So here are the top 5 things that freaked me out as a new Dad.
Babies are so little and so helpless that as a father, you feel the weight of responsibility for their well-being very heavily. Problem is, unless you're a doctor, you actually have no idea what's normal and what's not. When Thing 1 was little every slight fever worried me, every cough was a sign of infection and any instance of “night sweats” combined with “runny poo” was enough to think “it’s probably the early stages of Ebola”.
I was clearly wrong.
But every instance of illness had me looking through the many books we had bought on the topic of ‘how not to kill your child’ while on hold with the Nurses Hotline.
So yes, when our baby is sick, we freak out. But only because the thought of something being wrong to our child is a new and very scary feeling of helplessness that never dissipates with time.
Bear with us...we mean well.
It’s a well-established fact that babies are loud. Like, really loud. In fact, a baby with a halfway decent set of lungs is capable of outputting up to 130 decibels.
To put that in perspective, a lawnmower is about 100 decibels, and a rock concert is somewhere close to 110. For comparison, 130 decibels is the same as a military aircraft take-off from an aircraft carrier with afterburner experienced from a distance of 15 metres.
Oh, and decibel levels aren’t measured on a linear scale. 110 decibels is twice as loud as 100 decibels – which means 130 decibels is eight times as loud as a lawnmower.
So yes. Loud.
Now as blokes, we're loud. We laugh loud, joke loud and listen to the telly loud. We can handle concerts, noisy pubs and power tools.
But 130 decibels that you can't turn off is a lot to cope with, especially if junior’s cracking it in your arms at two in the morning.
What freaks us out of course is HOW all that noise comes from such a tiny person. All we can think is, "What the hell is wrong?" (see point 1).
But hey… you might get lucky and have a kid who’s only as loud as a chainsaw running right next to your head (120 decibels).
Of course, the reverse of this is equally freaky - you know, when things go creepily quiet.
Again, it’s late at night. You’re almost asleep – and your brain starts messing with you.
"He hasn’t cried or fussed for a while...is he okay? Should I check on him? I better check on him. No, stop...he’s just sleeping. But what if he’s not? Dammit. Shit."
...and jut like that you’re out of bed to check on him.
Now, if your baby’s like most, this is when they’ll wake up, start with the screaming and suddenly you’re in the middle of Top Gun, with a front row seat to see Maverick take off to out fly some Russkies.
Why can't they just make little noises that confirm they're alive without disrupting their sleep?!
Most blokes are used to dealing with messy bodily fluids. We've all had mates go too far on a night out and chunder in the taxi. We've all dealt with seriously gross wounds after a power tool mishap and we all know how to clean up after a man-cold.
But nobody likes dealing with shit.
However, being a dad means dealing with shit. And there will be lots of it.
In the beginning though I was pleasantly surprised because it’s entirely tolerable as milk fed baby poos don’t really smell much. This may be Mother Nature's way of easing us into the job.
So we get used to it. But then, in a cruel trick as your baby moves to solid food, this changes. Big time. One day your baby just no longer has baby poo - he has poo. Real Poo. Human Poo.
My God, there days when I smelled like baby crap all day, even if I’d only changed one nappy in the morning and headed off to work.
And then there’s the dreaded ‘poo explosion’.
Now I love my boy, but I swear I nearly gave him back the first day I witnessed a ‘number three’ – when for reasons defying the laws of physics – he unleashed every horror that has ever lurked in the sewers of hell.
He shat so hard and so heavily, it came out of the top of his nappy, up his back and out the top of his romper. He actually managed to shit on the back of his own head!
I was torn between high-fiving him and just hosing him off in the backyard.
But at the end of the day, there is one thing that freaks us out more than everything else combined.
Am I a good Dad?
Because from the very moment that little bundle joins you in the world, your only goal in life is to be exactly that. The problem is, there is no manual and no process so for men who like to fix things, solve problems and make things work, this is a ridiculously daunting prospect.
Even now, almost a decade later, I still ask myself “Am I a good Dad?” and then spend a few minutes (or hours, or day) going around in circles about it.
Part of being a good dad is learning what your role in their development is, and of course, enjoying some playtime or having a conversation with your new bub.
Being a good dad can be hard work, but armed with the right knowledge, I found it got easier and easier as time went on, which meant I could start to relax - and quit freaking myself out.
Just kidding. You'll always freak out. It's just about something different at every stage.