This past May 31, our daughter, Lucy Benedicta, was born, changing our lives forever. From learning how to hold a baby, to changing a diaper, to installing a car seat, I have had many new experiences as a first-time dad. So far, fatherhood has had its share of highs and lows, but mostly exhaustion in just figuring out how to care for a baby. Many people have asked me how things are going. I often say, “It’s challenging, but so rewarding” but that does not begin to describe my journey into fatherhood. With that said, here are a few things I have begun to learn as a new father.
1) Reliance on Others– The first few weeks of parenting were extremely grueling. My wife had a very difficult labor and we both came back from the hospital worn out. Thankfully, we had friends who brought us meals or other things that we needed. In addition, both sets of grandparents came by to take care of chores and offer support while we adjusted to life as parents. Although, I initially was reluctant to accept help, I began to realize that we could not do everything on our own, but needed other people to help us.
2) I am Selfish and Need to Change – People call babies “saint-makers” for a reason; they help rid you of your selfish desires. Babies change every part of your life: sleep, meal times, activities, level of noise in your house, prayer, etc. This is a huge adjustment. Now instead of thinking about what I want to do, or what my wife and I want to do, we have to consider the needs of our daughter. I can easily get frustrated about the things that I can no longer do or even the things my wife asks me to do for her while she nurses the baby. However, I am beginning to learn that to grow closer to Christ, I must put the interest of others ahead of my own, even when I am tired.
3) Patience, Patience, Patience! – My spiritual director would often remind me to be patient and perseverant in all situations, a good reminder for fatherhood. Babies by their very existence give their parents multiple opportunities to learn patience, whether that is trying to rock the baby back to sleep at 2 am, or changing the baby’s diaper 5 minutes after it was just changed. The opportunities to be patient extend even beyond the baby to those you meet with your child. Strangers will come up and touch the baby even when you wish they wouldn’t, or offer parental advice, as if you were wearing a sign saying, “please offer me advice, I can’t take care of my own children without your help.” Through it all, I have begun to see that I should not focus on the inconveniences or irritations caused by others, but rather on the blessings that I have in my life.
I didn’t fully realize the responsibilities and commitment of being a father before Lucy was born. Now that I am a father, I see that there is always an opportunity to die to self and serve my wife or baby. Yet amidst the struggles of family life, there is a great joy in the new life that God has given us. Seeing my daughter smile or laugh makes all the sacrifices and frustrations worth it. I am very thankful to God for the opportunity to raise this child for Him and hope to become a saint through the ordinary struggles of family life.