June 22, 2014 by Dadinator
I was in a room with 7 or so expectant fathers back in 2011. Our partners/wives were in another room having a talk from a physiotherapist about birth and its effect on certain muscle groups that start with pelvic and end with floor. Many of us hadn’t met before, but I remembered a few faces from earlier antenatal sessions. We smiled, joked, shook hands and did all those things room-fulls of men do everywhere to stave off silence, nervousness and awkwardness.
We had come together for a special session run by our hospital for fathers. It was a mens room. Well no, not a mens room, it was a room of men. A room of fathers-to-be. It was one of the best things that the Royal Women’s Hospital did for me, aside from provide care to my wife during pregnancy and childbirth, that was better.
We talked about lots of things, looked at images of birth and babies. Talked about what happens in the room. We discussed our worries, what we thought it might be like and how we would cope with new life in the house. The usual stuff came up. Money, intimacy after birth, sleep, stress, domestic duties etc etc etc…. Our facilitator was good at his job, he asked us what words we’d use to describe fathers. Lots came up “protector”, “teacher”, “guide”, “support” etc. No one said “provider” or “bread-winner”, or maybe no one said it out loud, but that’s another discussion for another time.
Then we got to some practical tips.
“Take every chance you possibly can to change your new baby’s nappy”.
*blink*…. “uuuuuh okay”.
“No, do it. Change that nappy as often as you can”.
“Okay, let me tell you why”.
There were a few reasons, including the usual: Get good brownie points (pun totally intended) with the missus; You should make sure you do your part; It’s not as bad as you think. But then there was this:
“When you change your baby’s nappy, the only thing in the world that they can see is your face. Their father’s face looking down on them, focussing all of it’s attention on them. Sing, dance, talk or do nothing, it doesn’t matter. For those minutes you are their world.”
I remember that lesson. I’m not sure if those were his exact words or not, I may be paraphrasing, but if I am ever talking to my son about becoming a father it’s advice I will pass on to him.
It can be hard, as a new dad, to bond with a baby. It can be hard for mother’s too, I know, but their relationship and connection to the pale, wet, mucky, wrinkled blob that emerges from them starts earlier and runs deeper than a dad’s does. They’ve gotten to know something about the baby’s temperament, how it moves, how it responds and how it “feels” in some strange way men can’t understand. (And I know, I know, pregnancy sucks; it’s not all glow and love hormones. It often bears more resemblance to a parasitic infection than some kind of magical journey.)
So we dads, well, we change nappies. We change nappies and we play our little games, we sing our little songs, we have our little conversations or we perform our little routines (I am certain every dad has their own one of these). And we complain and groan and moan and get peed on (or worse) and swap war stories and wear our “nappy-changers-badge” on our puffed out chests with pride.
And we have our minutes with our kids staring up at us as we clumsily try to comfort them in those first few weeks. We feel the lightness of their legs, the softness of their heads and the full force of their lungs. They cry and we pick them up, press them against our chests and slump our shoulders as they fill their fresh nappy 10 seconds after a change.
And for those minutes they look at us, learning our shapes and the angles of our faces. Hearing our voices and watching our movements. They grow familiar with us and learn our rhythms and our cues. All the time we build their definition of the word “dad”. All the time, because they are babies and can’t help themselves, they bond with us. All the time we grow closer.
And we are such fortunate men, such lucky men, such blessed men to have these minutes.
So I love nappy changes.
Or diaper changes, if you prefer…..