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First 5 Surprises of New Fatherhood

At some point not long after the baby is born, just about every new father gets hit with a sharp jolt of reality: he’s a father — with new responsibilities, new pressures, new expectations to live up to. For some of us, this seemingly basic little epiphany comes early, before we leave the hospital. But for others, reality may not hit for a few days. Sooner or later, though, we all come to realize that our lives have changed forever. Sometimes the changes are subtle, sometimes not so subtle. But almost always come as surprises.

You May Be Confused

If there’s one thing that sets the first few months of fatherhood apart from the next few years, it’s the confusing and often conflicting emotions you may feel. On the one hand there’s the virility, power, and pride at having created a new life. On the other, the feelings of helplessness when you can’t satisfy (or sometimes even understand) your baby’s needs.

You’ll Discover A Different Kind of Love

There’s no comparing the all-consuming love you’ll have for your child with the love you have for any other person. Maurice Sendak may have captured the feeling better than any other writer in a scene from Where the Wild Things Are where the monsters plead with Max not to leave them: “Please don’t go,” they say. “We’ll eat you up we love you so.”

You’ll Feel Ambivalence

One day, completely out of the blue, you’ll look at your baby and realize that the intense passion you felt just the day before has been replaced by a numb, hollow feeling. Do you know this child? Do you care? You’ll feel like bagging this whole dad thing and starting a new life somewhere else. Chances are the very next thing you’ll feel is incredible guilt at having had these feelings in the first place. After all, if you aren’t head-over-heels in love your child 100% of the time you’re not a good father, right? Wrong. Ambivalence is a perfectly normal part of being a dad and you’re going to have the same feelings dozens of times over the next 50 years. So get used to it now.

You May Get Depressed

Yep, it’s true. Even though most people think that postpartum blues are a women’s thing, plenty of guys get depressed after their babies are born. Our blues, though, aren’t hormonally based like our partners’, but may, in fact, have more to do with returning to reality. When you were an expectant and brand new dad, people paid more attention to you and probably cut you a little slack. But after a few weeks it’s back to the grind at work, plus you’ve got to deal with all the bills, the sleep interruption, and the extra laundry at home. That’s enough to depress anyone.

You’ll Be Afraid

The first few months of fatherhood are simply littered with fears: that you won’t be able to live up to your expectations of what it means to be a father; that you might not be able to protect your child or your family from harm, that you won’t be able to adequately provide for your family, that you don’t know what to do with your child, that you’ll be too much — or not enough — like your own father, that you’ve made a horrible mistake. These fears and many others are a completely normal part of making the transition from man and husband to father. Some will go away as your skills increase; others will go away with time. But sooner or later they almost all go away.