Are you ever really ready, mental health and fatherhood

There a few distinct moments that I can recall that me me think I might lose my mind that are directly related to my fatherhood journey. I always had this question as I was growing up, when would I be ready, when is the right time to be a father and I sat waiting for and answer that never came. This was the first time I felt like i was losing my mind.

Time moved on and like they say life happened but I always felt in control of my course. I got engaged, got married and life was great and I remember thinking that one day I might be a dad but I thought “nah, I’m not ready, I need to grow up more” and that question was pushed to the back of my mind in hopes that eventually I’ll get an answer. One day my wife walks into the bedroom with a pregnancy test and says we are pregnant.

That takes us to the second time I thought I was losing my mind. I pretended like I didn’t feel like running away on the spot and from then on I was a bumbling mess unsure of what I needed in order to be ready to be a dad and I was seeking some divine answer to land on my lap and every time I looked to the heavens it seems pretty empty and there was no help coming. Then I thought to look for solidarity amongst friends who had gone through this and all they could say was “you don’t raise children, children are raised by God” As my jaw dropped behind my wide eyed smile I thought yeah that is a bit beyond my level of comprehension and that doesn’t answer my question, when would I be ready?

Fast forward past the scans and the realisation that this is not going backwards it’s happening, it’s real. The big day came, my wife just started feeling ill and I tried everything I could think of to make her comfortable but soon realised this person was now no longer as rational and the pain of labour had taken over. It was at this point that I realised this baby is on the way.

After many hours of waiting and hoping that they were both ok the baby arrives, a healthy baby girl. Barely an hour old, I’m holding her thinking how perfect she is and I ask am I ready? There was no answer, I looked to the ceiling to no avail. Eventually the adrenalin settled, we went home with the baby and slept immediately because we were all worn out. What preceded to be the last time I felt my mental health tested was that first cry. My daughter began crying at night and I wasn’t sure what was going on, where the cry was coming from and who it was then it hit me like a slap across my face that it’s her, its my baby and in that groggy state it began. Like learning afresh waking up to change nappies, resisting arguing about who has to wake up and learning to care for my child. Learning to understand their needs when they made subtle noises to a point when one day they say dad and you don’t flinch because you know that you are, you’ve always been and will always be there. You’ve watched them poop for the first time, puke for the first time, roll and lift their head, begin to crawl, walk and talk gibberish and eventually the day they shout your name “dad” with a certain excitement that only a father can concur. It’s at moments that I found my answer that I am here, present in my child’s life as a guide and a wise friend. Here to show you numbers and words, teach you principles and manners, quirky mannerisms and smarts, a sense of humour, jokes and humility but most of all I’m here to to walk with you and help you learn your purpose as much as I’ve learned my own. I’m here beside you as your father in your human experience.

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