How Becoming A Father Rewired My Brain

How Becoming A Father Rewired My Brain

I remember the moment my wife showed me her positive pregnancy test (and her taking five more tests that same day to confirm the amazing news) — we were expecting our first baby!

Just a few months earlier, my marketing company had started working with Moms on Call as our new client. We were deep into designing their new site (yes, this very site!), which meant I read all the Moms on Call blog posts, reviewed the 0-6 month book with my wife, and read the excellent essay, “The Expectant Father.”

From these early moments of dadhood to the actual birth of my daughter, I felt a constant presence in my brain — suddenly, no matter where I was or what I was doing, I had this restless vigilance for my fragile new offspring. And then there was the time spent soothing, feeding, and playing with her. I gained a sudden new awareness of every flicker of emotion in my daughter’s little face, every tiny hiccup or whimper. Reflecting back on the “4th Trimester” (the first 3 months of my daughter's life), these new responsibilities and ways of interacting had a profound effect on my internal wiring.

All the books I read and content I consumed certainly helped tactically (and soothed many of my anxieties), but what I was not expecting was the rewiring of my brain as I transitioned into fatherhood.

Becoming a father happens in an instant, but embracing the new identity takes time. I read Morgan Eddy’s wonderful article on this blog that said “Labor and delivery stories are like snowflakes: every single one is different.” As I’ve talked to more of my first time father friends, their stories of transitioning to “dad” were all so different too. Some felt like their child’s birth was the happiest day of their lives, while others took a lot of time to bond with their newborn.

The birth of my daughter was an out of body experience for me and I can still remember watching myself looking at her for the first time, trying to comprehend the fact that this tiny human is my daughter. My wife caught me saying, “David and daughter time” to my newborn the first few weeks and reminded me that it was “Daddy and daughter time.”

My daughter’s first 8 weeks were an exercise in keeping up with her feedings, sleep stats, and maintaining her Moms on Call Schedule. Most of my excitement came from getting more efficient at her daily routine. I do remember the moment when my bond with her started to form — she was 8 weeks old and I watched her looking around in wonder as I held her facing outward. Watching my daughter discover the world, and start recognizing me, has continued to help me grow my bond with her.

Watching a human being develop and realizing all of us started this way has made me look at everything through a different lens. I find myself watching my daughter discovering new skills (and limbs) every day. I watched in amazement as my daughter spent a full week trying to understand the mechanics of flipping over onto her stomach. She would discover, and then forget about, and then rediscover how to bring her hands to her mouth — every little motor skill we have is a learned one, after all.

Everyone starts off as a blank canvas, and these days I find myself thinking about my friends and family and how at some point in their lives, they discovered their hands for the first time, too.

Now, I’ve started thinking about my own legacy and how my daughter will talk about me when I’m gone. My internal monologue during my own decision making process has a new voice: “How will this affect your daughter? Will this be something she tells her own kid about?” My existence is bigger than just me now. I have my own blank canvas to consider — the legacy I will be leaving for her. I find myself pushing myself harder and dreaming bigger about my story through the eyes of my child. And that feels really good.

Daddy-daughter time fills me with energy and presence I have never felt before. The first time my daughter smiled at me (and I mean intentional smile, not one of those precious “I am passing gas” smiles), nothing else in the world mattered. Interacting with your tiny human and watching them respond to you, euphorically, is a magic that I didn't know was missing from my life. And now that I do know that, working from home is a constant test of my ability to not spend every minute of my workday babbling with my 4 month old.

My partner is stronger than I ever imagined. My wife had a hard pregnancy and was filled with uncertainty going into parenthood. She has now embraced motherhood full force. The patience, love, and selflessness that flows out of her every day inspires me to be the best dad and husband I can be. My wife and I transitioning to “mom and dad” together has been a powerful, bonding, and transformative experience. Our marriage has evolved in wonderful ways and we have only grown stronger as a couple.

So to all the expectant fathers out there, be ready for a rewiring of your brain — in the ways I’ve spelled out here, and probably more. Everyone’s experience is different, but that new perspective on life you are about to have is something to look forward to and relish.

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