With my baby girl well on her way, I am running around soaking up all the knowledge and advice I can. I want to be as sure as I can be that I will do a great job. I am reading the books. I am visiting the websites. I am asking other parents. And this past weekend, I head down the road to the hospital for Daddy Boot Camp.
I wandered into the hospital through the main entry, somewhat lost already. I eventually found someone and asked for directions to the right conference room. As I approached the door, I found a few other men waiting outside. I nod to them, and slowly head inside to take a seat.
At first, everyone is fairly quiet, waiting for the session to begin. Soon the Boot Camp Facilitator, a father himself, introduces himself and the session, we go around the room to give our names, the gender and possible name of our little one, and any concerns we may already have. I introduce myself, my name is Matt, I am having a girl, and we are keeping our selected name a surprise for now. As we move around the room, almost no one gives a name for their baby, and I wonder if they are keeping it secret too, or they are not decided yet. It kind of makes me feel good, like I may be ahead of the game after all.
Anyway, the guys start to liven up and join in on discussions as we share common concerns and issues, like how to hold them, how to deal with emergencies, and how to keep a strong and loving relationship with our better half. Soon, we realize we are not crazy – all our problems and concerns are normal for most new fathers. No, there is not a manual that comes with the baby, but yes, it can be done. And yes, we will do great.
A mother with ties to the program brought her newborn boy in later on in the class, and a few of us tried our hand at holding our first baby. I stepped up and held him, albeit with a little anxiety, but no accidents followed. He was fine, I was fine. He was a little fussy and cried, but my wife later assured me this does not make me a bad father. In fact, another father-to-be pointed out the boy cried every time a different dad held him. And I guess I can’t blame him for that.
But the final part of the class was by far the best. There was one particular dad who, right from the start, expressed fear about handling and potentially hurting his baby. ‘Give me an indestructible toy growing up, and I’d somehow find a way to break it,’ he told the group. He was kind of a big guy, too… he had a point. The entire class, he sat nervously in the back. But when it came time to try and hold our visitor, he took the baby softly and slowly in his arms, and gave him the pacifier, and the baby quieted down right away. Class discussion went on, but I kept watching the pair, seeing the baby calmly, slowly closing his eyes. He proceeded to fall asleep in the nervous dad’s arms, for the duration of the class.
The moral I took from the class: Everyone has it in them to do great as a parent. I guess the concern and effort to try really is all the head start you need.