Fathers’ Day Feature 2: Becoming a Father

Andrew: I’ve been meaning to write this piece for quite a while, but I didn’t quite know how to angle it or if what I’d be writing would just be trite and cliched. Nonetheless, I thought I would just note down my journey as a father thus far, as it’d be something interesting to look back on in a few years time to see how things have changed (or not).

Pre-Dylan

Before Dylan came along, Jasmine and I were excited about his arrival, yet at the same time, I was filled with trepidation and fear, not knowing how I would handle a child of my own and if I was up to the task. Much of the advice given then was ‘You’ll just learn along the way!’ or ‘Nobody is ever ready to be a parent, you just do it!’ and one of the best advice, which I still hold on to right now is, ‘You can read many books and hear so many different pieces of advice, but at the end of the day, trust your own instincts as a parent’

Honestly speaking, we were not the kind of parents too who wanted to go for pre-natal classes or read up extensively on child birth and child development. Yes, I did buy the book What to Expect when Expecting, but beyond the first few chapters, it just got too much for me. The only book we kept reading was Praying Through Your Pregnancy, which became a very good prayer guide for us – very comprehensive in praying for health, against past bondages/hurts, for emotional wholeness, even your child’s future partner! One thing we were very conscientious about was to read Psalms/Proverbs to Dylan and to pray for him and talk to him every night. Honestly speaking, we’re less attentive to our second one right now and take it as part of the bedtime routine we do for Dylan. Dear used to read up from the web on how baby was developing each week and we’d pray for him and talk to him.

Dylan’s Arrival

After hearing many stories of long labours, I was surprised when just after 2 hours of labour, our dearest son was born! Was amazed at how delicate and small he was, however, I was just also in a state of numbness (as I’ve told Dearie before) – not quite knowing how to feel or what to do.

It was only the next day, when they pushed Dylan in after cleaning him up and he looked so small, so vulnerable and so sweet that my heart was filled with joy at the arrival of a child we could call our own. Then, the journey began of us learning how to take care of him.

Our very first family photo

I still recall the first time I had to change his diapers in the hospital and how I fumbled clumsily through it! The nurse had just left the room and within 10 minutes, BabyD started bawling and crying. I checked him and there was a distinct, foul smell that I immediately recognised! However, I had never put on diapers for a baby before – what should I do? Will I hurt him, like break his back, if I do it wrong? As Dearie was resting, it was up to me to do it, so I just went ahead to do it. Opened his diaper delicately…. pulled out the wet wipes and then wiped his ass as gently as possible, so I needed to wipe a few times – back then, my impression of babies were that they were so fragile. He was crying and kicking a little! Then I wrapped up the diaper in any manner I thought useful, and put on his new diaper slowly, not knowing which was the correct way at first, then trying to find the sticky-ends. After about 10 minutes, I completed it and my heart was practically racing! Talk about Murphy’s law – just about then, the nurse came in… and she said, ‘Oh, you changed his diapers? Well done!’.

During our time at the hospital, they taught us some basic skills like how to bathe the baby, swaddle the baby and for Dear, how to breastfeed. It just seemed to pass so quickly and soon enough, it was time to go back and we were on our own!

Bringing Dylan home and the first few months

As first time parents, we were so anxious for him at everything – he had jaundice, diaper rash, cradle cap + eczema and all these small things kept me so worried, especially the eczema as we went to the doctor and tried various soaps and treatments for it, most of them temporary. We were so anxious too when Dylan had to be warded to undergo light therapy for his jaundice – it felt like he had just been with us for a few days, then we had to be separated again.

Angry Dilly, after being sunned to treat his jaundice

At the same time, I was trying to hone the various skills needed. Bathing was only done by our confinement nanny when she was here, so it seemed like something that not everyone could do. I was similarly fearful when I first had to do it and I do recall there were times when my hand accidentally slipped and Dylan just cried out loud, causing me to panic and get rather anxious. Looking back, it just seems silly to be so nervous about bathing. Heh. I remember a lot of running around to get stuff, like 0-6 infant formula when Dear’s milk flow hadn’t yet stabilised and then being befuddled by the range of brands out there.

Of course, in the midst of the stress, there was also much joy in the house now, as we laughed and celebrated all the small moments with this new life. Lots of photo-taking and posting of cute moments on Facebook too!

Learning how to put him to sleep was another learning curve for me, but I was determined from the start to learn all these things. Still remember the early days of me carrying him in my arms and walking back and forth, while singing worship songs to him, before he gradually fell asleep and I would then pop him in the bednest and quickly to go sleep before waking up at 4/5 a.m. for his night feed. These were memorable moments as I saw them as father-son devotional time too – his favourite song was ‘Jesus loves me, this I know’ and ‘Still’. I would often use these times as personal worship time to praise the Lord too.

Honestly speaking, Dylan’s sleep patterns were relatively good as he only woke up once at night, so I could help with the night feed and still sustain myself at work, without being too tired. I remembered it was only around the 3rd month or so, when I started to realise, ‘Hmm, maybe this isn’t so hard after all?’.

Something that signified to me that my life was different was interestingly, my IPPT (a fitness test that all Singaporean men have to go through) – which I took soon after Dylan was born because my window was closing. Throughout the 2.4km run, I found that I had new motivation to run and to do well, because I knew that I was keeping fit and persevering for the sake of my family. This was the first moment that I did realise that I had entered the emotional journey of fatherhood.

Resuming our normal lives

Post confinement, it was time to return to our normal lives of church, family gatherings, socialising… It was also about time as Dear was bored stiff just being confined in the home mostly, though technically she wasn’t as she still had rather regular trips to NEX.

We have shared numerous posts before on how we’ve ‘integrated’ Dylan into our lives, so I won’t go into the practical things we did. However, what was more important was the idea that Dylan was now becoming truly a part of our lives, instead of previously where we ‘stopped’ our lives just to focus on him for a while. So many different things to think about now whenever you go out – you usually try to dress more casually to make the carrying of baby and his stuff out easier, you ensure that you choose locations with convenient nursing venues or not too crowded places, as far as possible you schedule outings around his nap-time. Basically, there was a whole new set of considerations to think about.

Bringing Dylan to Biennale 2013

Yet at the same time, there was a sense that things were the same. It’s a bit of a strange feeling – Dearie has asked this question to me before, “How much has having a child changed our lives?” (Yes, we do discuss such geeky questions, but it’s only during staycations or holidays when we have time to slow down and really chat). Honestly, yes, we have much more to think about right now, but fundamentally, we still do feel that we are doing the same things as before, while now having another companion with us. Yes, we no longer have the flexibility of flying off on a holiday whenever we want to or going off to midnight movies on a whim – in fact, movie-watching is kind of a rarity now. However, there’s now a deeper dimension to all that we do, because it is no longer just about us, but also about enjoying life together with our son and role-modeling to him through our lives at home and beyond.

Having Dylan has also deepened my wife and my relationship as we now really serve as ‘partners’ at almost every moment, supporting or relying on each other’s strengths at various points to manage Dylan and take care of him. There has been much more need for us to communicate clearly, understand each other and to work together to ensure Dylan, and both of us too, are well taken care of. Of course, as much as it can be a source of joy, having a child can also be a source of strain in the relationship when you disagree or when you’re both tired and one has to sacrifice to take care of your son. Nonetheless, these have also been opportunities for us to work on our communication issues. Being good fathers and mothers and building a strong marriage do go hand in hand, but ultimately, there still needs to be intentional effort to build the marriage, and that’s something I’m hoping we can continue to work on.

As for whether having a son has changed me, I can honestly say that it has – seems like quite an obvious statement as I’m sure all parents will say so. He has taught me to be more expressive and crazy, since babies respond mostly to extravagant and outward shows of emotion. He has taught me more patience too, especially over things that aren’t logical or beyond my control – I’d have to admit I lost my temper a few times when he just kept crying and refused to be comforted, and this still happens from time to time now. Always thought I was quite patient, but I guess not. Heh.

Most important of all, my son has taught me the importance of appreciating life, slowing down and not letting small moments pass you by. Every small thing that he does, that we often take for granted, becomes such a great moment of joy and celebration – from him learning to grasp an object, to flipping over, to crawling, to his first steps. There’s just such excitement when these happen and even, a great sense of pride that he’s growing so well. A simple meal with your son becomes an opportunity to interact with him, play with him and see him grow in his grasp and hand-eye coordination. For someone who was previously used to rushing through life, doing many things a day, just slowing down to appreciate time with my son has been refreshing.

I am even considering buying a much better camera so that I can properly ‘document’ all these moments with my wife and son. Recommendations are welcome. Part of the reason why we revived this blog too was also to capture these memories and I can’t wait for the day when Dylan can also start contributing to the blog – it’d be so cool – a family blog!

Jasmine: Andrew is a really great dad. There are times when I’m on bedrest and he will bring Dilly to church on his own and put Dylan in the carrier and run errands for us. Once, my pastor saw him and Dilly in church, and remarked to me later, “Wah, Andrew is quite good ah?” I can see how fatherhood has grown him –-not just in patience and endurance, as he was already much better with those two traits than me—but in being expressive, affectionate and letting his fun and playful side come out more.

Looking ahead

Andrew: 14 months on, I can honestly say many of the fears and anxieties I faced are no longer present. I’m more confident as a father, but I do honestly feel that the journey has barely begun.

Right now, the care Dilly requires from me is more practical and more in terms of ‘entertaining’, yet as he grows older, there will then be more needed for me in terms of growing him spiritually, in his character and conduct as well as, helping him to navigate the various phases of life, from school to work. Not to mention of course the additional challenge when Dilly has a new sibling! Wow, just 1 year on and Dilly is already going to be a big kor kor – it’s crazy.

Photo: At the clinic, i. asked Dilly to smile and he gave me this sweet little look... :)

Bringing Dylan for a jab

Honestly, parenthood has been a tough and challenging journey, but the rewards are immense. I’m looking forward to more adventures as Dear and I learn how to build a loving family together!

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