Becoming a father is the best thing that has ever happened to me (followed very closely by meeting my wife, Sydney!). I have said it so many times, but I have never felt a love as strong as the love I have for our son. Watching him grow and develop every single day gives me a new reason to get out of bed in the morning and face whatever the day throws at us – and sometimes it throws us quite a bit! It has been so fun for both of us to watch our baby change from a newborn to a 5-month-old who is starting to develop his own personality and looks at the world with such wide-eyed wonder. That’s not to say it doesn’t come with its challenges. While all parents go through an adjustment period when having a new baby, ours comes with its own set of unique challenges and obstacles. Because of the nature of my spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), there are a lot of aspects of his physical care that I am unable to do. I’m not able to just reach into a crib and pick my baby up when he’s crying, I’m not able to just throw him over my shoulder for a quick burp, and I can’t just get up in the middle of the night and take him for a diaper change… the list goes on.
What I have learned is that my physical limitations do not and will not dictate the fact that I can also be a great parent. Just like everything else in our daily lives, Sydney and I continue to make the necessary adjustments to make this life work for us! While she may take care of most of the physical labour involved with caring for our son, I stay as involved as I possibly can by making sure they both have what they need. I make sure that we are always stocked on all the baby essentials, organized neatly into spreadsheets that track if we are low on certain baby items or supplies. I make sure that our house runs smoothly and that all of our bills are paid so that we can keep a roof over our heads and food on our table. Additionally, just because I can’t physically complete a lot of tasks doesn’t mean I am not involved in them. I am there to play with our son, snuggle him when he needs it, and hand Sydney an extra diaper when her hands are full. I try to be as involved as I can in every way, just maybe not in the way that an able-bodied parent may be.
Sydney and I have been doing exactly what we do every other day, which is make adjustments on the fly and figure things out as we go. It should come as no surprise that being a new parent is exhausting, and we are extremely lucky to have such an amazing support system of family and friends who are always willing to lend a hand whenever we need it. Whether that’s picking up groceries for us or running to a store to grab baby supplies, we are extremely fortunate to have the support of our amazing friends and family every single day.
“While I am still new to this whole parenting thing – and I am learning every day –I’d like to leave you with three tips for new dads that have helped me so far.”
- Make yourself a meal plan.
You have NO idea how helpful this is going to be at the end of the day when you don’t feel like cooking or know what to cook. It’s really easy to get caught up in eating take-out food because things are so busy, but you will feel so much better if you can cook your own meals and eat healthy! It also helps with knowing exactly what we need on grocery orders.
- Find a “dad group”.
I was lucky to have a few friends that had babies around the same time as us, and one of the first things we did pre-baby was start a group on Facebook Messenger for all the dads. It is so helpful to share the experience with others who are going through it as well, and it’s been a great spot for us to hang out and bounce ideas, suggestions and tips off one another.
- Be as involved as you can.
Find things that you can do despite your disability with your child(ren). Whether that means making them laugh with funny voices or funny faces, or just being present for things such as diaper changes, bath time and story time. One of the greatest joys of my entire life is watching our son break out into a big smile or a big laugh while I am playing with him.