Granted that there were online guides for first-time fathers, giving advice on what to expect during pregnancy and life with a newborn, there was still nothing that could have prepared me for that moment, and I was scared stiff. I picked him up and whispered, "I love you to bits, but it would really help if you could tell me what to do from now on."
Rewind back to 9 months, and I think back to the first time I knew I was going to be a Dad. Utter joy, followed by a sense of trepidation. Joy because the wifey and I had decided it was time for another person to share our lives. Trepidation because everything is uncharted territory and I was worried that I could not live up to the tag of awesome Dad.
With the benefit of hindsight now, I would reassure all dads-to-be that nature knows exactly what she is doing. It cannot be a mere coincidence that pregnancy lasts nine months - this gives men time to plan and cope with the reality of what is about to happen.
And planned we did. We attended pre-natal classes together at the hospital where Ash was going to be born during weekends and devoured books on Parenthood. The hands-on classes were particularly helpful as they helped us manage our expectations upon the arrival of the baby, albeit with the help of a plastic baby doll.
But the one lesson that my wife’s pregnancy had taught me was to be omnipresent following Ash's arrival, because the important stuff happens to the woman and the man's role is to assist and cope. And I was lucky too that in the hospital that Ash was born, there were classes conducted for new parents during Mummy's first days of recuperation stay. The wifey valiantly volunteered ME to demonstrate in giving the 1-day-old Ash a bath - IN FRONT of an entire class of new parents, no less.
That's Ash in the photo, but the person cradling him isn't me. Duh. The nurse was doing a recap of the bathing steps before I took over. And no, I did not accidentally drop him into the bathtub. On the contrary, I would like to think I passed with flying colours. But the great thing to come out of that experience was that it made me resolve to participate in the daily lives of my children more. From the diaper-changing, bathing to the playing and napping, I was there. And it was well worth it.
Of course, one of the fundamental truths about parenthood having a baby ruins your sleep. I was lucky to be the father of a baby who was breastfed exclusively, so naturally I took over the diaper duties at night to give the wifey more sleep. In truth, it was something I gladly wanted to, and I did it for all three of my kids.
Like anything worthwhile, Fatherhood can be difficult, stretch our limits and is short on easy answers. No matter I like it or not, I have learnt to accept that I have become the person who once annoyed me so much - the new parent on the plane with the baby everyone is praying won't start wailing, the man weaving the bulldozing stroller between pedestrians, the dad who can't resist boring his friends with stories about his new little love.
But you know what? It is also the most rewarding role that a man can ever undertake in his lifetime, and I would not swap it for anything else in the world.
And since Fatherhood is indeed worth celebrating, Thomson Medical Centre and Nestlé NAN GRO3 have organised a photo contest to recognise the important man in our lives. Capture a moment showing the dad and kids at play or a best Daddy and Kid Look-alike picture, and share it via HERE. All submissions will stand to receive a weekly prize, on top of grand prizes at the end of the contest! But hurry, the closing date for entries is 27 July 2014.