I am a new dad, having been at it for only four and a half months. But what a marvel it has been.
When I was younger I could not fathom having children, but now it is something that I cannot do without in my life. My little girl, Clementine, has opened up for my wife and I a life-altering adventure, profound and magical.
I was never a baby person. My family is small, and wife’s family is in the United States. I was never a babysitter, or surrounded by babies growing up.
Apart from reading one great book, and going to classes, I did not know what it would be like to try and bond with my newborn, when she arrived. I wondered whether it would be a mystery trying to understand what she wanted, why she was crying, why she was wriggling.
Would it be a somewhat monotonous cycle of feeding, bathing, changing and settling that was to be endured more than enjoyed? Would she not be interested too much in Dad because I was not where the food came from? I was preparing for different futures.
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Every dad’s experience is different, as is each baby. However, of all the unexpected things that came my way as a new parent, one of the biggest surprises to me was just how much, and how quickly, I grew to love the daily duties involved in taking care of a newborn.
I love all of it – the dirty nappies, the late night squawks, the early morning crying, and the settling routine; the splish-splash of the evening bath, and the wriggle and flap of the early morning play.
I can understand how, in those first fragile months, a baby’s development can be so gradual, surrounded by so much other noise in life, that it is easy for dads to overlook or miss the magic of their child’s introduction to the world. It is easy to see the daily routine as monotonous, and to fall back and wait for your child to get older and more interactive.
Putting aside the imperative to help a new mum in any way she requires, it is also a shame for dads if they don’t tune in to their kids’ frequency from Day One, as there is much to be enjoyed and remembered.
Robert with his wife, Julia. Image: supplied.
There is truly wonder in the ordinary and the subtlety of a newborn. My daughter's first fleeting weeks offered a journey that I found fascinating to absorb. Each aspect of her fledgling development had me gripped.
Her eyes went from closed, to blinking (when I realised they were piercing blue), to staring, to gazing into my own eyes. Her mouth went from shrivelled, to gaping, to reflexive smiling, to joyous smiling as I entered the room, or picked her up in the morning. She went from gurgling and squeaking, to lyrical squawking, to squealing with laughter and delight.
I know exactly how her grip has changed in just four months; how her tiny hands find more of their own strength each day; how she holds my fingers, my shirt, my beard and my hair.
Each day there is nothing better for me than to have her nestled into my shoulder, her perfectly formed mouth relaxed and open, wheezing and lightly snoring, with her soft breath blowing on my cheek. It is marvellous, and the most sublime way to start a morning.
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I know what sounds will make her smile, and what sounds will make her laugh. I can see the spark in her eyes that she knows my face and my voice is something special to her.
I was not sure in the first few months what I would mean to my daughter, but after immersing myself in her life I know that she understands she shares an intimate bond with me. I feel our rapport deepen in ways that are way beyond my expectations before she was born.
For any new dads like me, or expecting dads, I hope you find the wonder in your newborn journey as well.
Rob Sturrock and his wife Julia live in Sydney. Rob works for the Centre for Policy Development. Julia works for the Financial Rights Legal Centre. Rob can be reached on twitter, @RobSturrock_CPD