Becoming a Parent

My baby is due any day, and I’m really nervous I don’t have any parenting instincts. Did you?

Our Daddy MD Guide’s reply: The very first diaper I put on, I put on backwards. My mother-in-law looked at it and gently said, “Well, we’ve been trying a different way.” She was very kind, but I felt like a moron.

Most women babysat, and they seem to have more natural mothering instincts. I was the younger of two, and I never babysat a day in my life. I didn’t bring any natural experience into parenthood.

To cope, I paid very close attention when my wife told me what to do. I was a very good student, and I quickly learned all of the mechanics: feeding, burping, diapering.

What was more difficult for me was the emotions. These things came naturally to my wife, but not to me. My wife taught me how to get down on my kids’ level, to tell them that I love them, and to try to avoid embarrassing them in front of their friends. This is a good time for men to learn from their wives. It might help to talk with your mother about it.

Even though the emotional parts of fatherhood didn’t come easy to me, I have learned. The most important thing I learned was to simply listen. Let your kids talk to you about anything, even when they’re only starting to talk at around age two. I think that if someone asked my kids what the best part of me is, they’d say that I will listen to them talk about anything.

Bryan S. Wood, MD, a father of 11 children, an emergency physician, and the president of SelfRefind, in Danville, KY.