I'll never forget the moment I held my son for the first time. I was exhausted and terrified and overwhelmed and so very much in love. A part of me couldn't believe he was actually in my arms, while the other part of me felt like I had known him my entire life. I'll never forget the moment I watched my partner hold his son for the first time, either, and can only imagine what that felt like for him. So, instead of imagining, I asked dads to describe what it's like to hold their baby for the first time, so that I could gain some perspective. After all, I might have been in the room and I might have been the one to give birth, but I have no clue what it's like to hold your baby after you've just watched your partner bring them into the world.
I was the first person to hold my son and, sorry not sorry, rightfully so. After all, I was the one in labor for over 24 hours, pushing for over three hours and ending a long and grueling pregnancy is the most dramatic, most physically demanding way I could have possibly imagined. However, after holding my son (and after his breathing stabilized and he was checked out by NICU doctors) my partner was able to hold him and, well, the look in his eyes told me magic was happening. I knew what I felt, but I also knew that — for my partner — his feelings weren't going to be the same as mine. We were both parents now and we were both going to raise this baby together, but we were going to have different perspectives and, as a result, different experiences. That's arguably the best and worst part about raising a baby with someone; you're in it together, but the two of you aren't exactly the same things will always be slightly different for the both of you.
I asked my partner how it felt to hold our son for the first time, and the one word he said over and over again was relief. He was so happy our son was with us, safe and sound, and that I was healthy and had made it through labor and delivery. Turns out, he's not alone in that feeling, either. Here are just a few feelings new dads had when they held their baby for the first time:
"Like holding warm laundry."
"I don't think I got to experience the 'normal' feelings that most fathers do. There wasn't that prideful moment. I was more thankful that [my son] was here and he was beautiful and healthy. I was thankful that my partner was safe and healthy. It was a huge weight off of our shoulders."
"Well, I took myself as the strong silent one in the room. I obviously was making a lot less noise than [my wife]. We had [my daughter] at the birth center so it was a water birth. I remember the midwife saying, "Ok get ready here she comes." I thought that there would be more time that it would take a lot longer from the time when I saw her head and when she'd be out so I casually put my hand in the "ready position" so to speak. When she shot out, after her shoulders passed through and her body turned I felt like I was catching a fumbled football. I literally just about lost her. Grateful she was birthed in the water because, the gravity was slower and I was able to actually catch her!
Once I slowly pulled her out of the water I was so bewildered! I pictured myself saying all these things about how proud I was of [my wife]. Couldn't get a word out! Once [my daughter] started crying, I started crying. I just held her straight out for a few moments and just bawled my eyes out. Brought her up to [my wife] then I could finally talk again. As I look back, it seems like they were just moments in time but I know there was more I just can't remember anything much more than that. It was a beautiful birth, I'm glad I was there, I'm glad I caught her, and I'm glad I experienced it all. Made me respect my wife more and I feel like it helped establish a bond with [my daughter], which for dads is hard at first because we didn't grow the baby in our bellies for the last 9 months."
"Well, I was exhausted from being awake for so long because I didn't want to leave my beautiful wife's die as she is the one doing the heavy lifting and I wanted to be as involved as possible, encouraging her and comforting her. So, when the baby first arrived I am paying attention not only to baby and mommy but the doctor to get cues about the baby's health. Then after the doctor makes it known that we have a healthy baby, I am over-joyed that [my wife] is Ok and [my daughter] is here.
[After my wife holds my daughter] it's my turn to hold her, and I want to hold her so tight but I don't want to hurt the fragile little angel so I try to find a balance between squeezing her and just holding her and I smell her and just stare at her forever. I was just sitting there telling her how much I love her and how I never want to let her go and was kissing her. I cried a little bit, trying not to make a scene but I was completely overwhelmed with love for her, and joy and peace."
"The best way to describe it is that I felt everything holding [my daughter] for the first time. I was scared of hurting her and scared of what the future held and her safety for all eternity but I get an extreme love and hopefulness I had never experienced. Mad for who I had been in my past. Hoping I could be my best for her future. Literally every emotion and thought negative and positive all wrapped up into one in a matter of a couple seconds."
"I honestly can't explain it. It's kind of cliché to say love at first sight, but that doesn't even begin to cover it. I honestly was scared to even break [my daughter]. I cried I didn't even want to hold her hand. I didn't want to hurt her. But the second I did, I didn't want to let her go. I went into super mode. Any time she cried I was up without even noticing. I'll never forget the look she gave me. A person can go on and on, but in all honest reality, you really can't explain that."
"You know that feeling when love hits you? Holding my five daughters for the first time is like that, times two...minus an indescribable and immeasurable fear."