When it comes to babies, there’s a cliché assumption that as a parent, the moment you hold your child for the first time, your heart will melt and you’ll experience love at first sight. It doesn’t always happen — especially not for Nigerian fathers who sometimes take longer to connect with their children. We spoke to five Nigerian fathers on falling in love with their children, why it took them so long and how they eventually got there.
We talk about the joys of having a child a lot, but honestly, having a baby can be scary. Falling in love with my daughter wasn’t immediate for me; it took almost a year. She was born when I was depressed. I had lost my job four months prior, and the fear of messing everything up drowned the joy of being a father. I was constantly thinking “Can I care for a baby?” Holding her for the first time, I was happy, but the overwhelming emotion was fear, not love.
The fear held me back from fully investing my emotions. Maybe that fear was love, who knows? Over time, seeing her in her little world unfazed by everything around her, I began to realise that she’d be okay. That made it easier to connect and fully love her. On her first birthday, even though we weren’t where I wanted us to be financially, I looked at her and had this feeling that everything would be fine. She was perfect.
I used to be a workaholic. It was so bad I wasn’t even around for my son’s birth. I was on a conference call and although I might have been able to skip it for his birth, I just couldn’t leave work hanging. The first time I met him, I was just surprised by how small he looked.. He was very close to his mum and I immediately thought I wouldn’t be able to “compete”, so I focused on work instead. I didn’t know him. I think everything changed on my 30th birthday. I came back from work after a stressful day and he was the first face I saw as I walked in and he just smiled. He had never looked at me and smiled before. It was almost like he knew I had a shitty day. It was my birthday too. That smile made me feel at ease. At that moment, I knew making him smile was all I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
My wife and I wanted to have a baby the minute we got married, but it didn’t happen for the next four years. We tried everything from church camps to fertility doctors. Our sex life became a timetable that was based on when my wife ovulated. By the time she got pregnant, I was exhausted. Do you know how you work hard and long for something that when it comes, it just doesn’t excite you anymore? This was how I felt when my son was born. I remember walking up to see him for the first time and just wanting to be over it. Omo, this baby scammed me. I saw his tiny head covered in hair and I just started wailing. I couldn’t believe he was mine. Me, a father? I never believed in love at first sight until I saw Tade (my son) that night. Thinking about it makes me want to cry again. LOL.
I think I put too much pressure on myself (and our baby) to be perfect. I had read all the books I could find. After all, it was the least I could do since I wasn’t the one carrying a whole ass human being in their tummy. I thought the baby would be born, I would cut the cord, and look at her and it’d be love at first sight. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Her birth was chaotic because just like me her head was big and by the time she arrived, everyone just wanted to sleep. It wasn’t that I didn’t love her, it was just that I was disappointed in myself for not loving her the way I thought I’d love her. I eventually spoke to my therapist about it and she was the one who helped me see that I was expecting too much from our father–daughter relationship. I’m obsessed with her now, even more than I thought I’d be. The best part? I’m her favorite parent. My wife is number two, haha.
I wanted a girl, but I got a boy. I’m not ashamed to say it, and I think everyone knows it as well. It was one of those things where we got pregnant, went for a scan and apparently, the little rascal was hiding his penis so they thought it was a girl. Imagine my surprise when the baby was born and it was a HE. I was upset and it still hurts me that I couldn’t hide my disappointment, and that my wife could tell. I’m a planner so it felt like all my plans had gone to shit. For the first few weeks, I had to fake it. But once we came back to Nigeria and settled in our house, I just started to look at him differently. Maybe it’s because he looks like his mum and she is the best person in the world, but the more time I spent with him, the more I fell in love with him. Now, I even let him beat me at video games — and trust me, I hate to lose.