As any dad knows, the first few weeks of fatherhood are a blur. Our lives are turned upside down as we settle into new routines that revolve around our new child. No more visits to the gym, nights out with friends, or shopping for anything other than the most basic of needs. That's why we're grateful that Dove Men+Care recently shared their "New Dad Care Package" with a few new gay dad families, demonstrating their commitment to dads from the very start of the fatherhood journey. Complete with a few Dove Men+Care and Baby Dove products and available in hospitals across the U.S., the program equips dads with the basic personal care tools needed to care of themselves and their new families during this busy and exciting time.
We're also grateful to the new dads below, each of whom shares advice with expectant dads on what to expect during the early days of fatherhood.
“Wouldn’t trade it for anything.” – Dads Chris and Zac with baby Jett
Chris and Zac originally planned to become dads through surrogacy, but after following another couple's adoption journey, they reconsidered their path. "It was so moving and humbling," explains Chris, "that after a year, we decided to move forward with adoption. Seven months later we became dads to our son, Jett."
The dads are thankful that they didn't encounter many obstacles during their journey, nor have they afterwards –– even as a two-dad family living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Rather, they've felt nothing but love and support. When Jett's adoption was finalized on May 2, 2018, the dads shared that there wasn't a dry eye in the courtroom.
Prior to becoming dads, both men were determined to take time off from work for Jett's first year. While their employers have allowed the time off, it is unpaid leave. So the dads had to spend considerable time saving and accumulating days off. (Dove Men+Care is a huge proponent of paid paternity leave; read more here.) But they share that the time spent caring for and bonding with Jett has been extremely rewarding, so they encourage dads-to-be to to consider taking extended leaves as well.
Being a full-time dad can be overwhelming, especially at first. So Chris and Zac want to stress the importance of open and honest communication between the dads. While they’re focusing their energy on being the best they can be for Jett, they also realize that trying to be a super dad is impossible. Says Chris, "We're learning to take a moment, breathe, and then readjust our expectations."
The dads heartily agree that they definitely wouldn't trade this for anything!
“The corny stuff parents always say like, "I never knew I could love someone so much," are actually true!” – Dad Michael and his baby girl
Earlier this year, Michael became a first-time dad to his daughter via surrogacy.
How his life has changed! Michael shares that he's found a level of patience he never knew existed. He spends a sizable chunk of his time planning their days, and he's learned to reset expectations as to what he can realistically accomplish in any given day, week or month.
Michael's top priority is his family, and being Daddy to his little girl is everything. "I didn't go through all I did just to have a child and then not spend time with her!" After her birth, Michael received one week paid family leave and took another eight weeks of unpaid leave.
Although his company was very supportive and tried to help, Michael believes that there needs to be mandatory leave in the US, regardless of gender. "I fully understand that as a dad (or dads) there isn't the need to physically recover from having a baby, but that doesn't mean the baby needs any less time or attention."
With his daughter at daycare during the week, and Michael working, he can happily report that he doesn’t feel that he's doing it alone. "I've got an amazing set of friends, coworkers and family that have been incredibly supportive and helpful; I'm grateful for them everyday."
And Michael's message to future gay dads? "If you decide it's what you really want, then don't let anything stop you. Keep going. Pick yourself up and keep trying. Take one next step at a time. It's unbelievably worth it."
“Savor every moment; the crying, the diaper changes, the spit up and everything in between. It goes by so quickly.” – Joselito and Anthony with baby Alyana
For Joselito and Anthony, who met through mutual friends at a Lady Gaga concert, the decision to adopt was an easy one.
“We both come from biologically separated families," said Joselito, "but we were so welcomed by our adopted and guardian parents, that we always had a strong desire to make things right with our child."
Two years after they began the adoption process, and after a number of connections with birth mothers fell through, their dream came true. Daughter Alyana was born January 4.
"To hold her in our arms was priceless." Joselito was very shaky and nervous the first time he held her, and Anthony was in shock and disbelief. "We couldn't believe we were holding our daughter."
Because it took two years for Joselito and Anthony to become dads, in many ways they had lots of time to prepare. They both took time off to take care of Alyana, which was incredibly precious to the dads. They wanted to be able to connect with her during her early stages. "It meant that we got to witness important milestones, such as crawling, learning to walk and even the babbling," says Anthony. "It means we get to know who she is from day one," adds Joselito.
Despite the initial challenges to become dads, Joselito and Anthony are besotted with their family of three, and have a few words to share with future dads: "Be strong and never give up; and remember the biggest weapon in the entire process is to be patient and to always remain positive."
"Caring for a child is the most selfless act you can do. It gives us purpose and we only wish we could spend more time with her." – Mauricio and Stephen with baby Isabella
Both Mauricio and Stephen come from large and close-knit families. Shortly after they met, they discussed wanting children and becoming fathers. Mauricio's parents are going on 45 years of marriage; Stephen's family all reside next door to each other in West Virginia. So for them, fatherhood was never a matter of "if," it was "when." They began their journey in the summer of 2015 and this April, Mauricio and Stephen became dads through open adoption to baby Isabella.
Now that they're dads, Mauricio and Stephen agree that everything has changed. “You relinquish all your control in order to dedicate your life to this little creature," said Mauricio. "However, the outcome is rewarding beyond words."
The new dads are experiencing sleepless nights and exhaustion beyond belief, but Isabella makes the toll worthwhile. And the shares sense of purpose is unlike anything they've ever known, helping to make their bond with each other even stronger. "The choices you make are no longer impacting the two of you," says Stephen, "but now there is this little third person who depends 100% on you."
Part of parenthood is figuring out how to care for your new child, and the dads are fast learners. "It's the most selfless act you can do," says Mauricio about taking the time to care for Isabella. "It's unconditional love and devotion for someone you have barely known."
"We enjoy every second we spent with Isabella," adds Stephen. "It gives us purpose and we only wish we could spend more time with her."
The dads definitely see more kids in their future. And they have some thoughts for new dads to consider, like preparing for the upheaval of a new routine, and surrounding yourself with loved ones who can help out. "Be realistic about the time off needed, it is hard work!" said Mauricio. Yet, despite the hard work and literally everything changing in their lives, new dads Mauricio and Stephen are rocking fatherhood and are besotted with their daughter Isabella.
“As hard as it is, we love every moment of it.” – Johnny and Sebastian with son Vaughn
Together 11 years, baby fever began to sprout for Johnny and Sebastian halfway through their relationship. After embarking on their surrogacy journey over three years ago, they welcomed their son Vaughn the day before Valentine's Day this year.
"So much about our lives has changed," says Johnny. "From the moment we wake up, our attention goes directly to our son. We plan our day around him, and we talk about our future plans in a very different way."
Bonding with their son during his first days of life was incredibly important to the new dads. "Having a child through surrogacy, as wonderful as it is," shares Johnny, "one can also feel a bit distant and disconnected since the process was done remotely with our surrogate who lives in a different state."
Like most new parents, they were nervous about the long sleepless nights that were to come but they both felt it was critical to be available and present to really bond and understand their new son.
The new dads admit it's certainly been a challenge at times – juggling a newborn, jobs, and their own expectations – but they're loving every minute of it.
"Life has been amazing," adds Sebastian. "We appreciate each day and each moment. Watching our son grow and develop is a gift; our capacity to love has definitely grown."
The new dads are making sure that they find time for themselves as both the journey to fatherhood, and actually being new fathers, is very emotional. "Be prepared to be drained and tired," is their message to future dads. "Being a father is an amazing gift," adds Johnny. "Whether you try surrogacy or adoption, there is no 'right way'... in the end, it will all be worth it."
Happy Father's Day to all dads, new, old and aspiring!