My daughter, Aria, was born a little over three months ago in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis in Belgium. Today, I want to share what this rollercoaster journey of shocking emotions has been like for me and how it has affected me positively and negatively.

frustrations.

My routines have drastically changed since I became a father. I used to be a single guy who could do whatever I wanted in my day. I was highly productive and was working on many projects and ideas. I took pictures daily, ran a photography business, and a photo festival in Brussels. I scheduled my days around the things that mattered to me, my ambitions and goals, and ignored the noise that would keep me away from my routines.

My wife, Sarah, is currently on maternity leave so she can take care of Aria. I, on the other hand, have not taken any sort of parental leave to take care of her at this moment in time. I work from home, and having both Aria and Sarah at home all the time, has had an impact on my productivity and time for myself. This situation has created frustrations along the way.

As a father, my routine took a hit, and I did not see it coming. I had no expectations and thought I would quickly adapt to being a father. However, my routines have changed a lot, and I am disappointed not to have all that time I used to have. I spend a big chunk of my days taking care of my daughter, either directly or indirectly, and she couldn’t care less about my former routines.

love.

I cannot pretend my daughter isn’t here. I also cannot pretend that because Sarah is on maternity leave, it means that she needs to take care of everything related to Aria. That would be ridiculous even to think. Aria is not necessarily demanding, but we want to do everything we can to fulfill her needs. We do this not only because it is our responsibility, but because we want to. I want to be there for my daughter, and even if I am not on paternal leave, I look forward to being present.

The one thing that makes my worries and frustrations disappear is the unconditional love I feel for my daughter. Every time I see her, I am filled with love. It is difficult not to smile when I see her, and I genuinely feel like being close to her. This natural feeling of deep affection towards my daughter has allowed me to be high in love rather than high in disappointment. And it is not that I do not get frustrated at all, because I do. However, all I need is a glance at my daughter, and the negative feelings vanish.

I may not have all the time in the world as I used to in the past, but is it worth getting annoyed? Aria is growing up fast. The small baby we had a couple of months ago is long gone. In no time, she will be walking, talking, and doing her own thing. Before I know it, she will be making her own life. She will live physically away from me, as I have done with my parents.

I have never felt such deep and authentic love in my life before and the joy of being with my daughter is unlike anything I have lived. I will regret for the rest of my life missing the ordinary fleeting moments of her childhood, just because I want to have some more minutes for myself here or there. I want to live in the moment and not waste this opportunity. I enjoy being a father much more than I ever expected.

meaning.

Since the moment my wife got pregnant, I knew there was no turning back. We wanted to have a child, and we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity we were hoping. Nevertheless, knowing that I was about to become a parent was overwhelming and terrifying. My life’s meaning had shifted entirely, and now, so suddenly, I felt I didn’t matter anymore.

Let me explain further.

Until that moment in which Sarah told me she was pregnant, my life revolved mainly around me. Of course, family, friends, and so on, were of high importance to me, but ultimately, my life was about me. When I knew I would have a child, I felt I didn’t matter anymore. My daughter’s life took more importance than my own.

This realization had a double effect on me. Firstly, I felt a deep and overwhelming feeling of grief, almost as if I had died from within because now, my life’s meaning had changed overnight. Secondly, I felt a great sense of responsibility and awareness towards my daughter, now dependent on me and in need of my unconditional love and attention.

Ultimately, my life filled with a different meaning, a new one, my child. The universe never revolved around me, I know, but it was clear that now it was turning around my daughter. Does it sound like too much? We usually tend to care more about others than ourselves, and she is the epitome of that in my life.

Have I ceased to exist? Not at all! Priorities have shifted, and I am excited about this shift.

fears.

Since Sarah got pregnant, I have started to develop fears inside of me about being a parent. Suddenly, many of the concerns I didn’t have before started appearing and becoming stronger every day. Now, I live in fear, although I try to put them away and pretend they aren’t there.

My biggest fear is, of course, death. Death is an unavoidable natural process that we are all facing. It will come, and I cannot do anything to stop it, I know. I had learned to accept death, but since Aria was born, my fears of it have grown very much. Now I continuously hammer myself by thinking about situations in which one of us dies, and what the consequences of it are. Macabre? Useless? Perhaps it is even slightly ridiculous, but it is present, and I cannot ignore it.

My fear of losing my daughter is greater than losing myself, and just the thought of it is devastating to me. Many people state that losing a child is the worst experience you could ever live. I cannot argue against that, but I can tell you that the thought of it alone is already overwhelming and mortifying. It is not that I do not accept death as a natural process in life, but that I have a hard time accepting that my daughter goes through it.

Other fears I have developed revolve mainly about my role in her life and how she will see me in the future. Will I be a good parent? Will I create traumas in her? Will I be able to provide her with what she needs? Will she appreciate my values? Am I doing the right thing? I bombard my brain with questions about what I do and how I see things in life and the impact it will have on her when she grows older. We are all impacted in many ways by what our parents did when we were younger. So, how am I going to affect her?

legacy.

Sarah has a son from a previous marriage, Matteo. He’s a sweet 10-year-old boy who lives with us for a week and then goes to his dad for a week. When I first met Sarah, she told me right away about Matteo. I knew that if I ever wanted to get serious with her, I would have to interact and share with him. Sarah was a package that included an enormous responsibility, Matteo.

When Sarah and I got more serious, one of my biggest fears was to be rejected by Matteo. A new person coming to his life can only be overwhelming and a lot to handle. How were we going to make this work if he didn’t like me? To add to the pressure, another obstacle way more prominent to overcome was the legacy I would leave on him.

What do I mean with this? I am always thinking about what the impact of my presence in his life will have on him. How will it affect his future? Are my teachings and behaviors exemplary to him? Is he learning anything from me that’s positive and useful? All these questions continuously invade my brain, and I try to live so that I do impact him in the right way. Time will tell, however, and my worries will not go away any time soon.

Matteo is like a son to me, and we have a beautiful relationship that I appreciate to the fullest. We get along, play, and enjoy our time very much together. I am fortunate to have him in my life, and I can only hope he feels safe and loved when I am around.

Now Aria came into my life, and unlike Matteo, she will grow up seeing me throughout her childhood from the very beginning. With Matteo, I already felt pressure about my legacy, and now my worries have only increased with Aria. I strive and hope to be an example for both of them.

appreciation.

Raising a child is not new to me. Matteo and Sarah have taught me lots about parenting, and I am grateful they have accepted me in their lives. They have shown me what it is to have a child, albeit not from the start, and they have had the patience to open their hearts to me and guide me along the way. I ended up being a stepdad with a huge responsibility to lead by example from being an independent guy and having no one under my wings.

My experience with them is what opened up the possibility for me to have a child of my own even though I didn’t want any children before. Since they allowed me to be part of their life, I have grown as a human being, learning to be even more thankful for the little things life brings you. I learned that having a child can be the most magnificent experience any person can wish for in their lives.

Having a daughter has been an incredible journey, and it has allowed me to appreciate life even more. I am fortunate to have been able to have a child, live in a safe place, see her growing every day, and have a beautiful, loving family that supports each other. I have been fortunate to find myself living the experiences I am currently living as a father, seeing my baby daughter grow and change daily.

The simple things in life can give us so much if we learn to appreciate them. We tend to focus too much on what we do not have and ignore what we do have. Because of this, we can damage our relationships and self-confidence along the way. My daughter has freshened up my thankfulness about what I have and what I am to this day.

My life has changed a lot. Not only do I have a new daughter, but we are in the middle of a pandemic. Regardless of some difficult aspects that these changes have had in my life, I realize I have been extremely fortunate to be at this moment in time living what I am currently living. Instead of pushing away my frustrations, I have taken the time to listen and understand them. It has allowed me to steam away those negative thoughts and see them in a different, more positive light.

In the end, my daughter has taught me to appreciate my new life and what I have. Instead of focusing on what I do not have, I focus on the now with thankfulness. Because of her, I am a better version of myself.