Dear New Dad

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, step-dads, grandads and soon to be dads out there. We are aware that sometimes support for new parents can feel very mum focused, so to celebrate Father’s Day this year, we asked the WCAT dads what advice they would like to give to a new dad, here’s what they had to say.

First off, congratulations! Every child is different but the best advice we received and I can give 4 years on, is really the simplest…take one day at a time and always aim for happy. I had very little experience of Down syndrome so it was scary at the beginning, what was gonna happen? Would people accept her? (on the whole she is very loved by our local community) and how did I even feel about it all? I really was overwhelmed with all the information being thrown at us at the beginning, and I have to say not always the nicest news. We had a lot of appointments due to Jocelyn (like many of our little lovely’s) having a heart defect, and all the worries that come with that; but here’s the thing… NEVER underestimate our kids, they always have a way of proving everyone wrong. So try not to look too far into the future, live in the here and now and deal with one thing at a time, day by day and most of all, enjoy time with your little one. Learn patience, try not to get hung up and focused on “milestones” as they will get there on their own timetable and in their own unique… often hilarious ways and I promise you you’ll never know pride like it when they “crack that thing” you’ve been waiting for them to do! Brian

You have a unique opportunity to take a journey only the chosen few take. For those who embrace it the rewards are incredible. Imagine planting your flag on the top of Everest, the sense of achievement you would feel, that’s how I feel everyday with Neive. The journey to planting that flag isn’t easy and different days take different routes, some easier, some hard but every one worth it. Before Neive my experience with Down syndrome was limited and like many I hoped that it wouldn’t happen to my child. The bit they don’t tell you is all the good stuff and there is so much of that! I’ll let you find out for yourself, you won’t be disappointed. Simon

I’m not sure I’m really qualified to give any advice, try me in another 20 years from now and I might be…. I can say that if you are having kids, strap yourself in, its gonna get all kinds of crazy with or without that extra chromosome. If having Henry has taught me something, it’s that our kids are capable of anything if given enough time, the right approach and support. We constantly treat Henry the same as (if not tougher than) our other two kids, no limitations. He’s never failed to surprise us. John

Sometimes the journey will look hard. Adjusting to new expectations and figuring out how to support your child with Down syndrome the best way possible. Our advice is to find those things that bring them joy. Try different experiences! Look for mentors and don’t be ashamed to lean on their advice. Help your child develop their skills and make sure they know you have their back. It’s a unique road, but it’s a wonderful road.  

 

So when my partner asked me “Do you fancy giving advice to prospective fathers before they enter this crazy world of being a parent to a child with DS??” I thought wow, what do you say?? What words do you put together to suitably describe how utterly bonkers and wonderful this journey is?? See, I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to figure this role out!! Everyday is a new experience with the clan, and everyday little Archie shows me more and more how wonderful and rewarding life can be. As such the only advice I can really give is this: enjoy the ride, savour those lows as well as the highs. Honestly, there will be days when you’ll doubt yourself, as well as questioning if you are the best candidate to be that role model to your little man, or girl. It will be a challenge, there’s no denying that. It will be easy to listen to stereotypes associated with DS and it will be easy to feel a sense of trepidation as you become a dad. However, I can assure you, it’s one of the best feelings in the world to become your little one’s best mate!! Your child will surprise you and show you that Down Syndrome won’t define who they are. Your child will be loving, your child will be cheeky and your child will make you realise how lucky you are! So, have faith, it will click into place and that bond with the kiddlywinks will develop and grow. Simply put, just be you, have fun and give a little love.

Nobody tells you just how fantastic life is going to be. Peter

Nothing can truly prepare you for becoming a dad, even if it’s your second child. Each baby brings their own unique personality into your family, add to that a diagnosis of Down syndrome and it can be very overwhelming, particularly if there are lengthy hospital stays involved. My advice: try to enjoy your time, try to block out the chaos and noise and just focus on what you have. Make memories, have fun and watch your little one grow, soon you’ll be off having adventures and realising that Down syndrome is just a tiny part of your child it certainly doesn’t define who they are or what they can achieve. John

Congratulations on becoming a father!! I’ll pass on some of the things I wish I was told when beautiful Willow was first born. First and foremost enjoy the moment, don’t let thoughts of the future distract you from such an amazing and loving first few weeks for your family. Secondly, do not worry! Of course there will be bumps in the road ahead (as with any child) but you will see that after every bump your child will be stronger and happier, they will honestly continue to amaze you every day and as a father there’s nothing more fulfilling. If those “milestones” come a little later than expected then see it as having the luxury of more time with your child at every stage of their life at a time where children grow up way too fast! Finally, you will become a better person too! You will meet new people (the amazing WCAT community) and experience things many other parents won’t, you are genuinely lucky to have this opportunity to be a father to such a special little human, embrace it and enjoy every second of it! Dan

Firstly, congratulations! Having a baby is an exciting and scary time all rolled into one and it’s no different when you have a baby who happens to have Down syndrome. Now I definitely don’t feel in a position to give advice, as I think, as a dad (to any child) you just try and do your best and hope that that’s ok! One of the things I would say is you’ll feel a whole mix of emotions over the next few weeks/months/years but just remember that despite all the appointments, visits, etc you may have, your baby is just like any other baby. Give them lots of love, cuddles, attention and don’t settle for anything less than the best for them.

When we had Matt, who is now 17 (how did that happen!?), I went through a rollercoaster of emotions and being Matt’s dad has continued to be a rollercoaster – the times being nervous of what is coming next as you go round a corner, times of exhilaration when he achieves against the odds, the times of being upside down when you feel a bit lost amongst a world of medical acronyms and the times when you’re at the highest point and realise that life from this new perspective is pretty good! I love playing football with him, playing tennis, riding our new tandem bike (in the photo), watching any sport, walking the dog together and he absolutely loves rollercoasters too! I can’t say your life is going to be easy (Matt has autism as well as DS which makes for interesting times) but it will certainly be an adventure, and one where you’ll meet loads of amazing people, have experiences that you wouldn’t have had otherwise and have the privilege of raising a child, like we have with Matt, who will have a positive impact on yours, and lots of other people’s lives. Congratulations again and remember, you may doubt you are doing a good enough job, but just the fact you doubt it, means you are already an amazing dad! Andy

My son has an extra chromosome which makes him extra special, we are practically inseparable. James

Congratulations! I really do mean that. Not only because you’ve had a baby, but also because you are one of a very small number of men who will get to have their lives enriched by this unique experience. You wouldn’t believe the amount of dads who, years down the line, describe this as having “won the lottery”. Knowing what I know now I’d 100% bet this journey will make you a better dad, and a better man. I know that, like the rest of us, you’ll eventually be saying “I wouldn’t change a thing.” However, I also know that you probably don’t feel that way right now and nothing that I say will change that – and that’s fine. Don’t beat yourself up about struggling to be positive yet. It’s normal. We’ve been asked to give advice. Well, I can’t give you parenting advice, that’s for sure, I’m still working that one out! There are things I’d do differently at the very beginning though so that’s what I want to tell you. Firstly, no-matter how you feel right now, I want you to just believe what me and all the other dads are saying here about your future. There’s too many of us saying the same thing for it to be chance. It WILL be amazing. Trust us! Secondly (powered by your newfound blind faith in your future!) let the future go! Go and enjoy the first weeks of your baby’s life the same, if not more, than you would anyway. Because I didn’t do that. And I’ll never get those weeks back. I worried, I drank, I googled, worried some more….. rinse and repeat. All while Rosie, who needed me more than most, waited for me to snap out of it. So my advice to you is to pull up your big-boy pants and go love your child. I promise – he or she will be the best thing that has ever happened to you and it will absolutely define your existence in the most positive way imaginable. Welcome to the club. Jamie

My advice would be to enjoy all the smiles, kisses and cuddles that come your way. Don’t dwell on any perceived negatives. Enjoy all your child’s achievements along the way, no matter how small or how long it takes to get there. Always do whatever it takes to make your child happy. They deserve the best life imaginable and we are lucky to have been given the chance to make that possible. Stuart

Happy Father’s Day. Advice for any new dads: At first I was scared for Dan’s future, thinking way too many things in a short space of time. It’s tough at first, but try not to do that. Take one day at a time. You’ll grow with your child. You’ll be proud of all the milestones, regardless of how long they take to achieve. Mark

Thanks to our WCAT dads for contributing, if you are a parent seeking support, please join our #Wouldn’tChangeAThing Parent Support Group on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/801281006738525

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