Unsolicited Advice from a New Gay Dad
In completely random order:
Start thinking about daycare as soon as possible. Within three weeks of finding out we were expecting, I put us on about eight daycare waitlists in our area. If you live in a major city like we do (Toronto), good daycare is hard to find. Waitlists can be up to two years long, so the earlier you get on the lists, the better. And don’t forget to follow up every few months to ensure your place in line. If you are going the nanny route, connect with other parents in your area with nannies. It’s a tight network and they will be able to point you in the right direction.
You might not bond with your child right away and that’s okay. When a woman is pregnant, gives birth and then breastfeeds, they provide unique opportunities to bond with the baby. These opportunities aren’t afforded to us gay dads. Whether your child comes into your life through surrogacy, adoption or fostering, the bonding process doesn’t follow the same trajectory for everyone. Be patient.
The time will come (maybe when you least expect it) that your bond with start to form with your new family member. If you feel like it’s taking longer than it should, consult a specialist (e.g., family therapist, doula, etc.) who may be able to support you as you build a bond with your child.
Follow other gay dads on social media. If you’re like us and don’t know too many other gay dads, you may feel a little isolated (especially at baby-centered social programs which are usually full of moms). We started following lots of other gay dads on social media (Instagram, Facebook, blogs) and found it really reassuring. We even connected with a few other gay dads over messenger/DMs to talk about our experiences. Find your tribe!
Borrow before you buy. The process of surrogacy and adoption can be long and costly. When preparing for a new child, there will be an endless list of products you will need to purchase. If possible, borrow items from friends/family and test them out first. If that option isn’t available, then buy second-hand. With the exception of things like bottles and our carseat, we were open to procuring items second hand. Kids grow fast and if you don’t need to spend $200 on something you’ll only use for a few months!
Avoid entering the Milestone Olympics. Every child is different. Each will develop at their own unique pace. Yes, there are approximate times that children “hit” certain milestones, but don’t end up in a competition with other parents. Everyone loses. If you’re worried about a certain milestone, check with your child’s pediatrician (and not with “Sharon” who lives three doors down).
Find time for yourself (if possible). Having a child is hard work and it can be utterly exhausting, especially in those first few months. If you have a partner, make sure you give each other a break sometimes. If you are a single parent, find a trusted family member or close friend with whom you’re comfortable and ask them to come over so you can have a break. Sleep, go to a movie, get a bite to eat or just sit on a bench in a park – whatever! But try and find time to take a break; you’ll need it. If you don’t have a support network close by, see what community resources might be available. In our city, there are public health nurses that will do weekly visits to your home to provide support and advice.
It’s okay to have a cry. There will be moments when you are utterly overwhelmed. When it happens, take a step back and have a cry. Meditate. Have a shower. Make sure the baby is in a safe environment (their crib, for example), and step away, even if just for a few minutes. Take a breath and realize that what you’re feeling is totally normal and raising a child is NOT EASY. If you find yourself in a particularly dark cloud, consult a mental health professional for guidance and support.