In our “Dad Stories” series, Otter Pass will tell the stories of fathers in various parts of their parenting journeys as we head toward Father’s Day. This week, we asked Duston Willis—the world's most enthusiastic new dad—to talk about how his life has changed since his daughter London was born. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to find out more about the amazing dads we feature!
On Finding Out He Was Going to Be a Dad
It didn’t sink in immediately My wife Shannon and I met at an athletic training conference five years ago, and have been happily married for three years. We’re both high school teachers and I am one of six kids. Growing up with so many siblings, as well as working with kids, there was never a doubt in my mind that one day I would be a dad. I have two nephews and a niece that I’ve been involved with since they were born, so the idea of becoming a dad myself was not something I was scared of. I just knew this one I couldn’t give back at the end of the day.
It took a little time, but once my wife and I were through the first trimester, I could feel myself becoming more and more excited. My wife will tell you I started “nesting.” I repainted the baby’s room, put the crib together, filled the bookshelves with all the children’s books ever, put a rocker and lamp in the corner—that was all five months before the due date.
On His Daughter's Birth
Many of my friends told me to be ready to cry when baby girl is born, but I’m not much of a crier. I teach biology, we discuss this very process year after year, so to me, this was not anything new.
I have never been so wrong.
To be there, to see your own child born was—for me—an overwhelming, surreal, and truly authentic experience that cannot be explained by words. It was nothing less than a miracle. From that day, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a dad, and that feeling has only been enhanced each day.
London, not so much: She looked at me and started scream-crying.
On Those First Sleepless Weeks
The first few weeks, Shannon and I didn’t sleep in the same bed at the same time. London was breastfeeding every 2 hours, so I did everything in my power to keep Shannon comfortable and get her what she needed. I went into those first weeks knowing I was going to become sleep deprived and eventually, a zombie. Surprisingly, the excitement or anticipation kept me going day to day, and night after night.
I became the master of powernaps, as well as swaddling. I’m not a big time self-horn tooter, but my swaddling skills are professional grade.
This tiny child is relying on you for everything, and it is not an option to fail. You will go the extra mile, you will do the things that you never thought you’d do, and you will do it all for them without hesitation.
On How Quickly Time Passes
I wish I knew how quickly it was going to change. London is six months old. That is the perfect age for an infant, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change the past six months at all, but this is the first time, I feel like I want to stop time. I want to live in this moment a little longer. Friends would tell me, “Don’t blink, you’ll miss it!” Honestly, I don’t miss those first three months.
But now she sleeps all night, is so expressive, sits up on her own, has started trying all kinds of new foods. She’s a big-time babbler. She is so curious and alert, it’s amazing to just watch her mind working endlessly.
This is what I’ll miss. This is when I don’t want to blink.
Duston’s Tips for New Dads
- Do not, under any circumstances argue with your partner before you both have had something to eat. Being hangry is real and it kills 44% of first-time fathers each year (Disclaimer: I just made that up.)
- But seriously, there will be many disagreements, on all kinds of new topics. The best thing to remember is you both are sleep deprived, neither of you have ever been here before, and chances are, she’s right anyway. It’s easier to submit, think about it, and revisit it later if you feel it’s necessary.
- Take time for the initial adjustment, but after your feet find the ground once again, continue living. If you want to go out with the boys, if you want to go on a date, or if you want to take a walk at the park, do it. The baby will adapt to whatever lifestyle you have. This child is a part of your family now. In my opinion, the smoothest transition into this new life is to make your new baby a part of your life and family rather than make your life all about them.
- Babies will make you step up and become a better person because you have no other choice. Your life is about to change, but for the better.
We’d love to hear from experienced parents—what are the things you wished you’d known about the adjustment of adding a kid to your family? Share your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook or Instagram pages!