A Dad's Reading Journey: Sharing Stories with my Daughter Before she was Born
My daughter lay under warm lights. A doctor kept rubbing her with a rough NHS towel to get her blood flowing. She tried to cry at the harshness of it but her eyes stayed closed. She didn’t seem to know she was born.
In front of the midwife and doctor, I overcame self-consciousness to crouch down and tell my new baby that everything was going to be okay, that she’d meet her mum soon, that she was doing really well. What happened next will always stay with me.
As soon as my daughter heard my voice, her eyes opened for the first time. She immediately turned to look at me, and fixed me with a profound stare. I am convinced she wanted to see the source of the voice that had been reading to her all this time.
As soon as my daughter heard my voice, her eyes opened for the first time
For this unforgettable moment, and for many other reasons, I am now convinced of the benefits of dads, granddads, siblings, of anyone, really, reading to their babies-to-be.
In the weeks following our daughter’s birth, people kept asking me the same question, ‘how does it feel to be a dad?’ For fear of being annoying, I never admitted that I had felt like a dad since I’d started reading to Bump. But it’s true.
Of course, how it felt to be a dad changed when our daughter finally arrived. However, reading my favourite children’s books to our baby as she grew helped me to feel like I was already a dad doing dad things.
If I could give any advice to expectant dads: pick books to read that you know you will enjoy
If I could give any advice to expectant dads, it would be to pick books to read that you know you will enjoy. I stuck to my own childhood favourites. Mostly Roald Dahl. Reading books like this made it far easier to read Bump a bedtime story on those tired nights when Netflix was making its siren call.
A hidden benefit of reading to Bump each night was that reading aloud became good fun. It was the perfect way to start tamping down my self-consciousness. I like silly voices and it was the perfect opportunity to use them. Moreover, it made me more confident about talking to our baby when she finally arrived.
I had always planned to go on many reading journeys with my daughter. But now, after reading to her while she was still Bump, each time we set off, I’ll be thinking of those nights when we lay in bed sharing books with her; dreaming of the first time she would open her eyes.