Men describe the first moment they really felt like dads

Jun 19, 2015 at 6:31 p.m. ET

A woman can begin to feel like a mom the moment she gets a positive pregnancy test, but for dads it's not always instant like that. It might be the moment his newborn baby is placed in his arms, the first night he spends rocking his crying child to sleep or the first time his baby mumbles "Dada." In light of Father's Day, we asked our Expert dads to share those moments with us. Here's what they said.

When I heard my son say,"Why does Daddy always take so long in the bathroom?"

"Becoming a dad isn't some switch you flip. It's just a new title and a new responsibility to add to the myriad others you accumulate as an adult. It's the most important one, obviously, but it's only as transformative as you allow it to be, for better or worse. I have a kid, but I'm not so much a capital-F father as I am simply the same me I've always been, just much busier and a lot more stressed. I take pride in that.

Yeah, I became a dad the instant I held my son in my hands, but after nearly five years living with a mini-me I helped create, I still don't always feel like one. Then I hear: "Why does Daddy always take so long in the bathroom?" And I realize that as far as my son is concerned, I've always been a dad. And that's what matters. That and having enough toilet paper."

– Mike Julianelle of Dad and Buried

When I first looked at my son

"We were alone in Arizona and we turned into zombies; we were on remote control when our son was born, I do not ever remember any particular feeling of being a dad, there was no space in my head for that, we just had to keep this creature alive! We were in charge of him as we took him out of the hospital after one day.

The only feeling that stands out for me is from when he was born. Immediately after the C-section, they drugged his birth mother up and I was able to move from keeping her calm to look at my son. I immediately had a feeling of recognition, that we had been together before, and we were together again. Then I cried for an hour.

I found the picture above from when Paul was 8 days old. I am in the middle and my Italian Catholic spouse is holding our new baby. This was taken at the Bris, the Hebrew circumcision ceremony. I guess I could say I never thought I could be a dad because I was a gay person, so I was particularly choked up at that. Instead of being an attendee at this type of service, I was finally participating at one where it was my own son being welcomed into my religion, just as I had and my people have for thousands of years."

– Mitch Chaitin of Gay Dad NYC

When my pregnant wife started having food cravings

"Fatherhood hit me even before I even was a father. Six months pregnant, my wife, Sarah, shook me awake at 2:45 a.m. and said, "I'm sorry to wake you up, but can you go buy me a pear?" She'd never expressed much of an interest in pears before. Of course, I said. The woman at the all-night grocery store looked at me, then down at the lone, green pear on the conveyor belt, then back up to me. "My wife's pregnant," I said. Without another word, she just nodded... a nod that seemed to speak to the absurdity, the love and the shared sense of purpose that make up modern parenting. Looking back, though, I realize what her nod really said: Welcome to the other side, honey."

– Alex Sheshunoff of A Beginner's Guide to Paradise

Right after my twins were born prematurely

Image: Lauren Kren

"I felt like a dad right after my twins were born; they were delivered three months prematurely because of complications my son was having and only weighed two pounds at birth.

The day after their birth, I had to go two hours away by car to participate in a three month startup accelerator, and I only got to see them in the NICU on the weekends. I was rooting so hard for them to pull through, and would get excited every weekend to see how much better they looked and hear the stories about how well they were doing.

I thought about the twins every day and loved spending time with them and my wife on the weekends during their two month stay in the NICU."

– James Oliver of TrepLife Dad