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I had trouble wrapping my head around being a dad.

When my daughter, Mila, was first born, it was hard to even say, “I’m a father.” Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I get the feeling that many other guys have have similar experiences.

I did not feel prepared in any way for this lifelong undertaking. I was not ready to be a dad, I told myself. The whole concept felt foreign to me. The problem was it was still a concept with which I had little experience to help make it real.

I have always been the most important person in my life, and I did not want to sacrifice me. All of a sudden, I had this little being with constant demands and needs. The thing is, once Mila arrived, there was not a moment to even think about myself, let alone get lost in self-important reverie. Action was—and still is—constantly required.

Now, over seven months have passed and saying the words, “I’m a dad” comes much easier to me. The concept has turned into a reality that I live every day—a day that starts early. I used to love sleeping in and now that seems like a distant memory. But, the truth is, I have fallen in love in ways that were hard for me to conceptualize just a few, but somehow long, months ago.

People say that being a parent will open your heart, and it’s true. Love sits in my heart, and I now understand this experience on a profound level. Love is not a this-for-that-relationship or an exchange where I give something only to get in return. Love is not a transaction or something that needs much conceptualizing. Love is the cracking of the shell. It is an act of pure giving with no expectation of reward. It is Karma yoga and Bhakti yoga wrapped in one.

I see pure joy in my daughter’s smile and I get lost in time—or rather time gets lost. If I don’t put away my worries and devices, then I will miss the moment and it will be gone. I make a concerted effort to be present with her. It’s at these moment when I touch upon the “flow state,” where time ceases to exist and I experience grace.

At seven-months-young, Mila is growing and changing so fast that I will fully miss out on one of her developmental phases if I’m not present. Instinct takes over and I simply don’t want to miss out.

My wife says that she has felt a deep love for Mila from even before she was born. I had an idea of love, but it has morphed into an experience of love that has continued to grow with each passing week. The challenges and worries are real, but they are different than I had expected. We are lucky that she is a happy and healthy baby, but, in many ways, being a father has been more challenging than I imagined. Yet, at the same time, it is easier than I expected.

Life has been interrupted and forever changed, but it still goes on in much the same way. The experience is always different from the idea of what it might be, and this seems to be the case in spades. A part of me still doesn’t feel ready to be “Daddy,” but I’m not sure I’d ever be 100% ready for this experience.

It’s the leap—not the step—that makes all the difference, and I’ve jumped in with both feet. Love has made all the difference.

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