Mark Arnold Senabulya strives to leave the places he goes better than he found them. As a new father, he shares what this means in light of being an active dad.
My lovely daughter is called Tessa Marie Macklyn Havila Mulungi. Tessa Marie was a name given to her by her mum, Macklyn by the grandmother, and Mulungi because God is good. She really treated my wife very well. She is an angel. When she was born, I was just…phhh. The thing is you never really get ready for these things. When I arrived, I stayed in the hospital with my wife, she was expecting it to be later on but she had the most comfortable delivery ever. It was so dope. I got to see everything in 3D. I was holding her leg. I was even asking the doctor if I was in the right position to hold the leg. It all happened well. It was all step-by-step, things like inches etc. The good thing is that my wife is a doctor so she knew the terminologies of what to say and what not to say. Then we went through it. Tessa came out, head first, crying, looking like one kilogram of sugar! It was so real. We had a moment where we were just crying with joy. We were just blessed. The other good thing is that it was a surprise; we did not know the gender so we were all like, “Oh my God, it’s a girl…”
About the day she was born
It was just super cool. It was memorable. I can never forget that day, no matter what.
I remember thinking she is so small at the beginning. The first time I saw her, she was so small, so tiny. She was wow. But she was good. She looked good. She cried (makes crying noises). The doctors were so impressed and kept saying we only spent about 15 minutes in labor. They even though this was the second or third child and when we said this was the first child, they were like “What!” It was just a lot of prayer. We thank God for it. She is cool. She is our light. Tessa looks so fragile, super innocent. You feel like you just want to take her away and protect her. I was in a state of, “this is happening, this is real. This is not a game. This stuff is happening. Oh my word.” You immediately feel the weight of responsibility on your shoulders. You feel the joy of damn, I am a dad now.
The first night as a father
The first night with the girl was a real cry night. I had barely slept the days before. I would come and she would be crying. I am supposed to be there and hold her. I had a bit of a sleep debt and I was called to duty. It can be frustrating. It can be extreme. It can feel like you are about to explode, or not to explode, or about to jump…there are so many feelings. But as a guy, you have to stand your ground and be firm because you are the foundation of the family so you better hold your own. You better hold it down and be responsible and actually stand in the gap and be there. As a man, you have to be steady. So I learned even from that point on that I have to be my wife’s biggest supporter, her biggest help, the person she can rely on. Her rock.
I actually had to test the baby and be with her the first night and give my wife some time to sleep and to rest but there’s like maybe a two-hour interval between breast feeding so she would get some sleep and then bring her back. And then I would also get some sleep. It was interesting and super cool.
What they don’t tell you
They do not tell you that you are now going to be holding it down. Like they need to be clear about that. They don’t tell you that you’re going to be the guy. You got to know that before, that you’re going to be the guy! And if you have never been the guy, then you got to go up just like that. So it a real growing up incident. I would say they tell you everything and they tell you nothing. You think you know until you go through it. So you would have to prepare, you would have to be like a Psuedo-dad before. You have to learn how to be a good father. You cherish it and at the same time feel responsible. You get to know the weight it holds, and appreciate it. Have some practice and be there. Do not get off or anything.
Between mom and dad
Between my wife, and me I think we talk mostly about our daughter’s future. How we shall raise her, where the diaper is, and current and future issues. So it’s up and down. It is enjoyable but sometimes it just takes a different tangent, and then comes back, then you remind yourselves to love each other; it is just interesting. We worry about how she is going to turn out, how she is going to be, what’s going to happen. As a dad, maybe I’ve read a lot of books, but I have learnt that she needs to be reminded every day that she is the only one particular kind of person on this earth. That she is as precious and as rare as diamonds and gold. That she is an individual on her own; she does not necessarily have to follow one of you, but she also needs to find her own calling and grow to just be the best version of her she can be. I mean as a dad, there are so many worries you could have, life, studies, how is it going to be, how is she going to feed, is she cranky; I mean there’s a whole flurry! You also think about the money for this and that but as I said being there for her and taking it day by day works. Do not overwhelm yourself with a million things, just focus on that day, as you plan for the future. As a guy, you have to hold it down financially, there’s no question about that.
Being clueless and overwhelmed is like, (laughs), yeah it happens quite a bit. But you just have to simply understand, and I also pray a lot so I’ve really got that going for me. I really get down in the Word of God and praise encourages me. If I did not have the word, I promise I would be crazy off but I thank God. Family plays a big role too, keeping you on the straight and narrow and trying to make sure you’re not overwhelmed. But those times happen very very often.
About what is appreciated most
The main thing my wife appreciates about my support is being there. You can provide, you can assist, but there is nothing like someone who is dependable, someone who she can depend on for anything at any one time. It is mainly your presence, you taking the baby, knowing how to change a diaper, or how to feed the baby, knowing to be with the baby so she can have a breather. If there’s anything a guy can do, you just have to be there for “shortie!”. If possible, you can pick one day and work half day, and go surprise her. Trust me, you will make her so happy, you have no idea!
The support system
I do have my boys that I talk to and share with. Some of them have children; others do not. Some are not married yet, others are dating and others are single. I would say it ranges in terms of having someone to share my fatherhood experiences with, because everyone gives you different tit-bits. For example, a single guy will show you that it is good you are married, and a dating guy will show you that it is good that you have taken some steps in life, and another married guy can share and comfort you but I think everyone has a role to play.
About parenting styles
I would say that you need to have structure, like a roof over your head, food on the table, a place to sleep; you need to have that structure. Then you can also have the structure to know the basics of doing good and bad. A child needs structure because they are thinking and learning all the time. I mean its simple dynamics. If we put effort and emphasis on how we drive, you go to a school to learn how to drive, you put emphasis on how to construct a building and you have all these plans for how you are going to do it, then what about ourselves if you are raising the next generation? You also need to have plans for that and actually put some structures there as well, not just leave it anyhow.
From one Ugandan father to another
For a Ugandan dad, you are going to have a lot of challenges. You will have challenges from everywhere. I would not call them problems, because if I call them problems, you will just keep having problems in your life. I would say challenges. Deal with one challenge at a time. If you deal with many at a time, you may forget a crucial one and then it will come back to bit you. As a dad, first I would not advise you to have children with no source of income. If you have found somebody, stick to that person and grow with them. If you do not have somebody, and you just want to have children, have your child and be actively involved in their life. There are so many fatherless children that it hurts. As men, we are supposed to be the foundation of the home and the society. So be a guy!!
Mark Arnold Senabulya was born and bred here in Kampala, Uganda. He is married and has one daughter. He is a Civil Engineer by profession and joined Com consults before moving on to Seroma Limited where he is still working. He loves God and has grown up in the Christian faith; he works to grow and be a better servant in the Kingdom of God every day. He loves to play sports, and has played basketball, baseball, soccer, football and badminton although he enjoys basketball the most. He is yet to try American football. His belief is in improving where he is and not leave anyone behind.