Becoming a Dad

My transformation from a clueless husband to a nurturing father

By Khoukham Seebounhouang (Accounting & Finance officer at UNICEF Lao PDR)
Khoukham Seebounhouang (Accounting & Finance officer at UNICEF Lao PDR)
UNICEF Laos/2018/Saykoson

05 November 2018

Vimali was born on the 18th of February, a year after my wife and I got married. We had always wanted a child. When the hospital confirmed that we were going to have a baby, I was so happy and utterly speechless.

She is the first grandchild in our families, so everyone has been very excited. My wife and I read a lot of articles including UNICEF’s parenting brochures to prepare for her coming. I also tried “baby talk”, speaking and interacting with her. Research shows that talking to your baby helps nurture the bond between you and them and helps boost your baby’s brain development. I would say something like “hello”, “how are you today”, simple things. Even though she was in the womb, she reacted sometimes! It was a strange feeling.  

On Valentine’s Day, my wife’s belly started to feel itchy and there were irregular moves inside, so we went to the hospital to check, and decided to stay there because the doctor told us that the baby might come out that week. I asked my supervisor whether I could have extended leave, and he told me to take my time.

It was a Sunday when Vimali came. When we first saw her, my wife cried, and I almost cried as well. She was a big 3.165-kilogram baby. I came up with the name Vimali when I was driving home one day. “Mali” means flower in Lao, and “Vi” refers to a girl.

Khounkham Seebounhouang (Accounting & Finance officer at UNICEF Lao PDR) is playing with his daughter
UNICEF/LAOS/2018/SSanoubane
Khounkham Seebounhouang and his wife are playing with his daughter

During the entire time of pregnancy, UNICEF provided a very supportive environment to us. My wife works for the government, and she still went to the office during pregnancy but doing light duties only. I would drive her to work first every day before coming to UNICEF. My supervisor allowed me to use the flexi time policy, so I could adjust my working hours around my wife's appointments. The insurance system CIGNA also covered all the medical bills, saving us a lot of money.

I have been taking care of Vimali by myself for two months now, because my wife went to study in China, six months after Vimali’s birth. Every day in the morning before work, I drop Vimali off at my mother’s house, then go to work. I join them for lunch and pick her up after work. The flexi time policy helps me a lot to juggle between places.

Khounkham Seebounhouang (Accounting & Finance officer at UNICEF Lao PDR) is playing with his daughter
UNICEF/LAOS/2018/SSanoubane
Khounkham Seebounhouang (Accounting & Finance officer at UNICEF Lao PDR) is playing with his daughter

Vimali is growing up every day, and sometimes she tries to express her feelings. Speaking and interacting with her is important because it makes it easier for her to learn words. Now when she wants to speak with us, you can hear she say “blah blah” or “mei” (meaning “mom” in Lao).

To become a dad means you have more responsibilities. Before we had Vimali, I didn’t need to care for anybody. Now I am like a mother and a father at the same time. My wife gives instructions remotely, but she isn’t the one doing it (laughing). It has been a huge adjustment for me, and I learned by doing.