It's been more than a month since the big Instagram reveal: that adorable baby in the Belo Baby ads is the daughter of Drs. Vicki Belo and Hayden Kho, Jr. Born via a surrogate mother, and with everything about her conception and birth being hush-hush, Scarlet Snow, this sweet 15-month old with her smiling eyes, chubby cheeks, and cute antics, was a big surprise to the world.
That said, 2016 isn't the first time Hayden is celebrating Father's Day. Scarlet was born on March 3, 2015—but this year is a lot different besides the fact that he is now a father: for the first time in seven years, the public's eyes are again on him—only this time, he's enjoying the attention. We caught up with the first-time dad to see how he's finding fatherhood so far.
"Ever since I was young, I wanted to be a father," Hayden says. "There was a time in my life when I thought maybe I shouldn't be a father, maybe I don't deserve it, maybe I don't have the ability to raise a child. For seven years, I just thought maybe I'm not capable," he admits. But in 2010, when he embraced the Christian faith, he started contemplating again about starting a family.
Hayden as a dad
Hayden's journey to fatherhood is unique not only because of how Scarlet was conceived and born, but also because it was a calculated decision. "I think in my case it started with the head and then it moved to the heart and then the hands," he reveals. He thought about why he wanted to be a father, weighed the pros and cons, before initiating the process of making his dream of being a father a reality.
IMAGE Lai de Guzman
Preparing for his new role was internal, deep, and very personal. "I guess [it's about] correcting the mindset about things and thinking about how to be a good example to your child, what is really right and wrong, what is really the truth, what are the things worthy of pursuing and what are things that I should let go [of]. These things, all of a sudden, they matter. And until I could settle that within myself, I can't give that to her."
He talked to a lot of dad-friends to get guidance and tips, because, he acknowledges "there is no manual to being a father." Prayer also helped him and Vicki prepare for their roles as parents to Scarlet. "More than three times a day, Vicki and I [would] pray a lot specifically for Scarlet, what we want and like her to be, just [asking for] guidance on how to bring her up so that she can have the right character."
Welcoming Scarlet Snow into their life
Scarlet was conceived through in vitro fertilization, was carried to term by a surrogate, and was born via normal delivery. Though her arrival into their lives was nothing short of extraordinary, he and Vicki were consistently part of the whole journey. Hayden took us to that special day:
Learning the ropes of daddyhood
Fast forward to the present. When asked to describe himself now as a dad, the first word that came to mind was "changing, continuously changing," Hayden says. There were things he had to let go of, things that are not worthy to take his time away from his daughter. He also had to fix his schedule. "When Scarlet was born, nagbago lahat. I became regimented [like Vicki] because I wanted to make sure that I was here (Vicki's home) to join them [for] breakfast, lunch and dinner. I wanted to make sure that we were always a family when we ate," he stresses.
Hayden also loves teaching Scarlet and helping her learn. If you follow Scarlet's or Hayden's Instagram accounts, you'll know that this baby has a bag full of tricks up her sleeve, and a capacity to communicate that is advanced for her age. "The baby's brain is full of potential and we're really underestimating its capability. You really kinda have to start them young," he explains on why Scarlet already has a learning schedule.
IMAGE Lai de Guzman
And just like any parent, Hayden's world now revolves around his daughter. He puts her needs above his own. "She really became my priority ever since she was born. I realized that my life will be lived through her eyes, so whatever her experiences will be, will be my experience [also]. [If] she's happy, then I'm happy. If she's sad, then I'm sad," he explains. "Being a father really means that you have to protect her, to provide for her, to nurture her—and to do those things lovingly and selflessly."
As a very hands-on dad to a toddler who's nearing the dreaded terrible-two stage, Hayden couldn't help but light up whenever he describes their best dad-and-daughter moments together:
Below, Hayden shares even more about his newly-found status, his wishlist of inventions for dads, and his two-cents' worth to all dads-to-be:
What's the task you most enjoy about childcare?
"[Giving Scarlet a] baby massage. She doesn't enjoy it as much as I do but I love giving her [a] massage. Ayaw niya ng nakadapa e. She likes moving, she likes activities. Also, dressing her up, but that's really Vicki's [favorite activity with her]."
Who do you think does Scarlet take after, you or Vicki?
"She's a thinker like me. Sometimes bigla na lang yan mag-zo-zone-out amidst the noise [or during play]. She also has my sense of humor; she's kind of goofy. She has a very strong personality. She doesn't like being told what to do, or repeating things—she follows her own time. She's also really like Vicki. So now I have two bosses: Vicki and Scarlet."
What's the one thing you thought you'd never do as a parent but you realize you're doing now?
"Waking up really, really early, as early as 5:30 in the morning. Also, the role of the disciplinarian. I have to discipline my child, and it's hard."
When are the moments when you realize, "Fatherhood has changed me"?
"'Pag nagyayaya yung kabarkada ko tapos hindi ako pupunta because of daddy duties. Or, in the mall, instead of going to Hugo Boss, ang bagsak ko is baby store, toy shop. Then, 'yung pasalubong [na binibigay sa akin], instead of clothes, panay pang-baby."
What is your favorite baby item that you feel has been very helpful to you?
"I think the Belo Baby cologne is one of my favorites. People love smelling her. Ako, of course, that's my favorite thing to do 'pag tulog na siya pagkatapos niya maligo. Also, her best friend, the [toy] sheep, Isaiah, that's her [lovey].
What do you think would be a great invention for dads?
"A hypnotizer to put them to sleep in five seconds, food that changes flavors depende sa mood ng baby so she will eat whatever's in front of her, pee and poo detector, a baby tracker, and maybe a camera that she can wear, something like a live blogging camera that she can wear para you'll always see whatever she's looking at. Para 'pag may pinakita si yaya kay baby na, "Okay, this is wrong," alam mo kaagad. I think may ganun na yata."
What advice would you give new dads or dads-to-be?
"There are three things that you really have to teach your children, to pass on to your children as an inheritance: Education, the right moral values or the definition of what is right and wrong, and the example of how you love your wife, which I think is the most important."
"I think the most important example that I can show Scarlet is how I treat [her mom] because when she grows up seeing me very irresponsible or very unloving or rude to Vicki, then in the future the guy she will look for, her idea of a father, or her idea of a wife will be distorted. So ngayon, I am very careful, very intentional with the way I treat Vicki because I want to show a good example to Scarlet. "
IMAGE Lai de Guzman
Hayden's life has truly changed for the better. Gone are the ghosts of the past. Yet, looking into the future, his greatest fear looms. "My greatest fear is that if, because of any unfortunate or unforeseen circumstances, I'll be absent in her life. That's my greatest fear."
He knows that there will be more parenting challenges he and Vicki would face, but he is strong in his resolve. "I have an objective for myself. I really wanna be the best father that I could be...not for my sake but for the sake of my child."
He and Vicki hope that Scarlet would be a doctor someday, but they know she'll have to decide that for herself when she grows up. One thing is for sure, though—they both want Scarlet to grow up giving happiness to others, and helping others. "We understand [that] ultimately her life is not in our hands. It's in God's hands."
"Whenever I look at Scarlet, especially ‘pag natutulog sya, I'm always reminded of the transformative power of Christ, of what grace really means. Grace is something [that is given to us but] which we don’t really deserve, and I think Scarlet is that to us. We don’t even deserve her but here she is. She is a gift to us."
Photos by Lai de Guzman. Videos by Marlon Salazar. Interview by Rachel Perez and Lei Sison
This story originally appeared on Smartparenting.com.ph.
* Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.