On January 18 my wife and I went into the hospital and 15 hours later we were parents to our son Arden.
Nearing a month as a dad, I’ve felt a spectrum of emotions more strongly than ever before: Worry, excitement, pride, insecurity, but mostly love.
Although my wife’s labor was smooth (induced, contractions for hours, epidural, waiting, over two hours of pushing) it was surreal watching her go through that experience, and being there to help but feeling useless.
It’s strange spending nine months preparing for that experience and what comes after, which is something you fundamentally can’t prepare for. We did the homework, but when the door of the post-partum room closes, it’s just you and your new family and a nurse every few hours.
We slept about four hours between the two of us those first days in the hospital and I was beginning to believe what many people were telling me: “You’ll never sleep again.”
You receive a lot of advice leading up to a first baby, but you also receive inadvertent discouragement disguised as advice. My wife and I joked that no matter how hard it got, we would tell those people that caring for a newborn was easy.
Well it’s not, but we tap into the encouraging advice in the times where it does get tough until it gets easy again. We will sleep again. Things are easy sometimes.
My wife and I are working together to discover each individual need of our baby and it’s a deeply special experience figuring it out together.
The sleep deprivation was most difficult the first week, but we’ve worked hard getting him into the bassinet and we’re getting the sleep we need to function most nights.
Although Arden was latching and feeding well in the hospital, we had difficulties when we got home while my wife’s body adjusted. I’ve heard how instinctive breast feeding is, but it’s not so simple starting out. It’s a full-time job that rests solely on my wife. It’s been difficult knowing I’m not able to put in an equal amount of help.
My struggles have been the feeling that I’m not doing enough and adjusting to the fact that I am always needed. There’s always something that needs to be done before I can do what I’d like to do and that’s been a natural, but slow adjustment.
I feel fortunate to have six weeks off from teaching. I couldn’t imagine this if I didn’t.
I’m trying to use every second to work around the house, cook and help with Arden where I can, but I watch that time quickly shrink. Going back to work will be a new challenge in March, but I will take this day-by-day and enjoy each little triumph to get me through.
My most intimate times with Arden are the early morning hours. I have everything ready and we give mom time to sleep. I put music on and we watch the sun come up together. Before he dozes off, we just look around the house and at each other.
These hours make me think of the profound sacrifices my parents made for me, of my grandmother who did this nine times, of all of the people everywhere who’ve done the same things for so long. These mornings make the stress of other areas in my life seem insignificant.
I’m sure this will get easier. I’m sure it will get harder. I’m sure it’ll get easier and harder again, but we’re getting better at it every day and I couldn’t imagine my life any other way now.
We’re excited for him to lift his head, to smile, to communicate, but there is one piece of advice I’m always happy to be reminded of: Don’t wish this newborn time away, because it goes fast.