11 June 2014
Our daughter was born eleven days ago. Right now, she’s napping happily in her bassinet, so I thought I’d take a moment to write some early impressions about parenthood. I haven’t been a father for long, which on one hand means that I haven’t had a chance yet to mess up in some hilarious and interesting ways, but on the other it does mean that I still remember what it’s like to not be one, so hopefully I’ll have an interesting perspective just the same.
We were very fortunate in having a complication-free pregnancy, for which I’m greatly thankful, and a complication-free birth as well. That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty of trauma, of course. I think we broke every bit of advice from the classes we’d taken during the course of labor, but… now we have a beautiful baby girl, in perfect health, and Jayne’s on her feet and recovering rapidly, so, hey.
In a bizarre way, I think I’d almost managed to forget (or repress) that we were having an actual, human child, even while we were in the delivery room. Then, at the end, labor was over and there was someone else there, looking at me. It’s… quite a moment. Also: for months, everyone tries to prepare you by telling you that newborns are ugly as sin. It’s true that right out of the womb they look fairly inhuman, because in that moment they’re caught half-assembled, in a way. Then she kind of popped together and her color filled out and our daughter was gorgeous within minutes of birth. Take that, other babies.
Somewhat selfishly, my greatest fear before she was born was dealing with the lack of sleep. It’s the first thing everyone warns you about in those “oh you’re about to be a parent” speeches, I think because it’s one of the few constants: newborns have tiny stomachs and are usually nocturnal until they adjust, hence the late-night antics. It’s also a relatively concrete thing for the good old anxiety brain spiders to latch on to in contrast to the more nebulous fears about things like “teaching someone how to be a compassionate human being.” This past week we’ve been getting anywhere from two or three to six hours a night, usually nonconsecutive, so it’s not a lie. The bizarre thing is that it just doesn’t seem to matter – and I’m a guy who’s always liked his sleep. Adrenaline carries you through the first few days, and after that your body just seems to adjust to it. I feel the fatigue in those moments when I do put my head down to catch a quick nap, but once I’m up I barely seem to notice it. I will say that, while we weren’t gifted with one of those precious few who sleep through the night the day you bring them home, our daughter has been quite lenient on us in this department. She does fuss, but only occasionally. Maybe we’ve been unreasonably lucky, but “hell week” wasn’t so bad for us.
Next week, I go back to work, and that brings with it a new set of challenges. With the way things have been going so far, though, I’m optimistic that we’ll work it out without too much of a crisis.