10 Lessons From 10 Days of Fatherhood
1. Women are Manly
There is nothing like hearing a midwife say “push” at the beginning of a contraction, watching your wife scream like her leg is being cut off with a blunt saw and knowing that there is nothing you can do about it. Occasionally, I would hear my wife’s pain as she pushed and instinctively, “push” along with her. Luckily, I didn’t take this to the end all in which I just crap my pants and verify for everyone that I can contribute very little to this terrifying miracle Who knew that the manliest thing I would ever see was something that my wife would do. Turning food into a person and then taking what’s inside of her and making it be on the outside of her is a feat unparalleled by anything I have done in my entire life.
2. Babies Don’t Know English
There is nothing like hearing your newborn cry like somebody is smacking their chest with a rubber mallet and having no idea whatsoever how to make it stop. The first and most apparently frustrating thing about babies is crying. They are such babies. If anything isn’t right, they let you know in the most viscerally disturbing way possible. I have had to learn, and I assume will continue to learn what it is my baby needs, and gradually, I will get better and making that happen. It is important to see crying less as an auditory assault and more as a form of communication (as gut-wrenching as it might be).
3. Not Every Time is a Good Time for Humor
As my wife lay in labor, screaming in pain, I thought that I might lighten the mood with a few jokes. Not much to say here other than it was a bad idea, and I won’t make that mistake again.
4. If You’re Wondering, It’s Probably Normal
During the entire labor process, and throughout the last few weeks, my persistant question has been, “is that normal?” The answer is almost always yes. I have had to simply relax. Of course it is true that things can go wrong with babies, but it shouldn’t be automatically assumed that your baby is going to die when it cries at an unexpected time. In short, the midwives of Scotland probably didn’t appreciate my incessant nervous questioning.
5. Gas and Air are Magical
When we arrived into the labor ward, and my wife was given a room to do her thing in, the midwife asked if she would like gas and air. Basically, it is a self administered drug that totally makes her high while she goes through labor. It was a huge help and made me believe in magic.
6. Labor is Terrifying
You know what is terrifying? Labor is terrifying. More scary then pretty much anything else I’ve witnessed.
7. My Greatest Aspirations have been Altered
It used to be that I wanted to have an amazing career. That I wanted to write books, and do interviews, debate, teach, and contribute meaningfully to the scholarly conversation. I wanted to be something. Now, I just want my baby to sleep. There is nothing better than a sleeping baby. Nothing.
8. Sleep is a Pipe Dream
I remember when I hated getting up early. I would complain to my mom that I wanted to sleep in. Had I known how difficult I made her life for the first few months of my existence, I probably would have just kept my dumb mouth shut. When you have a baby, sleep is no longer a significant part of your life anymore. Well, I guess it is significant in the same way that I would like to win the lottery or suddenly be endowed with the power of flight. But only in that sense. Not in the actually-getting-to-experience-it sense.
9. Get Help
There are probably super parents out there that totally ace their first baby. And I hate those parents. That wasn’t happening for us. We got lots of help: the biggest of which was Stephenie’s parents coming into town.
10. Babies are the Greatest of Exploiters
Often times, there are moments when the pleased, and content “look what we did?” morphs into the frustrated and regretful, “what have we done?!” You can be at your whits end, totally exhausted, and dead awake in the middle of the night because your baby is crying because she wants to go to sleep but for some reason just won’t. And then in this moment of utter frustration, second-guessing, and exhaustion, your newborn smiles. Now, to be fair, this isn’t even a real smile. It just so happens that the muscles on her face randomly produced a shape similar to a smile. The baby might even still be on the verge of crying, but you see a smile, and you lose your mind over it (in the good way). I don’t know if my baby knows when I need to feel like it’s worth it, but if she doesn’t, her timing is mysteriously fortunate for the both of us.