No one comes with a manual for children, but somehow I think women are more prepared, even though they are totally unprepared. Men however have an easier job but that job is completely self-taught. There are no lactation specialists. You get virtually zero help from friends or fathers, you are expected to figure everything out, on your own, while your wife has no idea what’s going on with her body as she adapts to changes in hormones and recovers from surgery or labor.
The birth is in a way straightforward. You just can’t lose your shit. The doctors are there and at one point I just had to make a choice: be with child or mother. I would go to the child, check on her, and then come back to the mother. With cesarian, the father actually is the first to see the child and she saw me first. I was the first human she saw when she opened her eyes if she did actually see. She came out pink and tiny and so fragile and yet larger than I expected.
There is a sense of what the hell is this, who is this and at the same time, you know the wife is there, needing your support and so you try to be there for her too.
After they wheel you out, there’s a quiet. You are together, with the baby but you have no idea what to do with it. You as a father can’t help because everything you read is forgotten. The nurses come and help with breastfeeding and explain what will happen.
For the next few days, you watch a parade of nurses and doctors come and go trying to help your wife and all you can do is not get in the way and every once in a while change the baby diaper or put the baby in or out of her swaddle.
Getting Home/First Month
When you get home there is a lot of help. People help with meals, moms come and help with laundry and food. You can focus on the baby and learn to do all the things like feeding and diaper changes. You’re mostly just learning the baby language. The different cries and patterns of what the baby needs right now. You learn that she won’t sleep if she isn’t changed and how to burp. You will freak out when she chokes and you have to do the baby Heimlich. You will not sleep fearing that the baby will not make it through the night. You might take the weight and size down every time you are at the doctor. You will give formula if your wife’s milk hasn’t come in and you will realize that a sludgy black diaper isn’t so bad and cleaning out the poop from the vagina sounds worse than it is. You will learn the meaning of loud when the baby screams into your ear and the meaning of angry woman when you don’t hear or understand the wife. You will sleep actually ok, especially if you switch off as we did, with me taking her to bed and waking my wife at feedings as necessary and going to bed at three or five and sleeping till nine or ten. You will learn that you will have no time for work as the work on the baby rarely gives you time to do anything else.
After the first month, the visit drops off from three to four a week to one or two and when they come, it is just to sit with the baby for a few hours. The baby as they grow becomes heavy and carrying them around in their baby seat is no longer easy. They now take a longer time between diaper changes but they don’t become easier. Somehow feedings even if they latch or if you use the bottle, and diaper changes and all the other things take on tedium unlike anything else. It is like a marathon and you are on the first mile. The sprint at the beginning is over where you felt good, and now you realize just how far you have to go and how every single step is just a step. The entire run is just steps. You begin to wear on each other’s nerves. You forget about the washing and your friends and family. You can barely remember an hour ago let alone a week ago. You are now on autopilot going through Kansas and there is nothing good to see. However, if you do go out, the baby sleeps a lot and so you can get away with going to a restaurant and you will get a ton of compliments.
The baby now smiles and you get to interact. But this also means that the baby eats more, fusses more, and doing anything producing just got harder. They will hit a growth spurt and so they eat more and sleep more. They poop less often but with bigger poops.
Family is less around, it is assumed that you have it figured out at this point, but you are actually more tired than ever. Daily changing, feeding, trying to get the baby to sleep starts to feel like one long dream. Days blend in. You are no longer sure if the baby is growing or not because you won’t see a doctor for another month. The wife’s milk supply might go down and now you have to add the bottle. None of these things are big, they are just different enough to make you not sure of what’s happening.
Four and Five
Big jump in these months. She used to be so small that her head was hidden in the carrier, now her head is completely out and she can look around. She now misses her mom and looks for her. She is talking or making sounds all the time. She doesn’t have comfort and discomfort alone but now things she likes and doesn’t like. She likes to giggle and laugh and grab toys and play with some more than others. She likes some books more than others. She sometimes likes being changed, sometimes doesn’t. She will eat different and now even solid foods. She will take a slice of zucchini and smash it into her face until she learns to find her mouth. It’s crazy how we have to learn literally everything, even where and how to put food into our mouths.
She is becoming harder to put down into the bed and now requires specific routines at specific times. It is easier though in some ways although the automatic cues are almost gone. It is easier because the periods between eating and sleeping get longer. So she is fussier in some ways but less fussy in others.
I’m surprised at how interested I am in small changes, like rolling over and sitting.
The biggest thing now is the partner dynamic. Grandparents are a little bored and come once a week if that. So most of the work is on us. There is a shift from helping to try to pawn off the work on the other just to get other work done and get some rest and peace. It creates frustration and resentment any time you have to do extra work. It’s something to be figured out. You have to be an advocate for yourself while also being careful to be mindful of everything the partner does. Also, find time for alone time and dates and romance or you start to become roommates and caretakers.
We also learned some of the issues for my wife is an autoimmune disorder having to do with the thyroid gland. I guess super common with pregnancies past 30. It lowers milk supply and does a number on mood and being tired. So you think they hate you but really it can be something like hyperthyroid issues.
This is a magical time. She is so much bigger than when she was born. Nearly ten inches taller and three times heavier. She’s giggling, making random sounds, gets angry when bored, demanding. She is now exploring and learning things very quickly. Gave her a toy where you have to turn and press things and knows the difference. Just a month ago she had trouble turning a wheel and now she spins it. She eats solid food, she can now move from back to front and front to back. In fact, she can’t crawl yet, but she can roll from place to place. Which is scary when you leave her on the bed and she tries to roll off of it. She is attentive, looking at things manipulating them with her hands and feet and mouth.
At the same time, because she can’t crawl, because she can’t talk, because her hair hasn’t grown in and legs are still bowed, she is still a baby. It’s a precious time that will leave very quickly and so I really try to soak it up, remember it, pictures. it.
It’s a lot harder to take care of her. More things to watch for and to do. Can’t just leave her and walk away. Things will only get harder but you get used to it, day by day you become accustomed like a runner who increases his distance with but one step a day.
At seven months she started to army crawl. You could hear her slapping the ground and in effect “swimming” around the house. By 8 months the area we made for her with the bariers were no good, she had the reign of the house and we now had to baby proof all of the cupboards and book cases, and the barier was now used to prevent her from getting to the books on the book case.
Changing her is much more difficult as she tries to pop to her stomach, or get up or gab things around her, so we have to distract her to keep her on her back to clean up the many poops a day she has.
By 9 months she was no longer army crawling but crawling and she would stand and walk around the furniture. She could get up with her walker and move around and would crawl to me and get up.
She’s more attached now. She cries when I leave and crawls to me and wants to be picked up. She emulates us by making sounds like cough if we cough. Her babbles are getting longer too. When I had COVID and isolated she would crawl up to the door and bang on it, realizing I was inside and demanding I come out.
She will find a new sound like whistle or pop with her mouth and do it for a few days then find something else and do that. She’s very curious, coming to see when we wash dishes or get things out of the fridge, already trying to grab the knives.
We were able to give her a COVID vaccine and she was pretty good. She has a harder time sleeping now, she stands in her crib and we had to lower it to the bottom most setting. She has her pacifiers and she will throw them out of the crib and then in the morning crawl around finding them.
She is now able to pass a ball back and forth and starting to actually do the hand signs of milk and more and wave sometimes.
She also discovered dancing, so when we have music on she will wiggle and dance with us. She giggles when tickled, thrown in the air or when we blow air on her neck and stomach. There’s also a lot of emotion in her face, she can be confused, or curious or determined, or upset. Everything can be seen now.
Steph has taken over more and now I feel less sure of things to do, so there’s more micro managing in a sense of how things are done.
At ten months she is clingy and loves her mama and papa. She recognizes people. She is social with some and fearful of others. She is starting to wave. She is upset if something is taken from her or she is ignored. She is also heavy, probably 25 pounds now and at 95th percentile. She is going through sleep regression which means waking up in middle of the night and difficulty to get her to sleep. With a 25 pound baby that is no easy feat.
At 11 months she began to walk. Not on here own, but just using things. She is animated, can be shy but warms up. At 12 months it was all this and more. Still two naps a day. Sometimes fussy if teeth are growing in. Hates to have here nails cut and filed, but can be pacified with a snack.
The birthday of course is huge. Everyone comes, unlike future birthdays. She is the star and yet she doesn’t know it. She’s just a little confused by all the people, and even more so of what to do with the cake. But she soon figures it out and stuffs her face.