My beautiful baby girl is a month old tomorrow. It simultaneously feels like the time is fleeting, that I can’t grasp it without it slipping through my fingers, while also feeling like it’s been an eternity since the night she was born. Fatherhood is awesome, but there are a few things that they don’t tell you when you sign up for this job.
1) When your baby cries – I mean really cries – it breaks your heart. Babies can’t talk yet, so they communicate through crying. It’s how they let you know that they have a need that needs meeting. Everyone knows that babies cry, and sure, you expect that it will affect you in some way. But when your baby gets frustrated or upset and lets out those cries that pierce your core, it will absolutely shatter your heart. You physically feel your child’s cries.Trust me, you have never known the heartache of your child being upset.
2) Your baby will scratch themselves. Seriously. And their little nails are surprising sharp. It seems like common sense to us grownups that grabbing your own eyeball or raking at your cheek would not be a good idea, but for some reason, babies seem to want to inflict pain on themselves. And no, I don’t know why, so don’t ask. Make sure you buy some baby mittens or, in a pinch, use a pair of baby socks to cover their hands, especially during feeding time.
3) You do not have enough hands. As a new dad, you will quickly learn how to creatively use your body to accomplish tasks, from picking things up with your toes, using your teeth to gently pull that headband that your baby just pulled over her eyes back to the top of her head, or using the vice-like grip of the crook in your elbow to open a bottle. There are never enough hands. I promise.
4) Your job is not to just take care of your baby, it’s to take care of your partner, too. It becomes very easy to focus on taking care of your baby, almost to the point where, to your partner, it can feel like you’re taking over. Don’t do that. Realize that the reality of the situation is that your partner needs the bonding time with the baby right off the bat in order to succesfully breast feed, and your job is to be a supporting cast. You’ll get your chance to cuddle with the baby, I promise. In the mean time, take care of your partner and the house the best that you can on the limited sleep you have.
5) Sleep when the baby sleeps. You no longer get to decide when to sleep. Not even close. You may have been the early to bed, early to rise type, but baby may have other plans. Going to bed at 1:00 AM, waking up to feed the baby at 4:00 AM, then sleeping until 9:30 or 10:00 AM while your partner takes the other feeding shift? No problem. Do what you have to do. Oh, and that reminds me, you will not sleep soundly. It won’t happen. You will toss and turn. You will wake up when your baby has the hiccups. You will roll over to make sure she’s still there. It happens.
It is the most fulfilling job in the world. I’m completely smitten by my baby girl. I adore seeing my wife as the mother of our child. I love when my little girl falls asleep on my chest. The little things somehow turn into the most important things in life. And I wouldn’t change it for anything.