I've been a father for 27 days.
I figure that pretty much makes me an expert on fatherhood so I thought I'd write about it.
Back in my seminary days I used to ask all my friends who were first-time fathers what they were not prepared for. In other words What could no one have told you before the baby arrived and made you understand.
My attempt in this post is to answer that question. What aspects of fatherhood was I unprepared for?
I'll start by letting you know who I am. Before fatherhood I was a 39 year-old man with almost no experience with babies. I had never changed a diaper, never prepared a bottle, never put a stroller in a car, and certainly never been responsible for another human. I have barely ever even held a baby. Because of my inexperience, even disinterest in babies, I feel like I was extra ignorant of the realities fatherhood would bring. Therefore making me all the more qualified to write this post.
Without further ado, in no particular order, here are the major things that being a dad has taught me:
Having children makes you speak in third person - I'm not sure why, but immediately when you bring home a baby you begin saying things like, "Daddy needs to change your diaper." I never speak that way in any other context, why would I speak that way to a baby? Not sure the answer to that one, but I know I'm not the only one who is guilty of it.
Worry (or something like it) - Worry is probably the wrong word because that implies that I am always anticipating something terrible, but I don't exactly know what to call this particular effect of fatherhood. So I'll try to describe it. I find that I am hyper-aware of my infant daughter at almost all times. When she's unhappy I know it, when she's content I know it, when she's asleep I know it. Also, I often wonder if her current behavior is normal or right. Often when she is asleep, if she has made no sound for a while, I feel the need to look at her just to make sure she's breathing. There's no reason to think a perfectly healthy 12-day-old is not breathing, I just feel the need to check.
Emotions can be powerful - I am a man, and as such I don't really deal in depth of emotion. Like any man, I get choked up watching Old Yeller or Rudy, but I shed actual tears only rarely. I'd like to believe I am in touch with my emotions, but my sister informed me once that the reason I am in touch with my emotions is because I have none. I do not cry often. So far at least that is no longer the case. I the first week of my daughter's life I cried no less than 4 times. I cried when she was first born and her mother looked at me, I cried the first time I held her, I cried when we left the hospital with her, and after we got home I cried again. (Seriously, I dare you to watch this and not have to choke back tears.)
Sleep is NOT overrated - I do not think I can stress this one enough. Sleep is wonderful. It is one of the greatest things in life and it is necessary to function. I was utterly unprepared for how tired I have been these first few days. To illustrate, when I wrote the outline of this post the first line was "I have been a father for 9 days." My mind simply will not focus the way I wish. Soon I'll either get used to it, or I'll collapse.
My wife is awesome - I am not saying this flippantly or even to score points when she reads this. It is a genuine observation. Before now I've never seen childbirth, so I don't really have anything to compare it to, but that was amazingly hard. She endured the whole ordeal like a champion. That however is just the beginning of why she is awesome.
Since bringing the baby home I have been exhausted nearly the entire time. There were a few days early on when I could barely function. She has not wavered. Her ability to wake up every two hours to feed a jaundiced baby, keep diapers changed, prepare bottles, and deal with all the rest in the first few days was impressive. Now that the jaundice is gone and the schedule has relented just a bit, she still manages to take care of our ridiculously high-strung dog, clean the house (although I practically do all of that work (winky face)), and take care of me. All of this is astounding to me.
Having a child changes you, no question about it. I'm sure that I'll learn way more as I go. I'm willing to bet I can squeeze loads of blog posts out of my daughter.