Fatherhood: One Month On
Today was a great day. My one-month-old son and I watched our first NBA game together — a satisfying 98-96 win for the Indiana Pacers over the LA Lakers. Well, I guess I was the only one that really watched it, but sitting him on my lap as we stared at the TV was the only way to stop him from screaming his head off. Continuously.
That’s pretty much what it’s been like in my first month as a father. Being without breasts (though that’s debatable), I have essentially been relegated to errand boy, nappy changer and occasional bottle feeder. As hard as it’s been, I know I have it 10 times easier than my wife, who has battled even worse sleep deprivation, breast engorgement and even a bout of mastitis (which led to a short fever and a quick visit to the doctor). All I can do is to continue being as supportive as I can by helping out wherever possible to lighten the burden and be a cheerleader when necessary.
To be honest, as rough as it’s been, it hasn’t been as rough as I expected it to be, probably because of the plethora of horror stories I’ve heard from other young parents. The worst part of it is actually figuring out what the heck to do. No matter how many classes you attend or how many books you read, rolling up your sleeves and actually doing the real deal is always a different story. Temporary amnesia always hits me whenever I need to recall some key passage in a book I read months ago.
Right now I am trying to learn as much as I can. We’ve been recommended a lot of books and given a couple as gifts. Up to this point the most useful book has been Robin Barker’s Baby Love, which is apparently the Bible for Aussie mums and dads. We’ve also been looking at Raising a Bilingual Child by Barbara Zurer Pearson and recently started the book I think will save our lives, Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall. I’ll report on whether these books are any good in the near future.
The problem is, everyone has a different philosophy and different strategies to looking after the baby. You ask 10 relatives and you’ll get 10 different answers. You read 10 books and it’ll be the same thing. We’ve been convinced, however, that starting a sleep and feed routine as early as possible is the best long-term solution, especially if you want to get some sleep a few months down the track.
But starting a routine has plenty of challenges, one of which is teaching your baby to “self-settle” — in other words, allow them to fall asleep on their own. Sounds easy (just let them cry, right?) but it’s so heart-breaking listening to his frantic wails while holding yourself back so you won’t rush to pick him up. I think he has already developed some bad habits (he loves to be held and hates being put down) so it’s going to be an uphill climb, but as we keep hearing and reading, persistence and patience are the keys.
It’s been an amazing feeling watching my son grow. He’s already gained a full kilo since birth and he is noticeably bigger (and his lungs fuller!). A lot of the love comes naturally from within, but a lot of it also comes from our time bonding. I find him looking a little more gorgeous every day, and even when he shoots projectile poop all over the place (and perilously close to my face) I can’t help but love him more.