I haven’t written anything yet about becoming a dad. Let this be the first post of (hopefully) many chronicling the experience.
My daughter Elyse was born in July of 2015. She’s nine months old now, and doing fantastic. But this post isn’t really about what’s happened with her so far, that’s for my private journal. This is about my personal experiences so far with fatherhood.
When we decided to try for a baby I was excited, as excited as you can be when you have no idea what’s in front of you. I’m now a firm believer that no first-time parent has a clue what they’re in for at that stage, regardless of the endless stream of advice from all sources leading up to the day your kid is born. You can endlessly attempt to imagine what it’ll be like — the big changes, the joy, the long nights, the hundreds of things you won’t be able to do anymore. But the day your baby shows up it all gets erased and you just do it.
To be sure, the hard parts are hard. The conscious decision to have a child should mean you’re okay with forfeiting your personal time, some or all of your sleep schedule, and adding a pile of constant worry for the health and safety of someone who needs you 24/7. Knowing all those things ahead of time doesn’t help much in preparation; it’s still hard. It takes incredible energy to commit to doing things right. I’d also add that the definition of what’s right is completely unclear at points, no matter what sources of advice you have. Should the baby be making that sound? Why is she crying differently now? She sounds raspy… what should we do? These moments happen all the time, especially in the first few months, and you have to get good at rolling with it and figuring it out. Colette and I have always relied on self-sufficiency and solved our own problems and still, not easy.
With all the strain a baby puts on various parts of your life, there are, of course, the good parts. And the good parts are really good.
I love coming home in the evening after work to a huge smile and squealing laughter when I walk in the door. I take her on runs to get her out of the house to give Colette time to spend alone or to get out of the house on her own. We make the occasional trip to the hardware store to shop for house projects (“baby-in-carrier” is a great look when you’re in the plywood section). I spend mornings with her on the weekends to (try to) let Colette sleep in. We make coffee, play in her room, and watch the early soccer matches. We take her everywhere with us and try to maximize the social time she gets out and about. It helps us keep our own sanity, but also gets her used to being around others for when she’s eventually playing with other kids.
Elyse is small both in weight and length, but she’s been alert and active since the first few weeks. She could hold her head up pretty well after a few months, started trying to stand up by herself around five months, and now cruises around our living room and her bedroom all over the place at eight. She’s inches away from taking her first solo steps.