Monday, January 05, 2015

On the Eve of Fatherhood (Or, I'm Not a Young Man Anymore)

Within the very near future, maybe tomorrow, maybe a few weeks from now, my life will be drastically different. The empty time will be gone. No more: "what should I do this afternoon?" There will always be things to do. He will need more than the couple walks a day and dinner from a can the dog requires. This is a lifetime commitment even more irrevocable than marriage.

At the same time, as we grow familiar with this house we've promised to pay for over the next 29 years, and as I advance in my career, and as I enjoy a more conventional lifestyle, I feel a bit of loss for my youth. For cozy mornings in the alcove in Brooklyn, soothed by soft yellow light on the tin ceiling.

Of course, the nostalgia ignores the trials and discomfort that at the time took more of my attention than the transcendent moments. 

And my fear of the responsibility is also balanced by my dreams for our family in this home. Sledding and frisbee and camping. Encouraging his interests and helping him build confidence. Teaching him to be responsible for his own actions. Teaching him the power of work. And spontaneity. And kindness. Sharing theater and art and music. Going out to the movies. Breakfast. Tag, hide-and-seek, peek-a-boo. 

I'm looking forward to all that, in spite of a vertiginous feeling I would guess is inevitable given the obviously life-changing nature of being responsible for a life.


And now the anticipated day has come. Our baby had the grace to be born on his due date, a feat achieved by only 5% of babies according to a glance at google search results.

Labor seems aptly named. The work, which meant supporting my partner as she pushed for 6 and a half hours, holding her hand, wiping her neck and face, holding her leg back as she pushed, took almost all my attention, left little space for anxiety and doubt to operate, the unceasing heart rate monitor on mother and child notwithstanding. Nothing like your partner being in labor with your child  to put you "in the moment," I suppose.

My son has only been here for three weeks, so almost all is still unknown. But here are a few impressions:

+ People oversold the sleep deprivation angle. Sure, for the first four or five days, I slept only a few hours a night, but after that I caught up. The baby sleeps about two hours at a time. So it's up every two hours, then I can go right back to sleep (an advantage of breastfeeding: I can't do it). There have been some rough nights, but they haven't been as bad as I feared. I mean, he's a baby, he's gonna cry sometimes. It's just a little noise and a little lost sleep. One night he was wailing with a look of absolute indignant panicked rage. I was talking to him, humming, and rocking, but he was having none of it. And then, right at the end of a sharp wail, he just fell straight into a deep sleep. That was it. I'll never know what he was so upset about, and neither will he.

+ I haven't quite gotten over the "is he still breathing?" phase yet. Almost. But I still check when he's especially still.

+ Don't know if this will last, but I have been a little more diligent about doing small tasks because I know I will not have large blocks of time to devote to them. I feel more energized when I have a space of time to work. I feel its preciousness and don't want to waste it. By valuing these free times, I put the old procrastinating feeling that I had plenty of time so why not do nothing under considerable pressure.

+He can't do very much now. I never really understood before that a baby this young is totally unfit to be in the world. He can't see, he can't move his limbs in a goal-directed, coordinated manner (he's sort of working on sucking on his fingers and holding the pacifier in his mouth; he'll cling to me when I hold him sometimes). He can't communicate in any way but crying or not crying. He basically sleeps, looks around bug eyed, eats, cries, pisses, and shits. That's his life. I'm looking forward to the incredible transformation that should have him crawling in 6 months and saying actual words in a year.

Well, I hear him crying. I better check it out.