Dec 18, 2007

4 Common Mistakes To Avoid As An Infant's Parent

1. "I'll just put her in the carriage for a nap. She'll sleep for about three hours, and I can use that time to get some work done."

Wrong. You can't. If you even consider getting something useful done while your child naps, she will wake up at least every five minutes to require comforting.

2. "I'll sit down at the computer to quickly check my e-mail/pay my bills/do something vital even though I'm carrying the baby. She won't mind."

Wrong again. She will mind, because for some reason your child hates every single location in the house where you would be able to do something useful with just one hand. My daughter hates the office for some unknown reason. Bad vibes, I guess.

3. "Thank god she's recently been sleeping peacefully at night. Therefore, I can get some well-earned sleep after this 14 hour workday."

Guess what? Wrong. If I didn't know my daughter doesn't do it on purpose, I'd swear she somehow senses when her parents are really spent, for it seems to cause her to either A) be really difficult to get to sleep or B) go to sleep so easily and so early that she wakes up at about 5 am.

4. "There's no hurry to get the fresh diaper on. She already did her stuff. How much more could there be?"

Sigh. I presume I don't need to elaborate on that.

A Snowball's Chance in Hell

Have you ever tried to catch the smile of a 10-week-old baby on film? It's like trying catch a toast as the toaster flings it into the air. It's like trying to catch a speeding bullet with chopsticks. Don't bother. It is, if nothing else, an exercise in futility.

Dec 15, 2007

Don't Live in the Past

One of the great things about babies is that they don't dwell on the past. Nor do they hold a grudge for single incidents. A baby can scream for hours on end on account of gas just to have the whole experience vanish into thin air (pun intended) at the moment of release. Chances are that the baby immediately breaks into a smile, unless something else is still bothering him or her. A father can accidentally scrape her daughter's head on a wall while going through a door and have her forget the incident in about sixteen seconds. That's what I call cutting a struggling Dad some slack.

It's the positive experiences that stick. I guess it's got nothing to do with the inherent nature of positive versus negative experiences, but as a parent one can stop a negative incident from happening again, effectively making it an isolated incident. The good stuff, on the other hand, can be repeated over and over. Talk about a forgiving deal.

(The aforementioned incident involving a baby's head and a doorframe is purely fictional, although it may have happened to a father not entirely unlike the author in a parallel universe not entirely unlike ours. Do not reproduce said incident at home. No babies were harmed while writing this entry.)

Work-at-Home Dad's Dilemma

I knew it would happen. I started working full time at home a little after I heard my daughter was on the way. At first I was worried about how to keep a future toddler out of Dad's "office" when he was working, but then later began to fear the problem may prove to be just the opposite. How in the world do I keep Dad in his "office" when a toddler is charming her way through life in the next room?

Even though she's still a long way from a toddler, I'm beginning to feel it. I began writing this entry because I couldn't make myself start working. When she was born, I was occasionally glad to get a break from her, as newborn babies can be frustrating at times. Now that she's beginning to show signs of comprehension and has started to smile back at us, the task of actually getting any work done is becoming more and more difficult. I wasn't blessed with much self-discipline to begin with, and now the situation seems utterly hopeless. Luckily she still sleeps about 15 of any given 24 hours, so I do get something done. Sadly, I'm pretty sure kids don't sleep more as they age. See? I do know something about children.

Dec 14, 2007

I, Father - A Brave New Identity?

Sometimes it feels I'm not me anymore. Well, at least not the same me I used to be for the first 27 and a half years of my life. As I looked at myself, I used to be so many different things. I used to be a musician, a singer. I used to be an athlete, a martial artist. I used to be a linguistics student and then a linguist, a translator. I could define myself with a whole bunch of different things.

Now it seems that I've become a dad. More and more often, as I look at myself, I see a dad, who used to do some other stuff at some points of his earlier life. Not that it's a bad thing, but how do I stand out from all the other dads? Is it even possible? If my main defining characteristic at the moment is "dad", where did all the other stuff go? Just popped out for a beer or something? Are they coming back or will I still be mainly "dad" on my deathbed?

Adjusting to a whole new role is difficult, but to shamelessly quote the tiny bit of text right below the page title, I'm learning as I go. And, after all, there are a lot of things that are difficult to learn, but people learn them anyway despite the fact that said things are next to useless. The language of the Klingon, gazillions of decimals of pi and what have you. At least I can actually hope to get something in return for my endeavours.

Dec 13, 2007

Bringing the New Kid Home

After a few days in the maternity ward we were allowed to try and get by on our own at home. I guess for most people the novelty of having a new person living under their roof wears off more or less without incident. In our case, it wasn't all smooth and painless.

The biggest reason for this was that we didn't need to worry about whether our milk supply would be sufficient for the baby's needs. In fact, her mother began to produce the stuff in such quantities, that expecting the girl to eat her way through it all was like expecting a French poodle to happily devour a buffalo each day. So basically, it was a good thing. No nutrition shortage and no need to buy baby formula. The downside, of course, was that during the first night home Mom was at a point of explosion and immediately developed mastitis, which raised her temperature through the roof. So it was back to the hospital for us at about 4 am. Which was nice.

Now this was the moment it really hit me. I almost fainted for worrying about my newborn daughter and her mother. And what's weird is that I think I might have worried a bit more about the former than the latter, although the baby was just fine. Funny how your mind works in a crisis. From that point on I realised I was officially living rather more for the baby than even myself, at least when something was even remotely considering thinking about beginning planning to threaten her. Which, in a way, brings me to the topic of my next entry, i.e. something along the lines of "What the devil happened to me and my identity after becoming a father?" and "Why didn't anyone tell me it was going to be like this?" Stay tuned for more.

Childbirth and All That Stuff

Our baby girl wasn't going to come out easily. We spent a good 30 hours in labor, naturally with minimal sleep or food. Even though the first 29 hours were as stressful as just about anything, I 'd still recommend the moment of the actual birth to all dads-to-be out there. I can't really consider myself an authority on pretty much anything, but the moment your child is out and takes his or her first breath is... well... breathtaking. At least I broke down that moment. I think I actually managed to outcry the baby. It was surprising, really, that she only took a couple of swings at her newfound ability to make significant noise and then quieted down as she was placed on her mother's breast. Then she just watched us from under her mother's gown and tried hard to converse with us by making small, incomprehensible sounds and looking slightly feline for some reason. I thought newborn babies just scream and scream until the cows come home.

Later on I've begun to wonder how much the prolonged stress preceding the actual birth contributes to the overwhelming sense of joy and relief one experiences. Is the moment of birth really fantastic enough to make a grown man weep like a little girl or does he have to be softened first by hours and hours of starving and sleep deprivation? It's hard to say. I'd like to hope that birth does that alone. It would be interesting to hear about the experience of a father who arrived at the last possible moment to see his child being born. I'm glad I reacted the way I did, though. I was afraid the whole thing wouldn't give rise to big feelings.

An interesting, albeit a few years old, debate about whether fathers should even attend childbirth at all from BBC News can be found here.

The Birth of a Blog (and a Baby)

This is it. Our daughter was born on the 5th of October this year, and it took me this long to set this blog up. The purpose of these ramblings will mainly be to act as an outlet for my thoughts and also to entertain the occasional reader when possible. Mostly I will write about being a father and a parent, but wouldn't be surprised if the occasional odd topic slipped in. I will try to update at least every couple of days, if not daily. Since I didn't begin the whole thing right at the time of birth, I'll probably be writing a few "Previously in our lives" entries to recap what happened during the past couple of months. Although I feel I control the English language quite well, I do apologise in advance for any slipups. Go easy on me; I'm not a native speaker after all. This first entry is just a brief introduction and a test to determine what Blogger can do and how do I use the whole thing. So bear with me. I'll be back with more in no time. Sheesh, what a dry blog entry.