I sit here with Everett sleeping in an infant carrier that is tied to my chest, and I realize that looking down at the peaceful sleeping baby still feels like being skyrocketed straight to heaven. I know we have an extremely content and easy going baby. If there was a baby lottery, we’d have hit the big jackpot prize. I think part of the reason I’m so amazed by Everett’s “chill” demeanour is based off what I was led to expect the first six or so weeks would be like. I had a few friends and family members warn me how hard the first few weeks would be, but promised that if I survived it than life would be slightly more bearable. We’re now in week 7, and I’m still waiting for the insufferable part.
It may be that I blew their warning way out of proportion. Or maybe it was partly due to the fact we have two pets, and so we were already in the daily groove of caring for lives other than our own. I’m a self-employed writer who is still fairly early into this career path and so some weeks can be a war trying to land enough clients to make sure all the seekers of our cash are satisfied. My wife, as a teacher, has a secure and steady job so the burden hasn’t ever been too heavy, until she took maternity leave. I realize most of my stress over work is self-imposed and not entirely grounded in reality (it isn’t like we’re relying on each pay cheque to ensure we have a house to live in or anything even remotely close to that), but it was the most prevalent source of stress and worry when counting down to the days of Everett’s arrival (which were far less than we assumed since he showed up 9 days early). It was the stress of feeling the full burden of being the provider along with the warning about the first few weeks being energy draining that had me prepared for a treacherous experience.
Instead, it has been a breeze.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. It is work being a new parent. Everett doesn’t change himself or have the greatest communication skills. But compared to what I was dreading, this has been an absolute dream. I’m able to stay in the bedroom at night without being awaken, because Everett doesn’t fuss too much when it is time for his feeding. He sometimes sleeps for a solid three hours or so, and when he does wake up, he is quickly satisfied with a changing and feeding. He has quickly taken to the breast and is gaining weight faster than average. Just in case you want argue that I only think it is a breeze because I get my wife to do all the hard work while I sip lemonade and relax on the couch, Emily also agrees Everett is the dream baby. Like I said, we hit the baby jackpot.
I’m not saying all this to brag (okay, I’m not just saying it to brag). I wanted to bring all this up, because despite how easy things are right now, the first few days were a grueling emotional war. I went from the emotional high of being a dad and thinking life couldn’t be more magnificent right after he was born to a reality that hit me harder than a rampaging moose. The problem wasn’t even Everett being difficult or fussy, but rather a happily married couple trying to adjust to a massive life change.
Emily had just been through a battle to deliver Everett, and she felt like a group of ballet hippos pranced all over her body. It is expected that the new mother will experience an emotional roller coaster for the first few weeks after birth, and this doesn’t include her having to cope with all the physical pain. Though just in case my wife starts protesting that I’m making her sound like a “wimp,” I do want to add that she recovered incredibly fast, and based off the type of delivery she had, was handling the pain really well. I wanted to provide the reason why the first few days would not have put her in the most optimal of emotional states. As for me, I don’t have those excuses.
The first few days had two people who were extra emotional and feeling the worries of brand new parents. Everett was losing a little too much weight, not taking to the breast yet, and was a very lethargic. We had those worries swirling about, while also just trying to adjust to life back at home. I wanted to still try to work with my current clients while also providing as much help as possible for Emily. You mix in all those factors plus several that I’ve left out, and you’ve got a couple that isn’t all “hand holding and passionate kisses.”
The first few days we had to supplement Everett’s feeding with formula. It meant that during the night, I had to wake up so I could prepare a bottle and rig up a tube to my finger so that I could feed him (we wanted to avoid nipple confusion). On top of that, Emily wasn’t exactly in the condition to run a marathon or really do much moving, so I also tried to get everything she would need to be comfortable and be able to properly feed Everett (for one, we were using a nipple shield, so I needed to disinfect that). You may be saying, “This sounds like everything is going really smoothly, so what is the problem?” Well, the problem was I left out the parts where I was stumbling all over the bedroom and kept on doing the simplest of tasks incorrectly. It seems I’m even less stealthy and coherent when I’ve been woke up after an hour and half of sleep.
This created an unhealthy dose of friction and tension. Emily was frustrated that I was not doing things the right way (her way), and feeling she wasn’t getting the proper support while she was recovering. I was feeling underappreciated in my effort to not only look after my wife and son, but also balance caring for the pets (they still needed food and walks and love) and making sure I had enough writing work to financially provide for our family. It was an emotional scene that was uglier than Medusa and just as likely to turn us all to stone.
We were smart enough to not allow things to get too heated, and we had a talk where we openly expressed all our feelings. It was a very candid and honest talk, and it was probably the major turning point in making our transition into parenthood much easier. Since that talk, I think our relationship has become much stronger and the whole parenting process easier to handle.
Of course, I’m not really taking any credit for the whole “easy” parenting experience. I attribute that to a son that is magnificent and easy going. I don’t want to even try to imagine what the experience would have been like if Everett had a hard time adapting to this world. Even though I proclaim how great parenting is now, there will always be those first few very hard days.
I’m not saying this to scare first time parents. I also am not foolish enough to think my experience will be anything like your own. If I’ve learned anything, it is that every couple and every baby is very different. Your struggles and experiences are going to be very personal and unique. I do want to say that the moment we decided to finally communicate and share what we were feeling, it made the parenting experience much easier to handle.