Before Em arrived, one of the things we heard over and over again from our friends who have kids was something along the lines of, "The first few weeks are super tough, but it's a lot more fun after that." I'm paraphrasing and abbreviating to be sure, but the picture most commonly painted for us was quite a rosy one. Maybe it's because none of our friends wanted to scare us and they instead wanted to send us good vibes ahead of "d-day", but part of me wishes they'd leveled with us beforehand as to just how hard caring for a baby can be.
Some things I've learned so far that I wish I'd known beforehand:
If any soon-to-be parent were to ask me now what they should expect, here's what I'd say, sans rose-colored glasses:
Ultimately, no amount of pre-reading, childbirth/childcare classes, nor discussion with friends can truly prepare anyone for parenthood. Hien and I each read several books, took a series of classes through Stanford Children's Hospital, spoke with many friends who have kids, and still there were moments during those first few weeks where we felt lost and woefully inadequate. There is no playbook. Despite the ever-expanding universe of conflicting information out there on the web that will have you believing one minute that you're an amazing parent, the next minute that you're a horrible human being, it seems as though we all find our own way. After all, our parents raised us with far fewer resources at their disposal and we all turned out okay, right?
I say this all realizing that, being only five months into our journey, there's worlds more to learn. So with that, I'll get off my soap box :-) (Cue Melisandre saying "You know nothing Justin Brown"...)
12 weeks off!!! Yeeeehaaawwwww!!!
Well...not "off" I guess, but away from work.... with a (now) 5-month old, while Mom goes back to the office.
I've been looking forward to my end-of-year paternity leave ever since Em was born. I took a few weeks off right when she was born, but as any parent will tell you, the first few weeks of a baby's life are all about survival -- for both baby and the parents. Sleepless nights accompanied by a seemingly infinite number of diaper changes coupled with a whole lot of crying and confusion that all blurs together, until one day parents and baby finally find their groove (if they're lucky) and life regains a small semblance of normalcy.
We fell into our groove around week six, right when I went back to work after the July 4th holiday. Mom did a fantastic job nurturing Em through months 2-5, getting her on an effective napping/feeding/activity schedule, which in turn laid the foundation for sleep training. The few months since then have been a rollercoaster of ups and downs (but mostly ups), full of great firsts for Em -- sleeping through the night, laughing and giggling, eating solids (avocados, bananas, yum!), rolling from her back to her tummy... Being a dad is definitely starting to be more fun as Em's alertness and general awareness of her surroundings increases, although I often wonder if at this age she even knows who I am :-).
I can only hope to do as good of a job as Mom did while I'm on Em-duty for the next 2-3 months. This period in Em's life, months ~5-7, will welcome many physical and cognitive developmental milestones -- sitting up, perhaps even the early stages of crawling -- so there's a lot to look forward to!
I don't plan on this being a blog strictly about my experience navigating parenthood, although it will be a central topic of course. I'm hoping to take some time each day while I'm on paternity leave to reflect on my own goals and things I'd like to accomplish, parenting and otherwise. Jotting my thoughts down seems like a good way to do just that, and who knows, maybe something I write about will resonate with you!
(Below are pics of Em at 5 days old, and 5 months old. I'm continually blown away at how much progress babies make week to week, even day to day!)