Exactly two weeks ago my wife gave birth to our beautiful baby daughter, Elif Marvel. As I wrote a few days ago for PJMedia.com, it was one of the most traumatic and joyful days of my life. On the one hand I was able to hold our princess in my arms, but on the other hand, I saw my wife suffering for a full 36 hours. Honestly, I think I’m suffering from PTSD because of it.
Anyway, in the two weeks since our baby’s birth, a lot has happened. The most important part, probably, is that I’ve been introduced into Official Fatherdom. Yes, that’s right: my baby girl decided to poop when I was changing her diaper. It came all over my hand and my arm. Yellow. Poop.
Strangely, it didn’t matter to me. I remember years ago when I only had to smell my niece’s poop. I told my sister to “get this thing away from me,” and hurried to another room so I didn’t have to smell this horrible attack on my senses. With my own daughter, however, my response was: “Such a big girl! You’re such a good pooper! You could be a pro! And it doesn’t even smell bad!”
I’m not joking, it didn’t smell bad. At all. In fact, none of her poop smells bad to me. It must be part of the miracle of fatherhood because every other child grosses me out. Not Elif Marvel. As far as I’m concerned, her poop is pure gold. And when she vomits a bit I tell her to “do it over me, don’t make yourself dirty and wet.” Papa can be wet, dirty and disgusting, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the little one.
Although I’m extremely happy to be a father and already love our child deeply, there’s this strange feeling I have every now and then. Well, scratch that: almost all the time. When my wife and I are putting her clothes in the wardrobe, when we are changing her diaper, feeding her (with the bottle or directly on the breast), when she’s crying because she’s, well, I don’t know what… I constantly have this sense that this little creature is a guest and that soon everything will return to “normal.”
I have to make a conscious effort to tell myself time and again that this is the new normal. This: a third being, a third human in our family. A tiny human being who demands our full attention and who is, at least for the time being, utterly and completely dependent on us. She will be the center of our lives, not just for the coming days and weeks, but for years to come. Heck, when we’re 80 years old and living in an elderly home, we’ll still daily be talking about “our little girl,” who may then very well be not just a mother, but possibly even a grandmother.
Is it strange to feel this way? Do more new parents, and especially fathers, have this feeling sometimes? That their baby is, in fact, a guest? That it’s just not very real? Or am I the only person feeling this way? Those are questions I ask myself now… and I then add to it: “What does this say about me, as a father?” Am I failing? Should I be embarrassed?
In years past, a father like me would’ve been alone with his doubts, but thankfully, there’s now a large online community, many websites, books, and much more for new dads. From those books, websites, and communities I’ve learned that no, I’m not the only one. In fact, the feeling is considered “normal.” In the past, one just didn’t talk about it. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t there, this sense of it being “unreal” all the time.
That’s what I tell myself, at least, when I’m getting fed up with my own attitude and feelings. Because, yes, being a dad is a wonderful job, but it somehow still hasn’t gotten through to me completely that this is who and what I am — and that this will be the most important job description of mine for years to come. Oh, next to being a husband, of course, because the relationship between my wife and me is the foundation of our child’s happiness. That, too, is something I tell myself that I shouldn’t forget: Spend time with The Wife, love her as much as you can. Not only for her and for yourself but also for that little creature suffering from gas right now.
Which reminds me: Time to go! It’s time to make her belch! Come on little one, you can do it!