It’s 3 a.m. when my phone alarm goes off. Time to feed the baby! The last time I fed her was around midnight. As every new parent knows, three hours between feedings for a newborn is max.
And so I get up, even though my brain and body tell me to close my eyes, pretend I didn’t hear the alarm and go back to sleep. This, I tell myself, is what fatherhood is all about: doing whatever is necessary to take care of your baby girl despite your own tiredness and pathetic “feelings.”
I walk to the fridge. Take out the milk my wife put in a little milk bag during the day. Pour it, still half asleep, into a bottle. 100 ml. That’s a lot for a baby of two weeks old, but hey, My Little Princess loves to eat (or drink, actually). Yep, just like her daddy.
I smile to myself. This baby is only 16—- no, 17! — days old, but already I recognize myself and my wife in her. It’s amazing how much is genetic. We’re told most of what makes us us is nurture rather than nature, but after living with this baby girl for more than two weeks, I realize that genes are far more important than we give them credit for. Perhaps not everything is “inborn,” but much definitely is.
Anyway, the milk is in the bottle which I had sterilized before I went to bed. After all, baby cries when she wants to feed, and that’s not exactly a sound her mother and I appreciate hearing. Yes, it means she’s alive and — how shall I put this? — strong of will, but it breaks your heart every time I hear it nonetheless.
It’s time for the next step: put the bottle in the warming machine. Again, I already put 90 ml of water in the machine before I went to bed. Everything is about saving time. Darn right. Switch the machine on, three minutes, please. OK. Now it’s time to wait.
I hurry back to the Little One’s bed. She seems to be doing OK. She’s crying less, which is rather interesting because you’d think she has become more, rather than less hungry. Perhaps she understands Papa is working on a solution. Who knows what goes on in that sweet little head of hers?
Yes! It’s ready. I hustle to the kitchen. Take out the bottle. Test the milk. Just a bit too warm. OK, I’ll put it under some cold water to cool it down faster.
Oh no. Back to the baby. “Hi girl, I know, I know, it’s coming. Almost ready! Come here, I’ll take you with me.” Baby in one arm, cooling off the milk with the other. Test. YES! Good temperature. Woot, woot! Thank God. She’s getting angrier by the second now. And papa is close to becoming desperate.
So I put the bottle to her mouth. She doesn’t accept it, of course. “Come on little girl, you wanted milk, here it is!” I press the front part softly so a tiny drop comes out. It touches her lip. That’s when she understands: THE MILK HAS ARRIVED. She opens her mouth and starts drinking like the little lioness she is (born on August 1, she’s a Leo).
The first gulps come fast. I take out the bottle. Let her catch her breath. Put it back in. She slows down, clearly understanding that this milk is hers. Nobody is going to take it from her. She looks at me with those big brown/hazelnut colored eyes. Funnily enough, she’s cross-eyed suddenly. It makes me laugh out loud. I imitate her. “Whatcha doin’, whatcha doin’? If this milk is that good I want some of it too!”
She just continues to stare at me. She looks into my eyes. And suddenly I realize: to her, at that moment I’m the only person in the entire world. Well, at least the only person who matters. She drinks, yes, but there’s more going on here. She trusts me completely. She relies on me and knows that I’m there for her. Now and forever.
And that’s when I confirm to myself and to her that, yes, that’s exactly it. She’s my little girl, my precious daughter, my wonderful princess. I will protect her — always. I will be there for her — forever. She can rely on me for eternity.
Yes, I love her. I love those dark eyes, that innocent look on her face, those little, tiny fingers with nails as sharp as a razor. I love the sounds of contentedness she makes when she drinks and when she’s deep asleep. And yes, I even love how she makes me exhausted… and rewards me later with one of her small hands grabbing my face. “I love you papa,” is what that gesture tells me. And so my love only deepens.