Having a child is great. And so, so, soooo difficult.
Oh yeah, I read all the books when my wife was pregnant. I knew what to expect, or so I told myself. Well, three weeks after our baby girl’s birth I can tell all you expectant fathers: you know nothing, John Snow.
Make no mistake about it: I’m so incredibly happy with our daughter. When she gives only the smallest sign of affection, my day has been made. She touches my face or my beard and I’m just about ecstatic.
But man. You really don’t know what “having a baby” is all about until you actually have the baby. You can prepare somewhat for it, but ‘truly get it’? No, you absolutely can’t. Trust me. I’m an expert on this now. I read every book out there, visited all the daddy-websites (and mommy-websites) on the Internet, and still, there are moments when I’m almost overwhelmed.
Almost? Yes, almost. Because, obviously, giving up isn’t exactly an option. A new parent simply can’t afford to be overwhelmed. But almost overwhelmed? Oh, yes. We’re at that point just about, well, 24 hours a day.
Yeah, I know, I’m not supposed to write this down. We new dads can share those beautiful moments we have with our kid, and perhaps our funny moments together, but my gosh, don’t say out loud that you’re exhausted. Or that there are times when you’re (almost!) fed up. It’s the new political correctness, fatherhood-style.
Well, sadly I don’t play that game. Our baby daughter is loved beyond words. I love her more than I ever thought possible. But I won’t hide the fact that, at times, I truly have to force myself to get up, give her the bottle, take her gas, or just take her in my arms when she’s crying for no reason whatsoever.
This isn’t “difficult,” it’s excruciatingly difficult.
All self-pity aside, the most difficult part is actually not the fact that I’m so tired. I can deal with that. If I get four hours a sleep I’m good to go. Yes, even able to work at full strength. So a bit of sleep, even an hour or two, enables me to function.
But the wife. It’s even more difficult for her. She’s frequently so exhausted she can’t even go to the toilet. She just sits there. Surviving.
When that happens my heart breaks. And there I was feeling sorry for myself. How stupid and egotistical of me! Look at Esma. She’s the one who’s truly at the end of the rope.
So two days ago, our baby once again started wailing and wailing, shortly after The Wife had fed her. She demanded more milk and I felt myself getting annoyed. “Leave your mother alone! Just for one minute!” I said to the Little One. “She’s having it difficult enough as it is. Stop demanding milk, at least for 30 freaking minutes. It isn’t that difficult!”
Silly? Yes. Silly. But also the result of exhaustion.
At the moment I said the above, I looked at our daughter. She moved her head toward my nipple. Suck, suck. Nothing came out, of course, but that didn’t prevent her from trying. That’s when I realized my own stupidity. She isn’t trying to “bother” us, she’s actually hungry. She needs this food. She needs us.
“Wait a minute,” I said to myself, “we chose to have her.” To her, it’s mere happenstance that we happen to be her parents. She didn’t choose to be born, we wanted her. Then why the hell do I get annoyed or do I feel (self-)pity when she does what babies do: demanding milk?
“And, by the way, isn’t she actually a blessing? Look at those big eyes. Those sweet fingers. Those hands and arms actually hugging you right now.” Sure, I’m tired, but that’s normal. Every new parent is. What matters isn’t my exhaustion or that of The Wife, but our little girl. Her health. Her happiness. Her safety. God gave her to us for good care. And, dang it, I’ll make sure that’s exactly what we’ll do — what I’ll do.
Those new, expectant dads I addressed at the start of this piece may wonder: “If it’s so difficult, is it worth it?” Hell yeah. I’ve never been so happy. I’ve never felt so fulfilled. I always felt I had a role to play here on earth, a plan God had for me. It’s only now that I realize that having and raising this baby is a major part of it. And it’s also only now that I truly realize why God created men and women for each other… and then told them to go and multiply. This is what makes us — humans — human. The family is more than a “social construct,” it’s a necessity for true happiness. We were literally made for this. It may not be easy, but nothing worthy ever is. In fact, the harder something is, the more we tend to value it.
And yes, this little girl is valued. More than I ever thought possible.