Musings on Two-ish Weeks of Fatherhood

My baby boy was born on Saturday, November 5 at just before 7am. An early morning birth sucked for us as parents, because what it meant is that we didn’t get a lot of sleep. We went to the hospital just before midnight on Friday, and aside from three total hours of napping between the two of us, we didn’t get actual sleep until Saturday night. Now, witnessing a live birth is an experience that kind of rattles all of the things that you know anyway, but smearing that with a heavy layer of “I’ve Been Up For Almost 24 Straight Hours” pushes it firmly into the surreal.

Everybody who says that birth is a beautiful thing clearly hasn’t seen one. Despite my fatigue I distinctly remember the moment when my baby came out of my wife and it was many things, but it wasn’t beautiful. Some time later, when the nurses wanted to get her up and moving, she looked back at the bed, and horror slowly spread across her face. I could only muster “Yeah, we’re not getting our security deposit back on that bed.” There were stains on that bed of which we must never speak.

Not even my baby was beautiful. He was a cone head from the two hours of pushing and he was covered in vernix and evil. Honestly, he could have been covered in $100 bills and strippers for all I knew, because the first time you see a baby comes out of a vagina in person your brain goes “Whaaaattttt thhheeeee fffffuuuuuucccckkkkkk just happened?” One moment, there was basically just a hairy vagina, the next, there was a tiny human who looked displeased. He’s adorable now, but at the immediate moment of conception he was something that you would try and look at if you were out in public, but out of the corner of your eye so you didn’t seem rude. Plus, one of his very first acts in this world was to spray poop everywhere. It was a photo finish with his first cry, so I don’t really know what happened first, but the fact that I have this mental debate tells you all you really need to know.

We went to a really excellent hospital, so we didn’t have what is likely the typical parent experience of “Well, how do we not kill this thing.” We spent a little over a day there after the birth, with nurses showing us how to breastfeed and generally care for our new tiny human. He was with us the entire time from birth to discharge, or I guess from discharge to discharge, depending on your sense of humor. The first night, they had an elevated, clear-sided bassinet that they wheeled into our room. The recurring thought I had was “So he just lays there and doesn’t die?” I didn’t ask this as it was assumed by the actions and words of the staff, but there’s still a part of me two weeks later that goes worries about his survival.

See, I’m a person who has to know things. It simply isn’t possible to know everything about babies. Science doesn’t know everything about babies. Example: SIDS. There’s a thing called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. What is this nefarious sounding medical diagnosis? It’s basically “You’re baby died and we don’t know why.” Oh, that’s great. I’ll think about that frequently when I’m not sleeping for the next six months. Now, it’s *believed* that these are all just suffocation that can’t be proved, but our best scientists don’t know. Awesome. So here I sit, with this little person whom I instantly love more than anybody else I’ve ever loved and he might die randomly. Enjoy! I’ll talk about many more things in the subsequent paragraphs, but this is my number one, overriding fear, and likely that of most first-time parents: Not letting my child die. Makes you just want to dive right into parenthood, huh?

Aside from the constant fear of having the singular best thing that’s ever happened to me (sorry wife) die, there are many other things that run through my brain chamber on a daily basis. Not number one, but near the top, is why is his little baby scrotum so very large? He’s currently around twenty inches long, which is a little under two feet. The full baby, not his scrotum. He’s going to roughly triple in size. If his scrotum triples in size he’s going to need a wheelchair. For his balls. I’ve read a couple of books (two) on babies and none of them discussed this topic. I was unprepared.

I was also unprepared for the amount of poop that comes out of this thing. We just had our two week checkup visit with our pediatrician. After looking at Ted’s stats, the doctor was like “Oh, so he’s gained a lot of weight, he’s probably going through around eight diapers a day?” Fuck you. If he went through eight diapers a day, I’d be ecstatic. He goes through like 15-20. Most parents post things on Facebook like “Our little baby is in the 93rd percentile in weight and 98th percentile in height for his age.” Our baby is in the 99th percentile in shitting himself. I guess I should be proud.

On a positive note, most of his poops are HILARIOUS. My baby farts. Loudly. Now, they’re typically farts with benefits (by benefits I mean poop), which lessens the awfulness. We’ve all gambled on a fart and lost at some point. Apparently it gets really fowl when he starts eating solid food, but we’re not going to think about that right now. For now, we’re going to settle on the fact that diaper changing is this awful game of Russian Roulette, but with poop and pee. See, initially, we just got his diaper off of him and slapped a new one on him as quickly as possible. This causes diaper rash, apparently. What you’re SUPPOSED to do is let him air dry before you put a new diaper on him, but this is akin to staring into the barrel of a gun that fires every three minutes without knowing when it last fired. My wife and I have different methods for dealing with this. I just aim his penis up and away from me. He has urinated on himself several times. This may be awful; it’s for you to decide for yourself, but I’ve remained mostly dry. My wife puts him on his stomach so that he pees down.

Because I like lists, here are the rest of my random thoughts:

  • He can be literally anything. An artist. An actual rocket scientist. He could design better stoplights or end poverty or finally explain to me, in a way that makes sense, why people find Jennifer Garner attractive. He is a blank slate. That is heavy. I want him to pave his own life, which mostly involves me not fucking it up for him between now and when he’s old enough to figure out that I’m fucking it up for him.
  • I’m so very hopeless. I do, legitimately, love him more than anything I’ve ever cared for. And he could turn out to be an asshole. I don’t know, yet I’m head over heels.
  • Loving him doesn’t make my expectations not crazy. I get frustrated that he can’t talk, can’t understand things, can’t communicate. It’s easy to soothe myself since I know that he’s a little baby, but it makes me laugh that I even have thoughts like “DUDE, we’ve changed diapers like 200 times by now, there’s zero need for crying. You should know this.”
  • Mandy asked me to pick between Teddy and my dog Dot and I refused to answer.
  • I worry that I won’t always love him. I expect great things, but have to figure out how not to crush him under the weight of unrealistic expectations. I also have to figure out how to accept him as his own person, eventually. He’s clearly not out there voting for Trump this year, but if he did, I’d still have to love him? This concept is hard for me. Mandy is amazing. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had my mental checklist of “Here’s what we’ll be good at” and “Here’s what we’ll suck at.” I thought we would be mediocre parents. Not great, but not awful either. She absolutely kicks ass. Her patience for the baby is through the roof. It hasn’t necessarily spilled over to me yet, but there’s hope. I thought she would be out of her comfort zone, but she’s like the World War II vet who has a bullet whiz a foot from her face and she doesn’t even change the draw on her cigarette. I’ve had a moment or two of weakness so far, but she’s been aces.
  • Feces. There’s just so much of it and I’m already over it. And we’re just starting. My sister-in-law is Ukrainian. They apparently potty-train babies when they learn to walk. I’m all on board at this point. I handled my first “I have poop physically on me” moment better than I thought I would, but I’m still not excited over the prospect of that for another year or two. Ted is going to learn that life is hard. The easiest way to do that is by making him deal with his own shit. Literally.
  • Being adopted, I worry about identity probably more than I should. Even prior to Mandy getting pregnant, I warned her that I have crazy adopted kid brain and wanted a son, since I view it as just the two of us. My parents are my parents, but genetically, it’s just me. I’m simultaneously compelled to and horrified at the thought of finding my biological parents.
  • The US has abhorrent parental leave. Seriously, we’re allegedly the best country in the world, and so many people clamor for “family values,” but most people have grossly insufficient time to bond with their newborn children. I happen to be lucky enough to work for a company that offers paternity leave, but most don’t. That’s fucking tragic. My view on many things has changed, but this is likely the most severe. We need to increase parental leave, dramatically and immediately.
  • I don’t want to suck as a parent. I’m going to be embarrassing. At some point. I know this. But I want to raise a good human. It will be hard. Most people seem to have forgotten decency. But I want to raise a sociable human in an era of isolation. I want to raise a good person who does things because he knows they’re the right thing to do, regardless of if anybody is watching. This is my number two fear.
  • To recap my fears it goes: 1) The baby dying. 2) Raising a good human. 3) Why is his scrotum so big?

There are so many more things that have rattled through my brain since becoming a father, but it’s impossible to remember all of them always. Don’t sweat, I’ll certainly share more, but that’s all for now.

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