I haven’t written yet on this subject, but I will be writing about it much more going forward. I am now the proud father of my first child. Hannah Grace Siegfried was born on December 29th 2012 at 11:22pm. She was 3 weeks early and weighed in at a wopping 6 pounds 9 ounces and 20.5 inches long.
In the last 4 weeks, like any new parent, I have had to learn a lot. I think perhaps less than some and likely more than others. These four things are as much learned as confirmed guesses I had about fatherhood. These four things have worked well for me as a dad so far.
1. Be consistent.
My mother once told me (and yes this is one of the few phrases of wisdom I have actually remember from my mother) as a father you can’t always be there for your child, but you can always be consistent. This may not be universally true thanks to the emergence of stay at home dads, but, for the most part, most dads are around for the first week or so full time before having to go back to work and leave a very young baby and a possibly overtired, overwhelmed mom at home alone. This was the situation I had to deal with after two weeks with my wonderful wife and new daughter at home. The feeling is heart breaking. I love them both so much, and the trials they have faced together in her short life have been hard on both of them. As a dad, I can’t be there every minute, but what I can do is be there consistently. I come home in the evening, eat or help make dinner and then launch into the bedtime routine. I take the early morning feedings as often as I can in the time I have before work. I am always there to help, and I know my wife knows, and soon my daughter will know, that I will always come home to them and solve all the problems I can help them solve.
2. Be flexibly rigid.
I have known from the beginning that winning the first few months was all about getting a schedule down. Babies and everyone else do well on schedules; also to refer to the above, what could be more consistent than a schedule. The first thing that gets out of wack is your sleep schedule. We had Hannah at 11:22pm and there was no sleep to be had that night. I think I was up for at least 48 hours straight at one point. I didn’t get on it as well as I could have, but, as soon as we regained some of our wits, we enforced a pretty strict bedtime schedule. Keeping her awake for several hours before bed followed by a big feeding and sleep time gives us at least 6 hours of sleep in a row at night (and sometimes more for my wife as she can get to sleep while I do the bedtime routine). I can’t ask for much more than that right now and with that schedule in place we have done pretty well. There is a point though, and it happened to me last night, that you do everything in your power and she wont stay up those few hours before bed or she refuses to eat on your schedule. Don’t stress out, know when she knows best and try again tomorrow.
3. Come ready to learn
As I mentioned above there will be times when she knows far better than you what the right thing to do it. Some of this comes by trial and error, and sometimes she will fix you with those beautiful eyes and just give you a squawk a grunt or a scream and you know whatever it is that you are doing isn’t working. Sometimes it is that you are just the wrong person, sometimes she just needs mom. The instincts we are born with are nothing short of amazing. Hannah’s instincts are the penultimate guide to how to take care of her and if you are ready to listen she will let you know just what to do. To note: Some screaming at you for doing it all wrong is pretty normal, they have short memories though and will usually snuggle with you once you figure it out.
4. The family that games together stays together
I intend a separate post on this subject as the phrase was handed down to me in the weirdest of ways, however, this is just how I have dealt with the issue of too much baby time for my wife. Everyone needs their alone time and their breaks from even the sweetest of babies. My wife and I have always been conscious of this and we spend good amounts of time away from each other and good amounts of time finding new things to do (to prevent fights and boredom). I say the family that games together stays together because a couple of times a week I take our little girl, either get her napping, or just hold her in my lap while my wife and I play a game. It cuts the stress, we get to talk and she gets to take a moment to stop spending her entire day thinking about our daughter. This might not be long, usually less than an hour, but, I think it is refreshing for both of us and it is one of the ways I plan to continue helping to maintain both our sanity.
That’s it for now, I know I will have more theories to test and more things to learn on the way. Cheers to you Hannah, you’re already beginning to change my entire life and outlook.