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I always hate it when people tell me you have to experience something to truly understand it, and yet the first month of parenthood was unlike anything I'd come to expect. Amelia and I had done plenty of reading and talking with people about what having a kid would be like, and we understood that no two newborns are ever the same. We thought we knew what to expect--erratic sleep schedules, no social life, dirty diapers, post-partum blues, happiness, and exhaustion--but even though we got all of that, preparing for it and experiencing it are two very different things.|
On the positive side of things, Tommy's first month was a good month. There were a few minor (but normal) problems, but on the whole, little Tommy was the picture of neonatal health. He slept plenty, ate at a predictable routine, and only cried about a total of half an hour to an hour a day. One thing I will admit to not being ready for is the psychological effect a crying baby can have on me. Sure, I've done some babysitting in my day, but when the crying baby is my own son, it just feels different, more urgent. In many ways, it's kind of like your brain is on fire, and you'll do just about anything you can to make it stop and make the baby more comfortable.
Having my mother around for the first few weeks helped acclimate us to the things we couldn't get out of a book. She provided her experiences--both as a mother of three boys and as a nurse practitioner--without intruding too much or inserting herself where she didn't belong. Honestly, I've never seen my mother so excited, well-behaved, and happy. I saw some of her transition when my nephews were born, but now I've seen it up close and I can tell you: something happens to people when they become grandparents. They get the joy of a newborn without the headache or uncertainty, not to mention the fact that they are well within their rights to leave at any time. It was no different for my father, though the changes were more subtle with him.
I won't lie and tell you that it was all sunshine and roses. There were times--especially right after my parents left--when it got pretty harrowing. Amelia, who kept trying to do too much, became a wreck for awhile, both physically and emotionally. Trying to take care of both of them while keeping myself sane, well-fed, and rested was easily the most difficult task I've undertaken in years. I don't blame my wife, of course; for everything I was going through, she was going through much worse.
But it was definitely worth it. Though those moments--where you're sitting on the couch, a screaming baby in one spit-up soaked arm and the other cleaning up a puddle of pee while your wife moans anxiously from the bedroom--are rough, they are more than compensated for by those other moments, the ones where your baby stares up at your face with fascination or you catch him giggling in his sleep.
And I still get those existential moments, though they aren't as strong as the one I experienced at the hospital. I still find myself thinking about Tommy's future, what he'll grow up to be like, if he'll be into sports or music, if he'll choose to go to college, if he'll get married, and all that stuff. He really is a blank slate, an empty vessel just waiting for me and Amelia to fill him up with knowledge, experience, and love. I just hope we can pull it off and raise him to be a relatively good person. Everybody tells us we're going to be good parents, and though I believe them, I also know that time will tell for sure.
Because the future is one of those things you have to experience to understand. This past month has been an adventure, and I know it's only the beginning. For those of you who've had kids, you know all too intimately how wonderful and terrifying it is, and for those of you who've never had kids, trust me: you really can't understand it unless you go through it yourself.