One of my wife's co-workers asked me, about a week before Jonah was born, if I was going to become "one of those daddy bloggers." I was taken aback by this, not because I was surprised that "daddy bloggers" exist, though I don't read any of them, but rather that it was presented as such a cliched and commonplace thing. I have mostly tried to keep this blog to comics-related material, but in the future, I'm going to try to mix in more of my own personal life as I make this massive transition. So, in a tired, rambling sort of list, here are my first impressions of fatherhood after a mere three weeks:
1) Jonah is a pretty damn cute little boy (of course I'm biased, but see for yourself...)
Sure, he has his crying fits, but normally settles himself quickly once we figure out what he wants. He is a voracious thumb and hand sucker, a habit he exhibited less than a minute after his birth, which is great because it helps him calm himself down. Might become a concern if he continues to do it as a teenager, though.
2) The fabled love that is supposed to form from "bonding" (that loaded term you see so often in those new father books) is happening, much to my surprise, but its a slower process than I had imagined. Because I am generally a neurotic freak, I was negative and skeptical that I could truly feel a deep inner love, but he is so sweet and innocent, and so totally helpless, that I just want to hold him and stare back into his gray-brown eyes. I know how cheesy that sounds, but it's honestly how I feel. That's love, right?
3) The exhaustion that all new parents complain about is far worse than I had feared. I feel like a Zombie, and often zone out in mid-sentence. Still, it's hard for me to complain, since it is definitely worse for Rachel, who is up virtually every two hours feeding. I can at least get an extra hour or so every feeding, until I get up to help change him and soothe him back to sleep. I have also reluctantly gotten into the habit of taking naps, but they don't seem to help very much.
4) I had always imagined that dealing with poop would be the worst part of caring for a newborn, but it's actually not that bad. The hardest part of changing diapers is the crying and thrashing. It's not enough to wipe the poop off his butt, we also have to make sure to check his back, arms, legs and feet since he kicks and screams so much. I've gotten better about holding his legs with one hand while wiping with the other, but its one of those learned skills they don't teach you in birthing classes.
5) Speaking of poop, in just three weeks I've been puked on, peed on, farted on and shat on multiple times. It's amazing how quickly you learn to make your peace with bodily fluids.
6) Most of the time we're able to calm Jonah down pretty quickly, but occassionally he cries for 45 minutes or so, which is a major test of our patience. I know it could be worse, but still it's hard to listen to. He also does this thing where he stiffens up his back so you can't really cradle him, while kicking his legs and thrashing his arms. Our best defense so far has been the hot sling, which he loves and usually goes right to sleep in. The only problem is that to get him to sleep in it, someone has to walk around the apartment for 15 minutes, which is not our favorite thing to do at 3:00 in the morning.
7) It feels like I have watched more TV in the last three weeks than in the entire year combined. In addition to the two series we are working through on Netflix (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Freaks and Geeks), I have also watched six consecutive Mets games, some Yankees games, several episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Hot Fuzz, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Hard Knocks (an excellent HBO show about the Kansas City Chiefs training camp) and tons of other random filler stuff, like Mythbusters, Cash Cab, Jeopardy, Star Trek, etc.
8) I have also read tons of comics. Probably the best thing I read was Matt Kindt's Super Spy, which is something I hope to review one of these days. I've also cranked through George Perez's entire Wonder Woman run (classic!) and continue to work through Sandman Mystery Theater. I am also hoping to return to Love & Rockets very soon, and have already begun working on #25.
9) We also survived two family visits so far, and are about to endure two more before we return to some semblance of normalcy. Nothing is more stressful than the out-of-town relatives, who have no idea how to navigate New York City, descending upon us for a week while we're trying to care for Jonah. They don't mean to stress us out, but it just does.
10) Jonah is a very curious baby, which is probably normal, but still fascinating. He listens intently to music and looks all around at the world, gazing at things as mundane as my t-shirt for lengthy stretches. He also makes great eye contact and has already imitated faces at only four days old.
11) Holding a newborn and finding a cradling position that is comfortable for both of us has been occassionally difficult. His floppy head and jerky, unpredictable movements create challenges. In general, it seems like the closer I hold him to my chest, the better, and two arms are usually better than one, though I am getting better at the one arm "football hold."
12) There is nothing better than when he naps on my chest.
13) I was unprepared for the sheer volume of gifts we would receive. I mean, I knew we would get some, but after three weeks, we are still averaging three packages a day. Our postman must hate us! People we don't even know, like my sister's co-workers, or long forgotten friends, have sent gifts. Even my ex-girlfriend sent a gift. It's great, it really is, but has been challenging to figure out where to store it all in our two bedroom apartment.
14) Speaking of gifts, the amount of useless baby products that exist is incredible. How many different types of towels to wipe up spit-up do you need? We have at least ten different variations on this theme. We have already received a small zoo's worth of stuffed animals, and more onesies than Jonah could wear if he went through wardrobe changes like Elton John.
15) In general, I have surprised myself by how well I've handled it all so far. I have been calm and supportive of Rachel, have managed to help out around the house quite a bit - making meals, grocery shopping, cleaning, doing laundry, etc. - while still getting plenty of time to play with Jonah. I have felt far less stress and more joy than I had anticipated.
16) I still worry that after a few weeks, the high of being a new father is going to wear off and the stress will begin. So far it all seems kind of surreal in a way. I am planning to return to work in two weeks, and it could be at that point when my nerves really begin to fray. It helps that Rachel will be off for 8 more weeks, and that, at least so far, Jonah seems to be a pretty calm baby. I'm optimistic, but I don't want to be naive.
17) More than anything, I am just grateful that Jonah is healthy. Everyday I look at him and remind myself that he is the miracle of creation, and that, no matter how hard we try, there are so many things in this world we have little or no control over. A healthy baby is perhaps the greatest gift in the world!