When I found out we were going to have a baby, I was happy. I wasn’t really scared but I wasn’t really pumped either. Life had been pretty easy for the last several years. My wife and I had been married for a little over five years. We lived simply and lived happily. We enjoyed each others company and wanted kids but weren’t in any hurry to have them.
The nine months of waiting for me were probably very typical of most Dads, new or seasoned. I joined Keely on all her doctor’s appointments. I heard the heartbeat, I saw the ultrasounds, and I felt/saw the baby moving around. But for the most part, I felt rather removed from the situation.
Some things have been much easier and some have been harder, here are a few things I have learned
- Changing Diapers Not That Big A Deal – I am 12 years older than my youngest brother, so I had changed quite a few diapers when he was little. But it had been over 15 years since those days and I hadn’t changed a diaper since. I was not looking forward to it.I didn’t want to deal with poop. I didn’t want to deal with the smell. I didn’t want to deal with changing diapers every five minutes.But you know what? After roughly 1,000 diaper changes I can say that it really is not that bad. I got used to it pretty darn quickly. I changed her first diaper in the hospital. And because of work schedules and such, I ended up changing most of the diapers for the first month of her life.Changing diapers on my little girl is just one of the ways that I love her and take care of her. I don’t dread it and I don’t mind it. It’s just part of life.
But you know what else? For any other child on this planet, I think dirty diapers are gross and I have absolutely no desire or inkling to offer to change some other kids diaper.
- Babies Are Really Easy When They Are First Born – I was worried about what to do with an infant. I worried that I didn’t have the tender touch or the patience to deal with a newborn.Babies pretty much only do three things when they are fresh outta mamma. Eat. Pee/Poop. Sleep.They eat. A lot. Because Keely breastfed Kyah all the way through, I had very little to do with the feeding part of things. But man oh man, that kid couldn’t hold much milk apparently because she ate all the time. Every two hours, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. And each feeding seemed like it took 30 minutes. I may be exaggerating, but not much.This was already discussed in #1 so I won’t dwell on it anymore. But I guess if you put food in every 2 hours, it has to go somewhere.
And they sleep. Babies will wake up for short periods of time before feeding and going back to sleep. I loved this time with my daughter. It was a very gentle way of introducing me to fatherhood.
I was blessed to spend lots and lots of time with Kyah for the first couple months of her life. Keely was in the middle of her busy season and so I took care of Kyah for hours at a time while Keely worked on her computer, or was out doing a photo shoot.
Those dozens of hours that spent bouncing, holding, and cradling Kyah were so important for me. I was able to touch her and become comfortable with such a tiny human being. And I believe that because I was such a constant for her in those first months, we were able to create a strong bond, maybe stronger than most Dad’s get to have with their young kids.
- Using Baby Terms Is Inevitable – I always thought that I would never get sucked into doing and saying all the typical baby talk that parents do. But I think I have done everything that I said I’d never do. I cooed and clucked and talked in high pitched voices. I use the works “poo-poo” and “pee-pee”. I talked to other adults about her dirty diapers and spit-up.I still feel a little ashamed of myself that I didn’t have the dignity or the fortitude to hold to my commitment of not talking like that. But it doesn’t bother me too much. I realize now that there is another language used because it’s such a unique thing. And you just don’t get it until you are a parent that loves their child.
- God Only Cares About What We Do Because He Cares About Us – I don’t mean to make this an all-encompassing theological statement about God. I realize that I need to be careful when using emphatic statements like “God only cares…” So you theologians out there feel free to comment on this if you’d like but try to understand the point that I am making.I have learned that I love Kyah simply for who she is. She is now starting to be able to do more and more things on her own. But for most of the first six months, she was completely and totally helpless. She couldn’t do anything but smile occasionally, suck her thumb, cry, look at me, and sleep. But I loved every one of those things that she did. When she lifted her head was that anything spectacular? No, not at all. Not in the grand scheme of things. But because I love her so much, I was very pleased when she lifted up her head.This has taught me about my relationship with God as one of His children. God is not impressed by me. There is nothing I can do that would make God go “Wow! That was so amazing Caleb. I am impressed.” He is God. He created the world with a word. All efforts in this world are paltry to His wondrous works. HOWEVER, He loves me and is pleased when I try to live in a way that honors Him. He is pleased by me. It is not because of what I do, but because of who I am and who He is.
This is more a feeling and understanding that I have deep down inside my spirit. It is not something that I can fully express in words. All I can say is that since Kyah has come into my life, I am in awe of the love that God has for me. And it gives me freedom to live and love because I know that He will love me always.
- Babies Need Your Time More Than They Need What Your Money Can Buy ThemI certainly need to make sure my family is cared for. They need to have a warm, safe place to lay their head at night. They need to have food on the table. And they need other necessities of life like clothing, diapers, and proper medical care. But when it comes right down to it, they don’t need that much stuff.
Kyah doesn’t care what my job is. She doesn’t care how big our house is. She doesn’t care if I make $10 an hour or $100 an hour. She would be just as happy in a tiny one bedroom apartment as she would be in a 3,000 square foot house on a lake.But she does need me. I was amazed at how quickly this need showed itself. She needed her mommy from the very beginning because mommy had her source of food. So, at the beginning, I didn’t feel like she really knew or cared if I was there. I felt like mostly I was just a warm body to hold her while she slept.
But I began to notice, probably around the four-month mark, that she began to notice when I’d leave her line of sight. She could be laying on her back and we’d be playing together and then I’d walk out of the room. Very quickly she would start to make whimpering sounds.
I also noticed it when she was able to sit up on her own. I’d set her down so she could play with some toys and then I’d lay down behind her, kind of encircling her. She’d be playing happily and then all the sudden sit straight up and reach out. I’d tell her I was still there and wrap my arm around her. She’d then go back to playing.
She will never understand until she is much older, why I or Keely will need to leave her and go to work. She won’t realize that her needs are met by our labor. And that is ok. But what I have learned, and need to continue to remind myself, is that she is more concerned that I be there for her and with her as much as possible.
- She Wants To Know That I See Her – This one too amazed me at how early it came about. For months now, Keely will sit down on the couch to start feeding her. Kyah will usually drink for a minute and then arch her back so that she can look at me across the room. And when she is done eating, Keely will sit her up and Kyah will search the room until she finds me. When she does find me, a big smile usually follows.I have seen this more recently as well. She is starting to stand up when we hold her hands. Often times when Keely is doing that with her, Kyah will stand up and then turn and look at me until I meet her eyes and say “Good job!” She will then smile, and go back to what she was doing. She will do this again and again.
I am sure there are many more things that I have learned in my first six months as a dad. And I am sure there will be many more things that I learn during the next six. If you are a new dad, or a soon-to-be dad, take heart. Your child will love you. And you will love them.
My one word of advice…be present. Be present in her life as much as you can. If you can take off a month of work, do it. When you are home, hold your child. Change diapers, cuddle them, hold them in your arms while they sleep. Enjoy the process and just be present.
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