Days have a different pace now that the family is gone. For the first three weeks of TD’s life, we had a series of visitors/helpers come stay with us. It was largely a successful endeavor, and most of my apprehensions about having people over so early in our new family’s development turned out to be for naught1. Already, I miss the ability to have my hands free at a moment’s notice simply by asking who wants some baby time.
In reality, we are only in Week Two of finding our rhythm. The nights are largely the same2, but the days are markedly different. Kathleen is slowly going back to work, leaving TD and me to our devices, at least until TD cries for food every so often.
TD is also becoming more functional by the day. For the first two weeks, she was a world-champion sleeper, pulling in somewhere around 20 hours a day and damn impossible to wake up for feedings3. now she is awake for longer stretches. She is not a fussy baby, but even the most laid back infant requires a lot of attention.
The realities of choosing to be a full-time dad are starting to reveal itself little by little. Parenting today requires a shocking amount of isolation. Kathleen is on an island overnight because of her commitment to breastfeeding, and I am on an island during the day because Kathleen needs to build her business to support our family financially. We come together for periods during the day, but the aggregate loneliness is probably the biggest surprise for me at this point in the game… and we’re just two weeks in to being an independent family4. What’s more, this is probably the easiest that day-parenting will get. TD is basically a pumpkin with arms and legs. Just kind of lies there, rolls around a little, cries some, sleeps a lot. Soon she will be crawling, then pulling herself up, then walking, then jamming silverware into electrical sockets.
Even though I see that coming down the pike, I am a little surprised that I’m not overwhelmed by the situation. We’re indoctrinated with stories and images of new parents as sleepless zombies run ragged by the poop machine they’ve brought into the world. I think we hear those stories because they are interesting. It’s far less compelling to hear somebody say, “Well, she typically goes bed at 11pm, and gets up to twice during the night to feed. But she tends to go right back to bed after eating. All told we generally get about six or seven hours of sleep per night.” But I suspect there are a lot of stories like this, too.
There are rough nights. Once a week, TD decides she wants to be awake for an hour in the middle of the night. Recently, she’s been fussy from about 6pm until she goes down for the night. In general, however, the first four weeks have been much less stressful than I could have anticipated. Which means I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
- Kathleen and I heard from multiple sources that it’s best to not have visitors while you figure out the new normal with a baby. I wonder if people have problems with family visitors because they don’t set proper context, because having extended family in those early days turns out to be one of the best decisions we made as a family. Like most advice around families and babies, this admonition took on a One-Size-Fits-All attitude that doesn’t wash in the real world. Your situation is your own, your relationships are your own, and nobody can figure out what will work for you better than you can.
- We retire to our bedroom at 8pm to break away and settle in for the night.
- At a mere five days old, we had to put up with a late and local fireworks display in our neighborhood. The loud explosions rocked our street until well after midnight. TD slept through the sounds as if they were calming ocean waves.
- There is a biological barrier to being social we are dealing with: a baby’s immune system is effectively non-existent for the first two months of life. While TD is getting antibodies from Kathleen’s milk, routinely taking TD out into crowds is playing with fire a bit. We can be a bit more cavalier with our social calendar after Labor Day.