The first 100 days

I was listening to a podcast last week and the guy being interviewed was asked about his experience as a first time dad. He didn’t have much to say.

I want to be ready for those kinds of conversations. Here’s my three month report.

Beyond Thunderdome

Everyone knows that “everything changes.” But how?

3 months feels like 3 years feels like 3 days

Time is weird.

Your baby’s crying will cut to the fibers of your being and gnaw at every self-esteem issue you ever had (and thought you’d left behind years ago).

Nobody likes to hear a baby cry. But a crazy, instinct-level chemical reaction kicks in when it’s your own kid. I guess I should have known this, but the feeling—physical, psychological—is unknowable until it happens to you.

Questioning your entire self-worth after 60 seconds of screaming sounds insane, but there’s good reason for it, evolutionarily speaking.

For what it’s worth, I first vocalized these feelings to a dad-to-be a few weeks ago, and I’ve been in a better place since then.

It’s hard to see outside of it.

If you’ve ever been (clinically) depressed or otherwise hung up in a chemically-induced stupor (the day after a night clubbing in the early aughts, perhaps?), you know the feeling of rationally knowing everything is OK, but feeling a deeper emptiness that defies reason. You can’t see outside your own depression.

The first few months of parenting are like this. I’m thrilled to be a father, and E brings me indescribable joy, but the all-consuming stresses—of sleep management (hers, mine, my wife’s), feeding, planning, working, socializing, and just generally living—put you in a box.

Writing this helps to step outside of that box.

Ode to Joy

Seeing your kid smile is the best.

It’s true.

Diapers ain’t shit.

I worried about this! Changing a diaper is actually really easy, and kind of fun. Let’s not talk about the cloth diaper thing for now. (They make great all purpose house towels!)

Moms are amazing.

Over the last three months, I’ve seen my wife deliver after a 28 hour labor, soothe an inconsolable baby by humming an instinctual melody, allow grandparents and close friends into our new family circle with grace and warmth, and continue to maintain her business* all the same. She hasn’t slept longer than 3 or maybe 4 hours in a row in over 100 days, and she still finds a way to spell me for a nap.

I know there’s a lot of instinct and pheromones and nature at work here. More power to her.

Be present with your wife when she gives birth. (And for every day after!) Have somebody else take the photos or video. Bear witness!

You finally ‘get’ your parents.

Is this an obvious one? I didn’t expect it, but it hit me immediately, as soon as we saw them in the waiting room at the birthing center.

How many times have I been an obnoxious ingrate? Sorry, Mom and Dad. I love you.

Freedom Fries (to my friends w/out kids)

You know that feeling of borderline boredom or anxiety where you think to yourself, ‘hmmmm…what should I do right now?’ That’s gone.

You have no way of knowing how much free time you have right now. Seriously. And not just ‘nothing to do right now’ free time. Future free time. Free time next week at 2:30. Free time in July for that Neutral Milk Hotel concert. The best we can do is pray for the stars to align.

Even when there’s downtime over here, there’s a walk or a feed or a book just around the corner. And you never know when that nap will end, so you while away the minutes without ever really getting to sink your teeth into anything. Zombie phone addiction creeps in.

Please, guys, savor the feeling of just plain not knowing what to do with yourself.

Please invite yourself over. We want to see you. We have no plans. We just have no time to reach out .

We’re in a tough spot. We are more or less home all the time. We can go on short walks in the neighborhood. We’ve even taken a few weekend trips. But we never know *when* we can go or for how long we can go out for. Planning is very difficult. And we don’t just want to have you over after she falls asleep. But we also don’t want you to sit through a twenty minute fussy freakout.

So please be patient. Know we miss you and love you. If you are up for it, come over one morning. EARLY. Nothing but smiles. Or just spend the better part of a weekend day with us—we’ll have no plans but to casually hang, some baby time, some grown up time, a little crying time, maybe.

Don’t miss out on this kid. It will be worth your while.

Oh, one last thing. And this doesn’t apply to visiting us any more. But in the first few weeks, bring food to new parents or offer to pitch in for errands. We fucked this one up with some friends and feel terrible about it having been on the other side now.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Hope to spend a lazy Saturday with you soon.

—mp

*Keeping A’s business alive and well—and sending me back to work—would not have been possible without the incredible dedication and support of her sister, whose hard work, generosity, and loving support has been invaluable to our new family. Thanks 1,000,000, SS!