The Metamorphosis

As Proud Mama was approaching the end of the third trimester I was completely terrified that I still didn’t *feel* like a father. It seemed to me that if I had done my part to help bring this child into the world that there would be some new feeling of fatherness (I am informed by my spell checker that this is not a word but I am choosing to ignore it). What terrified me so much was my belief that there was simply no way that overnight I could just snap into being a father. It turns out that for me at least, and some other fathers I know, that’s exactly how it happens. So if you find yourself in the same boat and aren’t feeling quite fatherly yet, don’t worry. The instantaneous change was an overwhelming feeling or protectiveness for the wee one that just entered my life. I marveled at how perfectly evolution handled making certain that the young are well guarded. Even in the throes of his worst stages of colic, where I contemplated bartering with the Romani for 3 goats for my son, I still felt that powerful need to protect him. More gradually I came to recognize his cry, not so much specifically what it meant, more that it belonged to my son. Before he came along, all baby cries sounded alike to me. Now that he’s here I can immediately tell when he’s crying versus another baby.

I think the most shocking thing I found was that feelings of love were slow to form for me, or at least they felt like they were. It’s perhaps the most insidious side-effect of colic, but it really does put a hamper on forging that deep attachment with your baby that you hear everyone talking about. Try to relax a bit, I can say from experience that it just slows the process down but the attachment absolutely forms. My advice here is to acknowledge that your child is difficult and not that you are negligent or faulty in some way. If you had a coworker who screamed at you for four hours a day you wouldn’t want to work with them, and this is no different. Your baby is difficult, but they are still yours and I promise you, it really does get better eventually.

Tangential story time, since I seem to have brought up colic in yet another post. All parents talk, that seems to be a defining trait of the role. Kids seem to give adults something to talk about, and parents (as I have learned) really like to talk about their kids. If you find yourself a parent to a colicky baby and you are talking to friends and coworkers about it, some will sympathize with you. I have also learned how to tell if the sympathizer you are talking to actually had a colicky baby or merely a fussy baby. If their response is “Oh yeah…my child had colic, but we got past it *smile*” then they had a fussy baby. If on the other hand their eyes grow wide, they develop a facial tick, they laugh maniacally, or they faint, then you have found a kindred spirit. I’m still too near to the colic to say if it permanently scars you, but all signs point to it at least marking you; the parental equivalent of the thousand-yard stare.

The point to that tangent is that colic is harder than most parents with non-colicky infants realize. If you find yourself in a position where you don’t feel like your love runs as deep as it should for your child, please be kind to yourself. Try to remember that the fact you are even thinking about it says you love that kid. It’s getting buried under that fourth straight hour of screaming and crying, but I swear to you it is there. Take my advice from the last post – find ways to relax, breathe, get help, etc. When the colic starts to pass and you begin to sweep away the debris, you’ll find the love had been there all along. More importantly you’ll find that through all that, you’ve been a dad, and that’s something pretty special and amazing.

1 Comment

Filed under Newborn, Parenting

Advice for the New Parent – Colic Edition

survive

I debated just leaving the animated gif as the only thing on this post, but I thought better of it. So to get you all caught up, my son was born in July and Proud Mama and I have been trying to wrap our heads (sometimes separately and sometimes together) around this whole “OMG! You’re a parent!” thing. We quickly discovered that our son has colic…this is also known as starting the game on hard mode. I want to make it clear (in case you’re here for advice on colicky infants) that you can indeed get through this. No seriously, put the gun down for a second and listen. There you go…have some tea.

The dictionary defines colic as “A condition of unknown cause seen in infants less than three months old, marked by periods of inconsolable crying lasting for hours at a time for at least three weeks.” Colic sucks for several reasons, but the highest on the list is that your kid looks to be in pain and you can’t do anything about it (see the “inconsolable” portion of the definition). Your child has a shortcut that goes through the normal layers of defenses and goes straight to your heart; when your kid is crying inconsolably, it completely guts you. Every parent experiences that with their kids – colic is so hard because you can be experiencing that almost nonstop.

As near as I can tell, there is no prescribed set of methods that always works to help colicky infants. All you can do is try anything and everything you can do to help. This blog post isn’t here to give you advice on how to help your baby, instead it’s advice on how to help yourself. Colic can start to chip away at your sanity very quickly and you need to find a way to maintain that as otherwise you’re going to have a hard time providing for your baby. So here’s my advice, your mileage may vary:

1. I’ve found that parents tend to fall into three categories when it comes to advice – The “Hey, you OK?”, The “LET ME HELP YOU, I KNOW THIS ONE!!”, and The “I have it so much worse that you do!” I’ll start with the last one, because this one is easy. There are parents out there who respond to everything you say with “Oh that’s nothing, I had to do X with Y for 11 hours straight while standing on my head singing Guantanamera.” These are the one-uppers, the people who really have no interest in helping you. They just want you to know that they felt their situation was worse than yours and that’s pretty much it. Nod, maybe smile, and then quietly cut those people out of your life. You have too few resources right now to waste cycles on people like that. The other two kinds of parents are both helpful in their own ways, they’re more a matter of personal preference. You have the parents who wait for you to ask for the advice and folks who will just offer it even if you didn’t ask for it. My advice (see, you’re here reading my blog so it’s not 100% unsolicited) is to pick and choose what feels right to you. You are never under any requirement to take someone’s advice.

2. Do whatever you can to maintain your sanity. I really mean that, do *whatever* it takes. So far for us this involved sometimes laughing when our son cried, because we determined he sounds like a swan with a speech impediment in a paint shaker. This also involved singing totally inappropriate songs in an effort to sooth him (I’ve covered several Nine Inch Nails songs, Depeche Mode, Jay-Z, and a bevvy of Nintendo game themes).

3. Sometimes the right thing to do is to walk away. When we were packing up to leave the hospital, the nurse made certain that I know I should hand off the baby if I’m feeling stressed because fathers are 70% more likely to shake a baby than mothers are. I laughed this off as this surely not applying to me and we went home. I think it was the fifth or sixth night of me sitting up with our son while he went on hour four of crying nonstop that I actually go angry. It was kind of terrifying and it’s hard to explain if you haven’t been there. Basically you find yourself in this position where you just desperately want this tiny little being to tell you what is wrong and they simply can’t. The frustration of not being able to help, the pain of seeing your child suffering, the lack of mental faculties that come from running on only a few hours of sleep, all of these form this perfect storm and you get angry. Seriously, the best thing you can do for your baby if that happens is to put them down and walk away for a minute. They’re not mobile at this point so set them somewhere safe – a rocker, the crib, heck even a mat on the floor – and just walk away for a minute. If you have that option, go get your significant other and have them take over, if not then go catch your breath. I know it seems counter-intuitive to walk away from a crying infant, but if you think about it, you’re on the cusp of possibly hurting that kid. Having them cry for a few minutes not in your arms isn’t the end of the world and it’s ultimately safer for them.

4. Take a break. Either your SO helps or you call in assistance from friends or family, but take a break. Feed the kid and then run like mad for the door, leaving them in someone else’s capable arms for a few hours. Go get some coffee and something tasty. Make certain to go back home after you’re done, even though the desire to run screaming into the sunset is strong.

5. Don’t feel guilty. At a certain point, the baby goes to sleep and you have a few moments with your scattered thoughts. During those times, if you’re like me, you feel horrible for wanting to feed the baby to dingoes. Colic is hard to manage, so don’t feel guilty unless you followed through on those thoughts. If when you’re rocking the baby you occasionally fantasize about continuing the forward momentum and chucking them out the window, this is surprisingly normal.

Those are my top five basics for survival. If you need some advice, feel free to shoot me a message on the contact page or leave a comment here. Parting bit of wisdom (and I say this with a whopping 11 weeks under my belt) but give yourself some credit. If the baby is gaining weight and seems healthy in all other ways, try to at least give yourself some credit that you are in fact doing your job in keeping that kid alive.

Now go have that cup of tea and stop laughing maniacally…I swear, it will get better once your sanity callouses harden a bit.

2 Comments

Filed under Newborn

The Big Secret

I get it now…I see why there’s such a dearth of dad-positive blogs out there. It turns out, if you’re an involved father who is doing everything that needs to be done, you don’t have time to keep a blog. Oh right, did I mention I’m now the proud father of a five-week old son?

I’m not giving up on the blog, but give me a bit to get my head back on straight and I’ll start writing again.

3 Comments

Filed under Newborn

The Tides of War

My friend Kali recently linked to an advertisement from Tide. A brief plug – you can find some of her writing over on xiane.org (run by another lovely friend of mine, Christiane). Really it’s just all good stuff over there, go check it out. Back to the advertisement:

Yes that’s a man doing laundry…competently even. There’s no looming female authority figure driving him to do the laundry. There’s no hint of faux-emasculation that he has to spend time with his daughter. It’s just a guy and his kid, and that’s it. Bravo Tide!

Sadly this video was on the sidebar when I went to watch the above advertisement:

Hmm…how do I put this precisely?

Picard Facepalm

Right, that should do it, thanks Jean-Luc. Oh Tide, you were doing so well with that first commercial, why did you have to go and ruin it like that? I suppose you could argue that the tone is self-deprecating and thus it actually supports the opposite point. Much like hipster racism, just because you laugh when you say it doesn’t paint you as less of a racist schmuck. Along those lines, just because your statements have an air of humor to them doesn’t make you any less of a sexist schmuck.

I am ashamed to admit that I allow myself to get into arguments with people on the Internet. When those arguments turn to topics such as this, invariably I’m accused of not having a sense of humor. “Why can’t you just take a joke? It’s obvious they’re just trying to do or say something funny here!” OK, here’s my two cents. I don’t think that anyone truly believes that all men are incapable of doing laundry and I don’t think that anyone truly believes that men are incompetent caregivers. The problem is that the media’s constant use of tropes like the incompetent father or the henpecked husband infects the narrative. So where body issues can arise from being constantly bombarded by “Bodies by Photoshop,” emotional issues can arise from the steady stream of sexism. When you hear studies of how deeply hurtful fashion magazines can be to self-esteem, it’s not much of a stretch to find that the media poisons our perception of what it is to be a “real man” or a “real woman.”

OK I lied, I have two more cents to throw in. The media recycles these clich├ęs because they’re popular, because people to varying extents buy into them, and because ultimately it makes them money. The more of us who identify this overtly as nonsense, the less sway it has on our narrative. When lots of people laugh at a joke, people are going to keep retelling that joke. If all they hear is crickets, that joke gets shelved and new material enters the fray. So stop laughing at things like this. We’re better than this and we deserve better than this.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Sexism

I Said Good Day!

I made myself certain promises when I started this site; one of them is that I plan to try and maintain an air of positivity. That places me in an awkward position when I’m discussing an idea I’ve come across, because I don’t want to point fingers and say “Proud Papa thinks you’re an idiot.” That doesn’t accomplish anything and frankly it’s not my place. Who knows? Maybe after the wee one arrives I’ll find that what they’re espousing suddenly seems to be gospel compared to my views on it now. So instead I can only speak in generalities and hope you trust me when I say that I did indeed come across this information.

There’s no point to this post, I just like expounding upon my virtues to a willing audience. Seriously though, let’s talk for a moment shall we? I’ve encountered some truly magical advice around being a spouse to a pregnant spouse. For those of you who don’t know me, “magical” is often the term I use to substitute “feckless gobshite” (ask any friends you have from the other side of the pond if that translation still makes no sense) when I’m trying to be diplomatic. Much of the advice is centered around the idea that pregnancy has rendered your lovely lady incapable of parsing information properly anymore and thus she may have devolved into a vicious harpy bent on consuming your head and/or a large vat of nacho-flavored combos.

Before you cry foul and tell me how she turned you into a newt, hear me out for a moment. My gripe is not so much with the idea that your spouse’s reactions might fall outside the norm for her. I do however ask you to take a moment and think about yourself for a moment (narcissists feel free to skip this part). Have you ever had a situation where work was supremely stressful? I’m talking the kind of stress that keeps nagging you even after you’ve made it home from work. It keeps going, for weeks or even months on end. After a few weeks of that, you start snapping at things that would have normally not even raised an eyebrow in the past. Stress is stress is stress; whether it’s constant emotional stress or constant physical stress, it eventually starts to take its toll. The lady in your life is under both emotional and physical stress. Where work will hopefully give you a break at some point, she will be under that stress every hour of every day for nine months.

Look at this as if it were happening to you (which if you’re a guy could be a bit of a stretch). Let’s stick with the job analogy though since that’s something with which most folks can relate. I’ve been in jobs where I was on-call, in fact sometimes I was the only one on call. I’d get into the office at 7 AM, work until 9 PM, then go home only to get a call at 11 PM that something had broken and I’m needed back in the office. Those kinds of hours leave a person frazzled and often times a little unreasonable (especially if the work is cutting into your sleeping hours). One of the worst things I can think of in that situation is for the person I love to be completely dismissive of that stress. Unfortunately that seems to be the crux of some of the advice I’ve come across. To sum up one book I glanced at (paraphrased to protect the guilty) “Your wife is completely hormonal so don’t take it too seriously when she snaps at you for things that are insignificant.” You know what? She may very well be hormonal, but that is simply not an acceptable reason to dismiss those feelings as invalid.

I’m not advising that you become an emotional punching bag, but you do need to take things seriously instead of merely brushing them off as hormonal overload. Let’s say as a hypothetical that you’ve accidentally set the lawn on fire and this elicits a combination screaming and crying episode. Tangentially, this gives people magical powers to find out something somewhere has gone wrong, which is how scrying was invented. See? Screaming/crying becomes scrying? I’ll be here all week, don’t forget to tip your server. Here are two scenarios, you tell me which one sounds like a better idea:

1. “Honey, you’re just being hormonal. Stop overreacting.”
2. “Whoa…that was pretty intense. That’s not really like you. Do you want to talk about what just happened or do you need some time to yourself?”

I’m not going to answer that for you. Instead I’d advise that if you’re in such a situation, take a second and think about which one *you* would rather be asked if the roles were reversed.

6 Comments

Filed under Parenting

The Bro Dad Rises

The genesis of this site can all be traced back to a conversation I had with a friend at work. She overheard me asking one of the folks in HR what the paternity leave looks like for our company and intercepted me on the way back to my cube for a bit of congratulatory chatting. I went on about how excited I was and that I was really looking forward to being a dad. She was so happy to hear that and went on about how rare it was for dads to want to be involved as parents. I was floored by this statement and responded with complete incredulity. Another coworker chimed in, supporting her original statement. At this point I was beyond floored. Can one be sub-floored? That’s a thing right? We’re going to say that’s a thing. I was sub-floored…basemented (I like to verb nouns, sue me).

Once back in my cubicle I started searching for literature on the art of being a father. I found blogs that discussed ways to “deal with your obviously hormonal wife” and books that compared kids to cars, computers, and a wide variety of woodworking projects. The overarching theme of all of the pieces of advice I was seeing was that fatherhood was something that must be endured rather than enjoyed.

The Bro Rises

For some reason this made me think of Batman. To be fair, making breakfast makes me think of Batman. I kind of love Batman. I don’t have a problem, I can quit anytime I want…don’t judge me. The point is, “The Bro Knight Rises” is not exactly where I want to derive fathering advice. After several days of halfheartedly poking around the Internet, talking with friends who are fathers, and listening to far too many anecdotes from coworkers, I found that there really is a dearth of dad-positive literature out there. There was however several “owner’s manuals” for men that compared kids to (as I previously stated) cars, wood, and computers. The thing is, I already have a car, I already have several computers, and I already have a make-believe wood shop in my head that I will totally build one of these days. I don’t want more of those things, I want a kid and I want to be a father.

Honestly I’m offended, and those of you who know me know it takes a lot to offend me. If the literature is to be trusted than the men these books are written for are fresh from the frat house with social skills slightly less advanced than a gerbil with a severe meth addiction, and the maturity of a mayfly nymph. Yes I know I might have to clean up after myself and I might have to cook food for both my wife and I. But *gasp* I already do those things, in fact I do most of the cooking and like it that way. I like to knit too, and sometimes when I’m bored I menstruate. OK that last one isn’t completely true…I only just really started learning how to knit.

I can’t speak for men at large, nor would I want to, so I don’t know if there’s truth to these claims or if it’s merely hype. What I do know is that there are a lot of books and blogs out there that think the average man is incapable of approaching fatherhood from a mature and reasonable standpoint; this is not one of those blogs. Alfred, warm up the batmobile, I’m taking it to the store to get it fitted for a child seat.

11 Comments

Filed under Prenatal

Mister Fixit

Mister Fixit

At a certain point in life you realize that most people in the world are made up of a limited number of archetypes. You run into the occasional soul who can’t be classified, but we all tend to fit neatly into categories most of the time. There are dreamers, builders, takers, givers, protectors, etc. When I think about what archetypes define me, I’m a fixer and a protector. As with all people there is more to me than two traits, but those are defining traits that scream “Yes, that is most definitely Proud Papa material.”

I promised that when I started this site I’d start writing down useful advice as it came to me, so here’s my first round. Accept sometimes that you have done your best and there is nothing more you can do. When I see someone who is uncomfortable or sick or down, I need to help. It’s not just a want for me, it almost borders on a compulsion. “What’s that? You have a cold? MISTER FIXIT IS HERE!” I appear, arms akimbo, bearing a cauldron of hot chicken soup to heal all colds. Chicken soup does wonders, but ultimately the cold will go away in its own time. My efforts are well meaning and genuine but when I stop to think about them, they’re there to lift my spirits too. It feels good when I help someone and conversely I feel a sense of disappointment when I can’t. There’s a logical disconnect sometimes when it comes to helping a loved one, and it can often be easy to lose sight of the fact that you’ve done everything you can. Sometimes morning sickness (or all day sickness) kicks in and that’s awful. So you bring juice and crackers, and set your loved one in bed, and you bring them everything they need (and a fair number of things they don’t, but you still hope might help). If you’ve done everything they have asked of you and everything you can think of, you need to then stop and just breathe. You’re hovering at this point and you’re putting an unfair amount of pressure on them to instantly be better. You can’t make someone feel better by sheer force of will or Herculean effort. Sometimes people feel crummy and only time will help.

So my advice for the other Mister Fixit personalities out there is to take it easy on yourselves. I don’t have to advise you to always be there for your loved ones, because that’s already ingrained in your personality. Remind yourself that even if they still feel sick, you’ve done what you can. This way you preserve your sanity so when they need something other than your hovering, you’ve got the mental resources to field it.

1 Comment

Filed under Prenatal