After the Rush
Having a baby is insane. The whole process from start to finish should routinely blow your mind. If it doesn’t, I would love to know what you think is crazier than literally creating a human being. So much happens and changes in such a small window. Saying ‘it’s a miracle’ is cliche as hell, but completely true. In fact, it’s so amazing that the first month or so flies by in a whirl of chaos. But after that initial rush wears off, the period of adjusting to fatherhood begins.
For the first time in over a month, things have started to settle down. There was the initial rush of the delivery. Following that were the congratulatory visits from family and friends. Then the craziness began. Hurricane adjusting to life as a big sister, endless screaming and crying from Little Man, sleepless nights, etc. You really get the feeling like you are in the trenches and survival is the only goal. As I mentioned in the last post, there were also some random occurrences which added a bit of stress.
Having made it through the first 5 weeks, things are finally starting to normalize a bit. Little Man’s eating and sleeping schedule is starting to become visible and consistent. We are also getting a feel for what makes him comfortable and what doesn’t. All in all, here in weeks 6 & 7, I am finally settling into a more enjoyable paternity leave. Of course that isn’t the goal, but a little less stress never hurt anyone. God knows my blood pressure could use the help.
Adjusting to Fatherhood & Paternity Leave
Adjusting to fatherhood was such a momentous task during my first leave, I wasn’t sure what to expect this time around. I can honestly say that adding a second kid to the mix is just as challenging. Albeit in different ways. There is less time, less sleep, and a lot more toddler attitude.
Of course there are two sides to the story. The first go around, we had no idea what we were doing. There was a lot more anxiety about doing something wrong, or thinking that half of all kids get SIDS (the number is actually about 0.05%). Some of that worry doesn’t go away with a new baby, but we definitely have the benefit of experience. Also, having my schedule completely rocked, wasn’t as big of an adjustment this time around. It was expected.
Adjusting to paternity leave on the other hand has been far different. At this point during my first leave, I was preparing to head back to work. On this leave however, I am just getting settled in. Next week will mark the halfway point of my leave and I am starting to see all of the value it is bringing to my family.
The Value of Paternity Leave
Before I went out on leave, I set a few goals. First and foremost was to help my wife with the baby. Second was to spend as much time as possible with Hurricane. I knew this was going to be the longest stretch of uninterrupted daddy-daughter time we would ever have. It doesn’t matter that she is only 2, I want us to get a lot closer. Third, I wanted to take some time and evaluate my life. Nothing crazy, just do a bit of light soul searching and make sure I like the path I am on and where I want to go.
So far the first goal has been a moderate success. My wife is definitely taking on more of the responsibility for Little Man, out of necessity, since she controls the food at this point. The second goal though, is what gives me the most happiness. I think we take for granted how much more impactful 7 consecutive days are vs. 7 scattered ones. There is something about the daily consistency without the interruption of work that just makes everything better. I guess it’s a bit like taking a week long vacation, instead of random days here and there. It just feels more significant.
As far as the third goal goes… there hasn’t been much of that life evaluation yet. Hopefully, I can scratch out some time here and there to just sit and think. Right now it just feels like the least important.
Something to Watch For
Adjusting to fatherhood can be tough. I had barely ever held a baby before I had one of my own. And I certainly had never tried to get one to stop crying at 4AM. It can be draining and tough to deal with at times. Of course, you normalize to that over time. But in the moment it can be really tricky. Seriously.
While it’s tough on dads, adjusting to parenthood can be even more challenging for a mom. There are more demands on women, both due to recovery and feeding, as well as hormone changes. Having just grown and carried this kid for 9 months, the idea that it’s over, can be challenging too. So with all that, be a good partner and watch out for postpartum depression.
Just a few things to watch out for:
- Feeling overwhelmed to a breaking point – “I’m never going to be able to do this”
- Feeling of extreme guilt
- Don’t feel bonded
- Extreme feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
- Not eating
For a full list go here. According to postpartumstress.com 1 in 7 moms get it. If your partner is experiencing anything you think might be related to postpartum depression, be encouraging and empathetic. It’s most likely something you are just going to have to ride out together, but don’t hesitate to ask for help from a professional if it feels out of hand. If you are having trouble yourself, read this.