I want to start this post with some sour grapes, so you can just skip the rest of this paragraph if you don't want that in your life. To all the women who looked at my wife's pregnant belly and decided to regale you with every labor and delivery horror story you've lived or heard: Fuck you. My wife's a goddamned rock star. She laughed when her water broke and pushed for three minutes. She was able to do it all with love and positivity in spite of your douchebaggery.
My biggest fear going into having a child was nothing I'd ever heard anybody say (not that I was asking much). It wasn't about me as a provider or whether she'd come out with all her limbs and organs and such. It was whether I'd be able to care about or connect with my daughter.
I've had perfectly age-appropriate conversations with young children. I've watched my niece grow and develop into a mostly functioning three-year-old. [OK, I'm sure she's a fully functioning three-year-old.] But I'd never connected to anyone who couldn't respond with words, or at least reasonably recognizable action.
It didn't take long, though, to allay my fear. Within a minute or two of Marlena Daria being born, she grasped my finger.
I didn't fall right away, and hospital staff made it abundantly clear that dads are welcome as essentially support staff -- we can ask questions and call the nurse on behalf of our wives and even take the baby for a walk as long as we don't get too close to the elevator, stairs or emergency exit door (seriously; if it's been a while since you had kids, they now plop on one of those anklets they give parolees and if you get too close to an exit, everyone comes running) -- and while skin-to-skin contact is encouraged for moms and babies, dads better keep on their shirts and pants. (Apparently some dads who typically sleep naked or in their boxers thought it was appropriate to do so in the hospital with nurses wandering in every couple hours).
The morning after we got home, I got some skin-to-skin with her, and it was awesome feeling her warm against me. But it really clicked for me when I gave her a bottle and I could see confusion on her face: I smelled and sounded like Dad but tasted like Mom. It was my first interaction with her as a complex human who has more than just basic function (eat, sleep, excrete).
It was also the first time I was able to provide directly for her, even if it was still Mom's milk. I can go shopping and do laundry and change diapers and carry her from place to place, but those are still support staff functions. I was able to fulfill a need, taking her from hungry to not-hungry.
I know this is the easy part. She doesn't move around. I don't have to worry about what she might be getting into. She cries if she's hungry or uncomfortable. It's December; everyone has a cough or works with someone who has a cough or lives with someone who has a cough so only close healthy family are coming by to see her. We have a feeding schedule, which clearly delineates our comings and goings and sleeping hours. We can coincide the diaper schedule with the feeding schedule and she'll cry if we need to add a check. She's easy to get into a car seat to get to the pediatrician and home; she's too young to take anywhere else for a month or two, particularly given that it's winter and flu season.
Basically I'm supposed to keep her alive and she can't even really move anywhere on her own. So, feed her every couple hours, clean her up when she needs it, and don't drop her. Seems easy enough for a while.
I took a day short of two weeks off work to make sure everyone (OK, Marlena and her Mom) is doing just fine and to swing into a routine, and of course I'm not taking this time to practice for my work hours. Maybe I'll start tomorrow (of course not). We'll find our routine. I'm grateful to have a work team that can back me up if I need to suddenly take some time off.
I don't want to rush Marlena's growth. I want to enjoy every moment we're blessed with. I'm also excited to get back to my routine with her and work, and when Mom goes back to work, to build that routine. It's going to be an exciting 2019 around here.