Throughout the pregnancy, I kept telling my wife things like, “The baby is all mine when she gets here,” and “You’ve been carrying her for nine months, I get the next nine.” I wasn’t being silly; I was just being impatient. I’ve been looking forward to being a dad, getting to put my own spin on it, for so long. I really meant the things I said.
All I could really do to prepare myself was start knocking out projects and getting things in order for once the baby showed up. This list included things such as:
- Finish the nursery
- Frame and hang pictures
- Finish the crib mobile
- Organize all the loose ends
- Meal prep
- Shop for baby items
- Get the car fixed
- Get the cat updated on her shots for boarding
- Get a Costco membership
The list seems long but I had a whole bunch of paid time off I needed to burn up before the end of the year so I knew I could knock out a few items a day. No sweat, really.
Now you can imagine my worry and fear when my wife woke me up four weeks before her due date to let me know her water broke. Since the majority of my ideas around birth come from TV and movies, I was worried about what a premature baby would mean and all of the struggles that came along with it. Visions of the NICU kept flashing across my mind. But, when I was told the water broke, I knew we just needed to act, and we could dwell later. The on-call nurse told us to come in, so that’s what we did.
Once we made it into the hospital triage, it became a waiting game for a while. Fortunately, the staff were not too concerned about the water breaking at 36 weeks since a full-term baby comes at 37 weeks or later. Plus, all the checks they could do showed that the baby was doing what she was supposed to do. Still worried, but a bit less so. That may just have been because we were in a hospital stocked with staff.
I could bore you with the details of the day, but it boils down to a lot of waiting. We did get into the hospital shortly after 7:00AM and Baby Girl showed up just before 9:00PM. There were some hiccups along the way, but she came out healthy and happy and my wife, all things considered happy and healthy as well.
And so began a whirlwind two days in the hospital with Baby Girl. While you’re waiting for the baby to be born, just about everyone warns you that you’re not going to get much sleep once they arrive. What they do not tell you is that during the first few days in the hospital it is the hospital staff keeping you awake more than the baby. Every hour they would come in for some new check, poke, measurement and who knows what else. For an exhausted wife, Baby Girl, and whatever state I was in, we did not really appreciate all of the interruptions. It never felt like we truly had a say in them, despite hospital staff claiming otherwise.
Since Baby Girl game in just before term, she needed to go through a car seat test. From what I gather, this is just to make sure she can tolerate the seat without issue because she is released. The test takes an hour and a half, and they do it in the middle of the night (granting mom and dad a few moments of uninterrupted sleep). When we woke in the morning, we learned that one of the levels they tested on her dropped too low for too long, effectively failing her. They needed to test her again. We also learned that hospital protocol is to wait 24 hours before testing again and clearing her. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear since staying in a hospital is not exactly a luxury vacation. We did end up talking staff into doing an alternate test so we could go home, but it means we cannot use the car seat we have for her until her doctor clears her. She’s in a car bed borrowed from the hospital for the time being.
Checkout from the hospital was chaotic and unclear. We knew we were ready to take Baby Girl home, but no one really seemed to want to tell us what the protocol for that would be. At first, we thought we would be able to leave by one, then two, then surely three. However, we didn’t make it entirely out of the hospital about 5:45PM. Suddenly we were free and the sole caretakes of Baby Girl.
The next few days, the whirlwind continued in different ways. We needed to figure out our feeding and diaper schedule. We had follow-up appointments to get to and follow ups to those follow ups. We had a house that was left in a mess that became more of a mess once we brought everything home from the hospital so that needed to be addressed. Finally, we had grandparents who had somewhat patiently been waiting for their moment to meet their newest grandchild. Baby Girl is the first grandchild on my wife’s side; and she is the seventh on my side. Her youngest cousin was born just two weeks earlier and we had planned to go meet him the weekend after Baby Girl was born but those plans were scrapped.
My in-laws did a great job helping us clean up the house and get organized. They also brought over a few dinners for us, so we had one less thing to think about. Of course, their help was just a ruse to gain access to their granddaughter. I see right through them. But truly, I would probably still be chipping away at things for a few weeks without their assistance.
My parents, who live a bit further away, have been over for one visit so far but are eager for more. When they stopped by grandpa brought over a beautiful hand-made cradle for Baby Girl. She loves it and sleeps in it all day long. It also saves me from needing to lug the bassinet around so she can sleep near us. Grandma was apologetic that she hadn’t finished her baby projects yet (nursery curtains, a crib skirt, and a baby quilt). Who can blame her, no one expected Baby Girl to show up four weeks early.
Now, my wife and I are still figuring out a balance in parenting. We’re working on sleep and feeding schedules. Dealing with appointments and getting those final baby items we didn’t have time to collect. The data-driven project manager in me started tracking feeding and diaper changes and thought it would be best stored in a spreadsheet. I ended up throwing together a quick Google Form for mom and me to quickly log events. I plan to build it out a bit more to keep track of more things (like temperatures and maybe weight) just for fun.
Meals are getting easier to make ourselves, though anytime someone offers to bring over food for us, we don’t object. I did fit in time over the past week to do the meal prep that I intended to do on my days off. We now have a freezer of breakfast burritos, breakfast sandwiches, and four pans of lasagna to get us through the next couple months. Already, they’re coming in handy for quick breakfast bites.
Baby Girl continues to delight and impress me. We regularly remark how much she’s changed in the past week. She’s growing so much (already up over her birth weight). She sleeps soundly between feedings most nights. Her eyes are opening more and tracking our faces. She is even starting to smile. We are still learning her cues. Hunger is an easy one to see but I’m trying to be able to identify when she poops without having to take off her bundles of clothing to check.
All in, she’s been a treat despite the initial scare and timing of her birth. I cannot wait to meet more of her and see her grow and hopefully thrive in the environment us new parents have created for her. I’ll do my best to keep my thoughts here.