Dad Blog: Expectations vs. Reality

I knew the reality of having a baby wouldn’t match my expectations, but even the ways in which it doesn’t match are surprising. I’ve mentioned the relentlessness of being a parent already. I knew that intellectually, but to actually have this new human being in your house for whom you are legally and morally responsible is…heavy. Fun, totally worth it, but sometimes when I’m holding him I’ll completely space out for several seconds and does this mean he’s going to hate me when he’s in his 30s? That sort of heavy.

Anyway, getting ready for Del we were concerned for our neighbors. We live in a smallish building and the walls are thick enough, but certainly not soundproof. I had visions of a screaming child waking the building up at 3 AM every night. We talked about Amy baking something for our neighbors across the hall, but it turns out when you’re ready to have a baby at any minute, or you’ve just had a baby, that falls very low on the list of priorities. I did, however, put an eggshell mattress topper under the decoration we got for the wall we share with them, where we thought the crib would go.

It turns out Del isn’t any louder than anyone else in the building, but we’re the idiots making noise that is surely driving our neighbors up the walls. Del starting giggling a week or two ago, and every time he does it we repeat whatever happened last at the top of our voices to get him to do it again. Turns out baby giggles are in the methamphetamine family in terms of addiction. So there are lots of scenes like this:

I’m sorry, neighbors.

I mentioned where the crib was supposed to go. That’s another expectation that was swept aside by reality. We have this little nook in our living room and it makes the most sense, floor-plan wise, to put the crib there; however, that is incredibly inconvenient lifestyle-wise. We’re sneaking around our apartment like ninjas in training whenever Del is asleep, so to put that in the living room would mean going to bed around 8 or 9 PM, or at least getting ready for bed and then staying silently in the bedroom until we fell asleep. Not my tempo. So, the crib is at the foot of our bed. This is also a result of the first several weeks of both of us shooting upright in bed in the middle of the night, looking desperately at the baby to make sure he’s still breathing. It’s a lot easier to do that when the crib is at your feet. More importantly it made the night feedings a lot easier. So, that’s where the crib is staying for the time being. Of course, his swing where he naps is where the crib was going to go, so we’re still creeping like ninjas through the house several hours of the day.

Before Del was born, we were concerned that our cat Tommy was going to be a real problem. He loves getting into things, chewing bags or plastic or wood or anything really, waking us up in the middle of the night with this. Also what if he tries sleeping on or near Del in the crib? Have you ever tried keeping a cat away from something? It betrays basic laws of physics. I was legitimately worried we’d have to give him to someone else. Turns out Omar is a way bigger threat to Del’s sleep because he is the noisiest dog in creation. Snorting, snoring, panting, shaking, smacking. He’ll come in from a walk, sniff Del’s feet as he sleeps in the swing, then shake right in front of him like a walking fire alarm. He sleeps at our feet in the bed, which as mentioned is right next to the crib. He sits up smacking in the middle of the night, or he’ll throw himself over on his other side and heave a great snorty sigh as he settles in to his new position. Tommy meanwhile is just napping in a corner. He has become a different cat, a sweet cat. He saw the writing on the wall.

And finally, breastfeeding. I can only speak to this as an accomplice of course. Before Del was born people would ask us if we planned on breastfeeding, and we’d say yeah duh like they’d just asked us if we planned on bringing him home with us, or giving him a name. We never understood why they asked. Then Amy started feeding him. It’s one thing to think you’re not going to get any sleep because your child needs to wake up and eat every few hours. It’s another thing when he’s cluster feeding and he has to eat every hour and it takes him 30 minutes to eat and you know if you ever leave the house his food is leaving the house and what if he gets hungry and he can’t eat and it was a lot for Amy. It’s a lot for anyone. Some really great moms who’d forged a path before her helped her get through it, particularly sister-in-law Sara, and after several weeks she was totally on top of it. Then we found out he’s allergic to something and she never could eliminate whatever it was from her diet and he’s on formula now. So, go figure.

I also expected fatherhood to be a deeply moving experience but the reality is even deeper. Looking at him looking at me as we both figure each other out, then having him decide that he likes what he sees and he smiles at me, that’s not what I expected. The instantaneous new life goal of seeing him happy and knowing I would do whatever I have to in order to keep that going, that’s not what I expected. The abandon with which I wade into all of his bodily fluids to keep him healthy, that’s not what I expected. Watching this sweet little boy take in the world and figure it out, it’s not what I expected at all.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.

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