I have several blogging friends whose blogs became baby blogs after they had children. I do not plan on this being the case with this blog. However, I have always tried to use this blog as a place to openly and transparently share my personal and spiritual journey. Being a parent is being a big part of my journey now, so I plan on having parenting posts at least once every week or two. Maybe more at some times and maybe less at others. The forthcoming post is pretty raw. I hope as you read it you will see it as a snapshot of my life, and not judge me or think I am contradicting the more joyful and positive things I also say and believe.
The Unexpected Things I Have Discovered with Parenting an Infant
There were several changes that I expected in having a child. I expected less sleep. I expected more garbage. I expected the house to be cluttered with baby stuff everywhere. There are several changes that I did not expect about being a new parent. It is about those changes that I want to share with you today.
Having to think and live at a slower pace
I expected that I might have to bottle feed our baby at times. Actually, I have looked forward to holding the baby and feeding her a bottle. What has suprised me is how much feeding the baby, and doing things with the baby forces me to slow down.
Our daughter usually eats every three hours. I did not expect that often times those feedings would last 45 minutes. My theory was that I would often be able to multitask during Karis' feedings. For instance, I might be able to feed and read at the same time. I have found that when I feed Karis she wants me to slow down and give her my full attention. She gets a little unhappy with me if I am not looking at her when I feed her, because she is looking at me. Often times she will grab one or both of my fingers as I feed her, especially when she wants my full attention.
She has slowed me into more stillness. She forces me to quiet my mind. When we are alone, I find that this feeding time at this stage is a perfect time for prayer, especially praying for her. That is, until she wants me to sing to her. Sometimes she wants me to sing to her...I can just tell. And the singing with her and holding her, when it works, is the time I feel closest to her. Especially when she gazes right at me while I do it. Sometimes when I sing to her. Other times I sing prayers and songs of worship and praise to continue my prayer time. She likes both.
Having to adjust some of my household routines
I was suprised at how much housework, home maintenence, and chores that I chose to do between the time Jennifer goes to bed and the time I go to bed. I often pick up stuff off the floor, put all the shoes in one place, and do the dishes once Jennifer goes to bed. I think I did this because I could spend more time with Jennifer if I waited to do these things until she went to sleep.
Our routine these days is that I stay up until midnight, feed the baby, and then go to bed soon after that. This gives Jennifer an extra couple of hours of solid sleep before she gets up for Karis' middle of the night feeding.
Nowdays, I am learning that I need to take out the garbage at lunch, water the plants earlier in the day, and do some other chores earlier in the day. Since I get out of my routine, often I forget what I should be doing earlier because I am used to doing it later.
I Have A Harder Time Setting Priorities
When I am doing office work, I feel badly about doing that instead of family stuff. When I am doing family stuff, I feel badly about not getting more work done. I felt this a little once I got married, more when Jennifer was on bed rest, and even more intensely now that we have a baby at home. This would be easier I think if I had a normal 9-5 job. But when I live in a parsonage, and have a self-made schedule, I feel that the responsibility is always on me to choose one thing, and by doing so I feel like I am slighting the other.
I Am Suprised I Don't Feel More Attached to Karis
I love my daughter. I cried a little when she was born. I have learned a lot about who I am and who she is, and who God is since I became a father. There are moments when I can think about my baby, and I have to do something else because I am moved to tears. I love her with all my heart. If anyone tried to take her away from us, or hurt her, I would fight them ferociously.
Furthermore, I am so proud of my family. I love taking pictures of Karis. I love seeing her in her "daddy wear". With Jennifer at home now, I love coming home for lunch and having all my family together. It feels good and right.
Yet, I don't feel as bonded to her as I expected to. My wife gets excited just looking at Karis, and her and I together. You can see that when Jennifer playing with her and holding her fills up a part of her that she did not know was there before she was born. I don't have the same kinds of feelings. I do not always feel this wave of emotion when I am holding her, and after 30 to 45 minutes of cuddling with her I am ready to pass her on to someone or for her to take a nap. I dread those days when I might have to be alone with her with Jennifer out of town.
I think part of this lack of bonded feeling is my sense of inability to do things "right" with Karis. This sense both has to do with my time spent together with Karis, and what other people tell me I should think, feel or do. Jen has done the middle of the night feeding, but several people have told me that I am not being a good father unless I am sharing that responsibilty at this time. If I can't burp her efficiently, I get frustrated. There is never a time when I am being graded when I am with her, and that I am on the verge of failure. I especially feel like a failure when I cannot stop her from crying, or when someone is making a comment about how I should do something that we are not doing.
I love my baby. I enjoy her presence in the house. I like holding her when she is not crying and I like feeding her. I think she is adorable. I wouldn't want our baby to be any different than who she is. Yet, I expected to ENJOY her as much as all these other parents talk about enjoying their babies. On a day by day and moment by moment basis, for me, there is much less enjoyment of being a father of an newborn child than I expected their to be. Or that I feel that their should be. It makes me wonder what is wrong with me. And it breaks my heart, because I think my family deserves better. I expect this to change as she grows. I hope it will.