Becoming a father has come with challenges and those have been far outweighed by the incredible amount of love and happiness that my daughter has brought to our lives. I tend to shy away when I need to face adversity. I have typically looked for the easy way out of things that are difficult or at least sought the path of least resistance.
In becoming a father, I saw myself as the dad who would always be there. The protector of our little family and the provider. The one everyone can rely on whenever they needed. I think I’ve modeled my view of a father very much on my experience with my dad.
I have learned so much since my daughter was born just three short months ago. It already seems like she’s been in our lives forever. I think that is mostly due to the sheer emotional investment we’ve put into raising her and getting to know her. Seeing this little person grow and develop right in front of your eyes is absolutely astonishing. We’re already putting away clothes that she used to float in.
There have also been difficult times fuelled by a lack of sleep. Everyone can be more on edge and I’m most often the guilty party. Reframing situations and embracing meditation have helped. My experience with a lack of sleep goes back years so it has not been totally new. The hardest part, by far, is rejection.
It’s easy to understate just how reliant an infant is on her mother. Especially when exclusively breastfeeding. Yes, there are ways to incorporate the father into feedings like supplementing with formula or by pumping but those are easier said than done. As an example, pumping doesn’t work for everyone and in our case, it doesn’t draw nearly enough milk for one feeding. Aside from nourishment, breastfeeding is also a soothing activity for the baby. It creates a bond and a sense of safety in the arms of her mother.
My bond with my daughter has been incredible. She often settled more easily with me in the beginning and I truly value any time with her. She also enjoys bouncing around on my knee and when I make funny faces for her. Her smile melts my heart every time. Recently though, calming her down has become a very difficult task.
There’s some research that I’ve come across saying that infants do find more comfort in their mother’s arms at a certain point in the first few months of life. It’s totally understandable when looking at it from an objective point of view. This father, though, is far from objective when it comes to his daughter. It can be absolutely gut-wrenching to have her in my arms, wailing and being unable to sooth her. It makes me question every quality I thought I possessed to be the perfect father to my daughter. It’s an unbelievably scary feeling.
Having a partner there to bring you back down to earth is invaluable. In the moment, I find myself wanting to just run from the situation which has always been my modus operandi. It likely doesn’t help that these fits happen later in the evening after a full day. The best advice my wife has given me is, “sleep on it.” And sleep I did. I find it also helps to workout.
Looking at the last week of inconsolable fits from an objective point of view, I can see a total of 6 hours of difficult times surrounded by phenomenal bonding opportunities with my daughter. Yes, bath and bedtime have become difficult. I cannot let such an insignificant amount of time taint the entire experience.
Instead of running and hiding, I should face this adversity head on with the courage I hope to pass on to my daughter. I have to embrace that not everything is going to be easy. These are the same words I know I’ll be telling her the first time she hesitates to do something that seems too difficult.
She is just an infant. She is relying on instincts. Her instincts tell her that the one who feeds her is best for soothing her. I need to do the same and rely on my instincts and set my emotions aside. She is my daughter and I must care for her and protect her. If that means handing her to my wife and watching out for both of them, then that’s exactly what I’ll do. I won’t run. I will make sure she learns that she can sooth in my arms as well.
Writing these words helps to clear my mind and see things more objectively. I’ve always valued writing for that exact reason. I’m also writing this because I don’t think enough people speak about this stage in infancy. Sleeplessness is often the topic of conversation. I have never heard another father discuss the sense of rejection he felt during the early stages of becoming a father. I hope this helps to broaden the conversation.