My son Freddie was born on December 15, 2021. Ever since time has moved both very fast and very slow.
People ask how it's going — this whole being-a-parent thing — and I still don't really know how to answer.
It is very good. It is not easy. It is way funnier than I expected it to be. Somehow this kid who has only lived on this earth for two-and-a-half months is a master of making me laugh. He's got the best jokes.
It's strange. It's new. It's different. The only shitty thing about it, really, is all the literal shit.
But none of those answers really begin to capture the sheer size of it. The heft. The weight. Freddie represents a precipice that I jumped right off – there's everything before, and everything after. There's no going back.
When I was younger, I was used to the idea that I would go through major life changes every few years. New schools. New jobs. New cities. New homes. New relationships. But in adulthood, Erin and I settled into pretty consistent day-to-day and year-to-year routines. The last really new thing we did was buy a house, but that was ten years ago. Ever since there's been career advancement, and travel, and friendships that have come and gone, but not a lot of whole and complete newness.
Life with Freddie is wholly and completely new. I now have this person in my life who I have to constantly think about. My brain never had to make space for this kind of thing before. Where is he? What's he doing? When did he last eat? What's the diaper situation? Has he napped? What milestones is he supposed to hit this week? Has he done enough tummy time? Does he miss me? Does he need me? Am I a good dad?
I've learned a lot in these first few weeks. Enough that I think I can start a list of the big lessons I've learned.
Lesson #1: You can't be ready, but it'll probably be okay
Everything about this whole new-parent experience is an exercise in absurdity.
Like, there are medical professionals present during the birthing process who watch soon-to-be parents — like, uh, me — do things like yell "holy shit!" when the baby's head first becomes visible and then struggle to do basic tasks like dress a baby for the first time — I found getting his arms into the sleeves very tricky; don't judge me — and they still just let you leave the hospital with a literal human being in your care.
They're just like, "well, haha, see you later. Keep this human being alive!!" and then you spend the next few weeks frantically Googling questions like "how much should babies eat?" and "why is my baby grunting like Tim 'The Toolman' Taylor while asleep?" It all feels like a procedural oversight — there should be more vetting, more training, more rules.
But there is not. And this makes for all sorts of very funny, learning-on-the-job experiences.
But for us, at least, it all worked out. I spent the months before Freddie arrived feeling this constant low-level panic about mundane stuff. Like, I worried endlessly about carrying him up and down the stairs. I was convinced that I'd never be able to do it. I'd drop him. I'd slip. It would be awful.
But all the panicked hypotheticals gave way to reality, and I found myself carrying him up and down the stairs without a thought. Because it needed to be done, and there wasn't time to overthink it.
I was very bad at preparing for this life-changing moment. I didn't read nearly enough books. The pandemic meant we didn't bother with any birth or parenting classes. There was no chance we were going to practice Lamaze breathing over a damned Zoom call. Instead, I put a lot of faith in the idea that it'd all start to make sense when it happened. And, once again my lackadaisical approach has paid off. It does make sense. It's absurd, but it makes perfect sense.
Lesson #2: watching a baby develop a personality is amazing
Before this, I never really understood the appeal of babies. I understood the desire to have children. I could imagine days hanging out with toddlers. But newborns? Dull. Boring. Who needs 'em? Pfft.
People would tell me I'd feel different when the newborn I was looking at was my newborn, and I scoffed. Scoffed heartily! But, goddammit, I regret to inform you that those smug jerks were at least partly right. I can't say I'm in love with this phase of childhood — I'm certainly not the kind of parent who is immediately feeling an urge to go through the newborn phase again, and I am desperately looking forward to future phases when Freddie can walk and talk and experience things — but watching the day-to-day changes is fascinating.
Like, these days, the kid is super into ceiling fans. He discovered the fan my parents have when we went to visit. They keep their ceiling fans running year-round, whereas we keep the one in our living room switched off in the winter. Freddie spent the days with my parents just fascinated by the spinning thing above him.
When we brought him home, he was strangely fussy for a couple of hours. Then I caught him glancing up at our unmoving living room fan with a look of disdain. Like he was thinking, what the hell is this unspinning garbage above me?
I turned it on and his mood shifted. He loves ceiling fans.
Ever since, the ceiling fan has become his best pal. He'll sometimes go a few days where he seems uninterested, but then he'll suddenly fall in love again, sitting for a long stretch just smiling at the fan. He's a fan. It's a fan. None of it makes any sense. But it delights the hell out of me.
Lesson #3: A big part of this is random luck
This is the part where I tell you something that could piss other parents off. One of the things that parents who have just graduated from the newborn phase love to do is warn future parents about how much the newborn phase sucks. They're good-natured about it (generally) but you get a lot of comments like, "Make sure you bank a lot of sleep in advance!" or "Invest in earplugs!" or whatever. The message, in short: it's worth it, but it is harrowing — especially the first few weeks.
I steeled myself for that kind of experience. But I also read a bit about the idea of "unicorn babies" — babies that don't cry a lot and sleep pretty well from the outset.
I might be tempting fate by writing this, but I think we got a unicorn.
Freddie ate like a champ from day one. He slept for a solid seven-hour stretch when we came home from the hospital, then settled into pretty consistent three-hour stretches of sleep. Sometimes four hours. About five or six weeks in, he got his "slept through the night" badge. At two months, he consistently gave us a solid block of generally uninterrupted sleep between midnight and 7 a.m. Lately, he's given us some eight- and nine-hour blocks, though sometimes with a "dream feed" toward the end where he downs a bottle while still basically asleep. On one glorious day a week ago, he slept for ten hours straight.
I wish I could offer tips on how to make this happen for other parents, but it's sheer luck. We did virtually nothing to achieve this kind of sleep. There are things that we have that might be contributing to Freddie's sleepy-champ ways — we rented a Snoo smart bassinet (I'll write more about that later) — but he was a good sleeper almost from the moment he left the womb.
Genetics might play a role. One of my best talents is my ability to fall into a deep sleep almost instantly. But I think it's just a matter of every baby being different.
Now that I've put this out into the world in a not-trying-to-be-braggy-but-probably-a-bit-braggy way, I am sure Freddie will experience some kind of sleep regression and suddenly I'll be up at 4 a.m. making a bottle. I deserve that, honestly. I'll tell you if it happens.
Lesson #4: I need to write about this
It's going fast. We've already got a big cardboard box of clothes he's grown out of. He's threatening to be too big for the bassinet we use for stroller walks and afternoon naps. He holds his head up really high during tummy time and makes motions with his legs that kind of look like crawling.
I'm excited to watch him grow, but I am worried that memories of this time will start to slip away. And I want to remember.
And so: I'll write some things here just so I can have a place to put down the thoughts and stories I have from this very strange time in my life. This will not be a blog about Freddie. His stories are his own. When he's old enough he can get his own damn blog. Instead, it's a blog about being Freddie's dad.
I want to make this helpful for other new parents, even though every kid is different, and giving parenting advice based on having one kid for two-and-a-half months is a bit like having an eight-hour airport layover in Paris and immediately deciding you're an expert on French history, art, and cuisine. But I can write about what worked for us. And I can review some of the gadgets and baby items we've used.
We'll see how it goes. This is DadBlog. I am DadBlogger. Stay tuned for future DadBlogs. I'll write them whenever I can find time between parenting. Sometimes Freddie gives us a break when he hangs out with his best friend. The one that spins.