It’s been nearly 3 months since Harvey was born, and I still feel in a state of awe every single day. I regret not taking the time to put some words to paper before, as I really want to capture what the once-in-a-lifetime feeling of new parenthood has felt like. And that is mostly what I’m writing about – what it feels like. I don’t want to forget. While I’m sure I’ve lost some of the vividness of those feelings, particularly those first few weeks, I’ll do my best to capture my thoughts and feelings at each stage (broken up monthly for now), for purposes of categorization and preservation.
Before I go into it, I did want to just say, I’m writing this for myself. Sarah and I made the choice to be parents, but that was our choice, and we understand it’s not for everyone. Similarly, we’ve made choices as parents, that have worked for us, and while I’ll share some of those, we know not everyone will make those same choices, nor would we expect or want them too. Simply, this is just a sharing of our story for our own purposes, not meant to be advice, nor a source of judgement (of us, or by us on others).
Month One – Harvey the Piglet
Nickname: Nug (as in – what we called him in the womb)
What’s New: Many months ago, upon receiving congratulations from a coworker (with two kids herself) on Sarah’s pregnancy, I replied how I often did, with thanks, and said that I was both thrilled and terrified. She responded simply, there is nothing to be terrified about, it’s all goodness. Crossing over the pregnancy threshold (which was terrifying), the words, “it’s all goodness” really stuck with me. The first month truly is all goodness. Better in fact – I feel like I am on cloud 9. More grateful and gracious than I have ever been in my life. We have a healthy baby, something that is distinctly a part of both Sarah and I, that we could be so lucky, fills me with joy.
Every time I hold him, look at him, I’m just blown away by the mystery and wonder of it all. Sarah and I decided to try and make a child together, and here he is. Not only a part of each of us, but our responsibility to care for and guide him in this world. The major life shift from existing as an individual to existing in partnership, is gradual, there is no exact moment it happens, just a slow intertwining of activities, relationships, obligations, cares and desires until one day you look back and realize your life is no long you, but us. The life shift to parenthood is immediate, and forceful, though not suffocating nor destabilizing, as I think some new parents fear. For me, the force was tranquil and empowering – like angels themselves lifted me to a new plane of understanding and responsibility, saying “you belong here, now”.
This is the first time in my life that I can remember truly living in the now. Not wasting any time of the day, dwelling on the past or stressing the future. Just experiencing every day for what it is. I wonder if parenthood has truly released something new in me. Will this feeling of inextinguishable contentment last forever? I think not, so I try to relish it all the more [Expectedly, it wouldn’t].
What’s Working: During Sarah’s pregnancy, I was so focused on the labor and birth itself, that I really didn’t think a lot about, or do research on how to be a parent. [I can say several months later, that such focus on the birth was unwarranted, once its over, its done, and I rarely think about it anymore]. One of the untended consequences of this, was once Harvey was here, I really didn’t have a “plan” for the choices we’d make in caring for him. Sarah and I both just really approached everything from the beginning with an open mind, and decided to make choices that worked the best for us. The first couple of weeks, Harvey really only slept when one of us was holding him. We tried the crib, a bassinet, a cosleeper, but he just really needed to be even closer than that to us. We started bed-sharing (AKA breastsleeping) at first just as a necessity so we could get sleep, but after doing research, and seeing how well it worked for us, we’ve really come to love it. [3 months later, we are still doing it today]. As someone who can be very stiff and rigid with the choices I make in life, being flexible as a parent has really been freeing and help keep stress levels to a minimum.
What’s Worrying: Very little, life is so great. Harvey has developed a slight umbilical hernia from all the grunting [which would clear up after a couple months]. When my 2 weeks of paternity leave ended, going back to work was tough, but I consider myself very fortunate to have a job I enjoy, and with flexibility. Working is a part of life, and to complain about it seems unrealistic and selfish, but I would spend every second of everyday with my wife and child if I could. Also, Sarah keeps me well-informed of all things Harvey during the workday thanks to Snapchat.
Favorite Memory: This might go down as my favorite memory of life. It was the day after Harvey’s birth. I had spent the day learning how to change a diaper, how to swaddle a baby, and to how hand express colostrum – practical skills you need as a new parent. It was early evening, and all of our family had left us for the day. Sarah had just gotten off of the magnesium, and was starting to come out of the fog and feel like herself again. Sarah was holding Harvey and admiring him, really soaking him in, and just kept saying he’s so beautiful. Suddenly, Harvey opened his eyes, the first time Sarah had been able to get a look at them. She cried tears of joy, and I joined. Particularly given the scary circumstances of Sarah’s induction, and just with all of the uncertainty that comes with pregnancy, we were looking at our alive and healthy baby boy. And he was looking back at us.
Month Two – Harvey the Monkey
Nickname: M’angel (as in – my angel, also happens to be the favorite actual new baby name we’ve heard from my mom who works with newborns)
What’s New: Harvey’s personality is starting to show itself a bit, which not only ramps up the cuteness factor, but also the malcontent factor. We think Harvey is a great baby overall, but he does cry (thankfully far from “purple crying”), usually when he’s not being held. He demands touch and motion, which means lots of car rides, and lots of hours of walking him around in circles in our home.
The “normalcy” of having a child has started to set in. Rather than my first thought of the day being “I can’t believe I have a child”, it has become “I can’t imagine what life would be like without Harvey”. Sarah and I no longer feel like a duo, but a trio. Harvey is his own person and an integral part of our family. I notice a shift in my thoughts of my family. For 30 years of my life, the thought of “family” conjured images of my parents, and my little sisters. Now, when I think of family, I first see Sarah and Harvey. This is obviously nothing against my parents and siblings (all of whom I’ve only felt closer too post-Harvey), but just noticing the shift in perspective – the shift of being part of a family, to creating one. It gives me a greater appreciation for my spouse, Sarah, as the person whom chose to become my family, and I hers. More than just a best friend, or a spouse, there is a permanency to family (for better or worse), and we chose to become that with our decision to create life.
Considering this “choice” I mentioned, and experiencing parenthood firsthand, I reflect on my own parents often these days. Really seeing them as people, not just my parents, who have been through all of the things I am now describing before, and are also going through a new transformation themselves (as grandparents). I reflect on some of my bad memories from childhood – things like having to go to church every Sunday (despite my pleads, and logical arguments as to why I didn’t need to go), not feeling like we had enough money to buy all the video games and Abercrombie clothes it seemed like everyone else got, and being embarrassed by my mom making a fuss at the school every time I didn’t make a sports team – and can see where my parents’ motivations were coming from in a new light, even feeling guilty for some of my childish behavior as a child. I remember my mom telling me all the time, I wouldn’t understand certain things until I was a parent someday, and being super annoyed by such a statement. Now, I know its just a matter of time before I’m saying the same thing to Harvey.
What’s Working: Being active. Harvey has let us know that he likes to be on the move, and we have been answering his call. Sarah takes him on frequent walks during the day, and we often go together during the evenings. We take him all over the various food and beverage options Durham has to offer, and have frequent get-togethers with friends and family. Sarah, in particular, does not do well will ideal hands, and being active with Harvey has really been good at curbing the feeling of loneliness that some new mothers can experience. We hope that taking Harvey everywhere will translate into him being comfortable in various situations through his life.
What’s Worrying: It is very surreal to I’m starting to see Harvey as a person, and can help but wonder what kind of person he will be, and what the future holds for him. As I have these thoughts, I realize my time of truly living in the present has passed, as I figured it would, and I do my best to find peace with that. Harvey had a choking scare, where we went so far as to call EMS, [he was totally fine, and nothing like that happened again] and for the first time I truly realized with the joy that we’ve created, that’s just so much more that we have to lose. With that realization, I’ve accepted the inevitability of anxiety and stress. Always “living in the moment”, or being purely content, I just don’t think is feasible for long spurts at a time, particularly with children. There is a reason we evolved to feel stress. It keeps us and our offspring safe, and drives us to accomplish things we wouldn’t otherwise, that someday we can look back on with pride. And I am ok with that.
Favorite Memory: Sarah left me home alone for the first time with Harvey, so she could go to a “listen to your mother” performance with readings on motherhood. I felt ready, but was a little anxious about being the only one around. He ended up sleeping almost the entire time she was gone, and finally woke up around the time she called me to tell me she was on her way. I took a Snapchat of him while Sarah spoke to him through the phone. Though you can’t hear the audio because I was on the phone, you can clearly see him look from side to side and break out into a big smile at the sound of his mother’s voice – one of his first “voluntary” smiles.
Month Three – Harvey the Joey
Nickname: Matinky (as in my stinky)
What’s New: It’s apparent Harvey is starting to take after his Mama in several ways, most notably, his love of talking. His grunting has subsided, and a sweet healthy voice shines through. The little guy is always having conversations these days, particularly in the mornings. When I look back at pictures/videos of him in his first few weeks, when he was just a little grunting peanut, I literally can’t believe Harvey used to look like that. Literally, if I didn’t know the photos/videos were real, I wouldn’t believe them. As Harvey’s found his speaking voice, he’s also found his crying voice. Whoa – the decibels have really increased. His favorite time to cry is at night, where even walking him around the house in circles, doesn’t always work right away. My secret trick is to sing to him at the top of my lungs. Usually, it shocks him into silence and he just stares at me. About the only actual song I sing to him is “Chantilly Lace” for some reason (maybe the lyric “hellllllllo, babbbbbbby”), otherwise I just make words up to whatever song is in my head at the time. I truly can’t wait until we can have actual English conversations today.
The most special part about becoming a parent, for me, has been watching Sarah become a mother. To call her a “natural” I don’t think really cuts it, because I think parenthood is a very natural thing. Sarah is the most nurturing and caring person (often to her own detriment) I know, and she’s glided into the role of mother with ease and wonder. I am known to have trust/control issues with certain things, but not when it comes to Harvey, because I know he is in better hands with his mother than I could ever hope to provide. While, I think I am a fairly hands-on new dad, the vast majority of the responsibility of caring for Harvey right now, as his food source and non-working parent, falls to Sarah. I try to remember this, and thank her often, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to truly appreciate what it’s like for her on a daily basis.
We’ve been at this three months now and it becomes easier to take how lucky we are for granted. Things that we used to be thrilled to do can start to feel like chores (changing diapers, bathing, washing cute clothes), and even though we have a nice sleep thing going considering, it’s still not the sleep we used to have before Harvey, and it feels like its catching up to us. It can definitely be hard at times. Often when its hard, Sarah and I end up taking our frustrations out on each other, as easy prey. As partners in parenthood, it means we not only have someone to rely on when we need help, but that we each have to be the person that can be relied upon. Usually, one of us is happily up to the challenge. But occasionally, neither of us is excited to be that person, and in those moments, it’s difficult to fend off resentment. Especially when, in addition to raising a new human, we are also dealing with buying and selling a house, moving, traveling often, and I do stupid things like leave the freezer open overnight less than a month after Sarah lost 100 ounces of breast milk. We are working on it though, and I think being upfront about it, and recognizing why we have the feelings we do sometimes, helps us better control ourselves during those difficult moments.
What’s Working: I mentioned the Ergo Carrier, and I have to expand and say that thing has been a life saver. Putting Harvey in the Ergo is the quickest way to either relax him or put him to sleep. It also enables whoever is holding him to have free hands to do whatever, while Harvey sleeps or simply takes in the world.
What’s Worrying: The car had always been a place for reprieve. Riding in the car often put Harvey to sleep, and if not, he rode around contently. That changed abruptly this month. All of a sudden Harvey seemed to detest everything about being in the car. We first noticed the issue on a trip to Raleigh where Harvey screamed the whole way. A few days later, we hoped all of that was just a fluke, as we embarked on the 6 hour journey to Hilton Head. Harvey slept the first 3 hours and we were feeling great. The last 3 were a different story. He dozed off a couple times, but for the most part he just screamed. We made, it but its tough. As much as you try to just block it out, the sound of a child crying, particularly, your child, is excruciating. And this is our life now in the car – Harvey either sleeps or screams. Needless to say, this is very worrisome. Particularly, because Sarah has a trip to Georgia scheduled and we are also driving to Ohio next month. Hopefully Harvey gets over this soon!!
Favorite Memory: While at the beach, we really enjoyed getting to take advantage of the pool on the property we were staying. Harvey has been a water person from the very beginning, always loving his baths. He didn’t much care for being dipped in the river or ocean though, so we wouldn’t sure how he’d react to the pool. He was absolutely entranced by the pool though. Watching his face light up as we glided him through the water was hilarious and memorizing. There is so much we take for granted about the world, and all that is around us, but there is nothing like watching a baby experience something for the first time to remember how unique and special life can be.
For fun, here’s Harvey meeting the beach for the first time.