Dear little baby,
I have a request, and I hope it isn’t too much to ask.
I know you’ve been working on talking lately – we’re still in the early stages but you definitely found your voice a few weeks ago at your grandparents’ dinner table in Saskatoon. Remember that? I do: on September 26, at precisely 6:20pm, you just started talking. You’ve barely stopped since. You’ve mastered “oh”, “aaowh”, and even “ö” – a nod to your German heritage. You’re working on consonants, but – and I hope I don’t sound overly critical here – so far they just kind of sound like messed-up raspberries. Don’t worry, though, you’ll get there.
So, on to my request. I hope you’ll take this seriously, because it’s very important: when it comes time to start using words, please oh please, say “daddy” first.
Your dad has had a rough go these past few months. He was so, so excited to meet you, and overjoyed when you arrived. But since then … well, it’s been hard for him. The long days at work without you; coming home to find nothing done around the house; the crying. The crying. The. Crying. Taking his daughter in his arms only to have her reach for her mum, sobbing. This isn’t your fault, and I’ve tried to explain that you’re all about the boobs at this point; that you love him; that the way you look at him is the same way you look at me; but for a while he seemed pretty convinced that you didn’t even like him. Can you imagine?
Since you joined us, your dad has been through an incredible transition. Watching him become a father has been one of the great privileges of my life. You know, you think you love someone the most that you could possibly love them, and then one day you watch them give your newborn a bath and your heart explodes. And the love, respect, and admiration you have for them only increase from there.
But, little baby, it hasn’t been easy. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but you cry a lot. Like, a lot a lot. And your worst time of day happens to be right around the time that he gets home from work – right when he’s most excited to see you, cuddle you, and play with you. To enjoy this hour or two he has with you each night before you go to bed. I’ve seen your dad change in the past few months in so many amazing ways, but this one is the hardest: sometimes, he just seems broken.
There’s so much support out there for new mums. So much talk about post-partum depression; how hard it is looking after a baby; what to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed. But precious little attention is paid to dads. They’re going through this tremendous, profound change in their lives, and somehow they’re just supposed to suck it up and soldier on. So much of the information out there for new dads focusses on how they can best support their partners – but what about their partners supporting them too? Your dad was raised to be strong; to be brave; to push through. To care. To provide. He’s so worried about taking care of us that sometimes he forgets to let us take care of him. He also has a hard time talking about his feelings – so he withdraws. This has happened too often lately, in this time that’s supposed to be the happiest of our lives.
Things have gotten better over the past few weeks – we’ve finally started to emerge from the fog of your newborn-ness. Sometimes we can even put you down for more than two minutes at a time without you screaming bloody murder. This is good. This is progress. But, small baby, there’s one more thing that, when it happens, will be everything to him: that one word. Daddy.
… Oh, and if I may tack on an addendum to the request: please start saying it at your 3am waking. Mummy needs some sleep.