Amy posted a series of pictures recently including the first picture of me holding my daughter – one she called Instant Daddy. It’s a sweet sentiment and I won’t really argue with her too strenuously but the fact is the first Daddy moment actually came a few minutes earlier. How do I know? Cause in the picture she’s already in her blanket.
See, I struggled a lot in the early days of parenthood. I think I wanted to be a father for so long that I sort of assumed it would be easy or that I’d be a natural.
But damn could I swaddle.
It started when the kid was just a few minutes old. I’m pretty sure Amy was still being worked on by the doctor, actually, and I’d barely had a look at the wrinkly little person I was now expected to take care of. But she’d been made to cry, spent a few minutes on her Mommy’s chest, had her weigh in and she was ready for her first blanket wrap.
The nurse said “okay Dad, let’s get this baby wrapped up” and suddenly I decided that learning to wrap this child was the single most important thing ever. You know how they say kids don’t come with instructions? It’s a lie. They come with exactly one step-by-step walk-through – how to swaddle. It was all I was getting and I was damn well going to pay attention.
Arrange the blanket. Fold down one corner. Lay the kid on the blanket so the fold line runs parallel to the shoulders, just above them. Grab one side corner and pull it across the baby. Tuck it in tight. No, tighter. No, tighter. Grab the bottom corner and tuck it in under the side you just folded. Tuck it tighter. Tighter. TIGHTER. Now grab the last corner. Wrap it around her. Tighter. Now tuck it in.
In the days and weeks that followed, Amy kicked my ass in every single parenting activity. She was a better diaper changer (though I caught up fast with practice). She was better at calming the kid. She was better at the bottles. She was better dressing her.
But I was, hands down, the swaddle king.
It sounds stupid but I think that one little thing gave me enough confidence to get through. I was performing way below my own expectations as a father but I could wrap that kid tighter than a burrito and she’d stay wrapped no matter how many times she was passed from one set of arms to another.
These days the kid and I have lots of special little things between us. The bum change song, the baby belly orchestra, the robot noises that are sometimes required to get her to put on clothes… but in the beginning there was only the swaddle.
And it was good.
Really we expected it to be the complete reverse. I didn’t expect to be a good mother at all. We had even discussed Joe taking parental leave instead of me, but then he changed jobs and didn’t have the option.
I was terrified of the baby. I was terrified my first day alone with her. The midwife came to visit us and made me completely paranoid because the baby wasn’t wearing her hat and WHY WASN’T THE BABY WEARING HER HAT?!
I don’t remember much about the day she was born. We checked into the hospital around 10 am and it didn’t really occur to me that time had passed until I noticed it was dark out. When I finally pushed her out a whole whack of thoughts came rushing to me all at the same time – relief and pain and worry and confusion. Before I knew it she was placed on my chest and I tried to lift my head up to see her but it was hard to move.
Life since then seems to have gone by in the same sort of blur. I got to spend an entire year with her watching her turn into this great kid. I was there when she started rolling over, crawling, walking, talking, laughing. I loved being with her and introducing new experiences and pushing her just a little bit along the way.
I was surprised that I enjoyed being a mother, that I had falling so completely in love, that I felt like I was a good mother. My mom complimented me on my instincts with her early on – I seem to have a knack for figuring out what can help her or calm her – and I knew it. Motherhood became the one thing that I am confident about.