I’m back! I have been spending the past month and a half loving on my beautiful son, but over the past couple of weeks, I have been itching to get back to this blog. Every time I planned to sit down and write, something came up. Whether school, work, or parenthood, my life has been extremely full lately. Still, as I’ve said before, this blog is an important outlet for me to process my experiences and how they affect my world.
These past two months have been a whirlwind of emotions, challenges, love, and joy. As anyone who has been a parent would say, this time has flown by and it’s a difficult experience to describe. But that is what this blog is for, so here goes.
In my last post, I shared Greyson’s birth story, but I left out most of the details of those first couple of weeks at home. To be honest, they mostly went as expected. Greyson ate every 3 hours and slept and pooped in between. Except for having to get up twice in the middle of each night, he was pretty easy. The only real challenge we faced at first was the fact that Kristina was having trouble breastfeeding (more on that later). We were blessed to have Kristina’s mom stay with us the first few nights for extra support. We did get one surprise in those first couple of days though. On the sixth day we were at home, which also happened to be the day that Kristina’s mom went home, I woke up with a terrible stomach bug. I was vomiting, had terrible aches, and couldn’t really eat. Unfortunately, that meant I had to be quarantined and Kristina was basically on her own with Greyson. Once again, our family stepped up and my mom came to help out for a bit. But in the end, Kristina still had to take care of him on her own that whole night.
Still, with that one exception, things went really well in those early days. It was all a bit of a blur, but we quickly fell into a rhythm that seemed to work for both us and Greyson. On October 15th, after three weeks of paternity leave, I went back to work and Kristina started taking care of Greyson on her own at home. Even then, we adjusted to the change rather quickly. Honestly, in a lot of ways, the craziness of Kristina’s pregnancy prepared us to be extremely adaptable, which has served us well in the first two months of Greyson’s life.
But then…things kept going well. I know, I wrote that first part like there was going to be some kind of big change where suddenly things went off the rails, but the truth is that for the most part, Greyson has been doing really well. Sure, we have the occasional tough feeding, or day of feedings. We have both been spit up on (me twice!), and peed on, and woken up by a random bout of crying. There are times when Kristina struggles to fall asleep because Greyson likes to make lots of funny noises while he sleeps. But these relatively minor challenges are all parts of parenthood we knew about going in. In fact, Greyson still hasn’t had a blow out (I know, I’m probably jinxing it, but my nephew already pooped on me when I babysat him when he was younger).
Those “challenges” are completely overshadowed by the absolute joy and pure love we have felt getting to be Greyson’s parents everyday. However, we have also faced some unexpected and more difficult experiences. One has been Greyson’s difficulty breastfeeding. Because of Greyson’s myriad issues in the hospital, he started out eating formula and Kristina didn’t have much of a chance to try breastfeeding in the hospital. When we got home, it was very difficult for Kristina and Greyson to get into a rhythm. Kristina was expressing breastmilk regularly, and eventually we were able to feed Greyson exclusively expressed breastmilk, but we were still bottle feeding him. Kristina continued to try to breastfeed, but it ended up just becoming a stressful experience for her so she decided to continue feeding him exclusively expressed breastmilk.
This has been a challenge on a number of levels. Kristina feels tied to her breast pump, like it is a ball and chain and because Greyson is not actually breastfeeding, Kristina is often stressed about producing enough breastmilk if she doesn’t have a chance to pump, or doesn’t drink enough water. Her supply isn’t regulated by Greyson, so she has a hard time gauging how much is enough. As with any new mom, Kristina is adjusting to changing hormone levels and other physical changes, so being attached to a pump just makes it all the more difficult for Kristina to feel like herself. A lot of times she just feels “gross”, her word.
I also have personally struggled with emotional exhaustion. Anyone who is close to me knows that I was built to be a dad. I have loved taking care of babies since my oldest nephew was born when I was 10 years old. I’m not tooting my own horn here, and by no means am I saying that I am a perfect father, I am just saying that I love being a dad. And not just getting to love on Greyson, but I love the minutiae of fatherhood. I love the feedings, and the baths, and pushing the stroller, and getting Greyson dressed. These things give me life; they make me smile. That’s how God made me. I want my son to grow up and be proud of me as his dad, as someone who took care of him, not just as someone who went to work and then came home and watched TV while his mom did everything for him. I want him to want to be a dad who is involved in the minutiae.
Even still, parenthood is a huge mess of emotions, some good, some bad, and processing all of those things is incredibly taxing. As I continue working through everything I’m feeling, I’m also still trying to be sensitive to Kristina and anything she is going through, while also continuing to deepen relationships with my friends and maintain relationships with my family. Even though I love being a dad, and even though if hasn’t been as physically tiring as I expected, it has been more mentally and emotionally exhausting than ever.
As a kid, I had a very low emotional threshold. I often got extremely upset over minor things. But this is one area where I have grown significantly and now I have a pretty high emotional threshold. Yet even with that heightened threshold, I am exhausted. My dad used to say, when I would get particularly upset as a kid, that I was emotionally spent. At the time, I thought he was making fun of me. But now, I really understand the phrase. I am completely emotionally spent.
People ask me all the time if I am getting any sleep. And the answer is yes. Most nights I get at least seven hours of sleep. I am physically rested and energized. Yet I find myself more tired than I’ve ever been. And this is spilling over into other relationships in my life. Kristina and I have a close group of friends with whom we are trying to build community. This is an intentional process that requires a lot of effort, but recently, I have found myself easily annoyed and emotionally distant. I have struggled to engage deeply in these friendships and thought on more than one occasion that it would be easier just to not try.
I know this emotional exhaustion is temporary and I will eventually be rested again, though the only way to be rested is to rest. Writing this blog is one form of emotional rest for me, but the love and support of those closest to me is what really gives me rest. So I want to encourage those of you who interact with new parents to remember that everyone experiences the joys and challenges of parenthood differently. Allow the new parents in your life to discover their parenthood for themselves, but let them know you are there if they need you. Then just step back and enjoy watching them turn into the amazing parents you know they will be.