Sunday, August 29, 2021

Seven Months: Back to Work

This month, Zoe has learned to live without me.  I don't mean to sound self-important, but she's been relying on me for survival since she was born... er, conceived!  So naturally, the separation was not easy.  I would say that it went as smoothly as it could have gone, though.  She and Wes have a strong bond and he's still at home with her every day.  Luckily, she gets to stay at home in familiar territory because Wes's mom has been coming over to take care of her.

I'm sure that it has been a very hard few weeks for Zoe, but she must feel so much more independent now.  She's learned to do so much: bottle feed, fall asleep on her own at night, sit in a high chair to eat solid foods, digest and poop out the solids, roll over from back to belly.  She may now also understand some Cantonese!  We also have learned how smart babies can be.  It took her a lot less time than we had anticipated to take the bottle, even though previous attempts have all been failed.  I think she was more perceptive than we could tell--she knew that if I was there, she had no reason to take milk in any other way.  Also, she has never slept in, but I had to actually wake her up on my first two days of work (yes, of course I was late because of this!).  I am not sure if there was something in the breast milk or if she can sense my impending absence, but she definitely knew and wanted to prevent me from leaving the house.  It sounds far-fetched, but she woke up at her regular times on Saturday and Sunday, but come Monday, when it was time for me to go to work again, she slept in again!  

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The Invisible Load of becoming a Dad

Sidelined.  Demoted.  Nonessential.  New dads aspire to be so much, but quickly realize when their baby is born that they are all of the above.  In the hospital, Wes had to ask for permission to hold the baby.  The nurses quickly obliged, realizing that they had forgotten to include him.  The extent of his labor and delivery duties was to hold my leg up in the air and do the honorary snip of the umbilical cord, which grossed him out until the very last minute.  After that, he looked on as Zoe was placed onto my chest for comfort, watched as nurses taught me to feed her from that place.  From the start, expectant fathers come to the uncomfortable realization that they are just not very important.

Society tells the dad to look out for his family, to wait on his wife, to be that loving hero to his daughter, to be the image of strength to his son, to be the one that everyone can and should depend on during such a fragile and volatile time.  It is assumed that the father has no emotional needsno guilt, no sadness, no fear.  There is undeniably more support for women postpartumcourses designed for mothers to relieve burnout, podcasts run by women painting a one-sided perspective of parenthood, social networks for new moms.  For dads, the available resources and outreach are few and far in between, but that is no indication of the level of stress that men shoulder as well.  Plus, many men are not disposed to advocating for themselves emotionally anyway, especially not when it's time to "man up."  I have to say that Wes has made it all look easy, but that does not mean that it was easy.  I just wanted to intentionally reflect on and write about the invisible load of modern fatherhood from his perspective.  Of course, like every mother's experience, every father's is unique.  This does not do justice to the beginning of every fatherly journey out there, but it's one in a million hidden stories that never get the spotlight.