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A first-time dad learns about parenting a newborn, while watching his life turn upside down – and hanging on!
By Vinay Mahadevan
I don’t know about other men my age who are fathers. I don’t know about the older generation of men and how they reacted to the birth of a child. But the moment I held my daughter for the first time in my hands, I had a smile on my face and struggled to stop a tear in my eye. Yes ladies, men have emotions too. And how!
For the men reading this, let me tell you – nothing prepares you for this moment. No amount of holding your nephews and nieces or coddling your friends’ children will prepare you for the burst of emotion you feel when you hold your own creation.
And while I was holding my kid, feeling on top of the world, my wife was lying there – a rag doll recovering from the trauma of extracting a living thing that measures a foot long and half a foot wide from a gap the width of a carrot; but still proudly gazing at her husband holding her child. Nothing prepares you, when you meet her eye to eye at that time.
And while I was basking in the warm fuzzy feeling of embarking on a perfect new beginning, BANG. Reality kicks in. It’s like pulling the plug on a bathtub filled with foamy hot water.
Her first potty. Right there in my hands as I hold her, admiring the fruit of my loins. Flatulence, followed by a watery mess that looks like sandalwood paste, but does not smell like it. You will be amazed at how much gas a newborn can pass within a span of 1 hour.
I thought, “Bah, it’s an aberration. Maybe she’s scared, coming into a new world and stuff.” I quickly dismissed it from my mind. How wrong I was! Nobody told us about this part. Nobody warned us about the other side of the story. Everyone only spoke of the bundle of joy. What about the bundle of horror, the sleep-killer?
It was exciting at first. I was on paternity leave from work and didn’t need to worry about going back the next day. Our daughter kept us awake the whole night. I felt a mixture of emotions as I watched my child suckling. It’s amazing how they instinctively know where to get their food from. And just when we thought she was asleep, another round of sandalwood paste; this time on my wife. While she was too tired to react to a bit of shit sticking to her night gown, I kept a safe distance from her.
With each passing night, the nights became day and the days remained, well, days! Getting up every 2 hours to her wails, they started to sound like the wail of a factory horn.
With each passing night, the nights became day and the days remained, well, days! She just wouldn’t sleep! Getting up every 2 hours to her wails, they started to sound like the wail of a factory horn. And then there is the part of being a pillar of support to the wife. After all, truth be told, she is the one who undergoes more stress than the man.
The burping. It’s a task alright. First of all, an infant’s neck doesn’t set till it’s 3 months old. So you have to be careful when you put them against your shoulder as the head lolls from side to side. Then gently patting them on the back, you have to try to extract a burp which will sound right in your ear. Let me tell you – when it finally comes, it does sound like music!
Putting them to sleep. Every parent has their own technique. I adopted singing old Hindi melodies to put her to sleep. I put her on my lap, cover her up with a warm fleece blanket and start singing Rafi, Mukesh and Jagjit Singh’s hits, till she falls asleep. The difficult part is getting her out of the lap and putting her in the crib. You don’t do it properly, you run the risk of starting all over again!
Wrapping her tightly in a cloth. At least in North India, they have a habit of bundling up kids by wrapping them tightly in cloth. It gives them the same feeling like being in the mother’s womb. I am proud to say I mastered the art of tying her up. The greatest recognition came when the doctor saw me tying her up neatly after her first vaccination shot and said, “You are one of the few men I have seen who can do this so neatly”. I looked at my wife triumphantly and with a bit of haughtiness. Needless to say, since that day, I have been forced into the responsibility of wrapping up Siya. Lesson: Never try to go one up on your wife.
And then there are those little instances which leave you amazed. Like this one time, when we were returning from a wedding. It was a long drive from Jogeshwari to Kandivli, and Siya was cranky. She was just beginning to cry when the CD played ‘Tere mast mast do nain’ from Dabanng. Abruptly, she stopped crying and started listening to the song intently. When it switched to the next track she began wailing again. So we rewinded and played the song again. And surprise, surprise, she clammed up!
Throughout the 2 hour drive, we played this song over and over till we had all but memorized the complete song. And all the while she was lying on my lap, enjoying every note of it. Apparently my wife had watched Dabanng when she was 8 months pregnant and she claims that Siya was kicking her inside. Now that’s her signature song. And yes, I have every intention of embarrassing my little girl when she grows up to be 20.
Today, three months down the line, I am still a bundle of emotions. Gone are the days when I could get up as I pleased, watch Rambo or Rocky in the morning if I wanted or stare endlessly at the ceiling.
Today, three months down the line, I am still a bundle of emotions. Gone are the days when I could get up as I pleased, watch Rambo or Rocky in the morning if I wanted or stare endlessly at the ceiling; when I could relax with a Stephen King in my hand and a beer by my side, when a weekend meant an early morning breakfast, followed by a movie, lunch, a siesta, another movie, dinner and then some unrestricted sex; when I didn’t have to worry about my bank balance or set aside money in a savings account!
But you know what. I would give up all of the above and more just to see that sweet, disarming, innocent smile on my daughter’s face. It’s worth a million sacrifices.
And whoever says newborns can’t focus, don’t believe them. For, the first time I held her, she looked me straight in the eye and bored deep into my soul, where she will stay forever, a part of me.
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