For the first six weeks of my son’s life, I only wanted to relax the moment he fell asleep. My son was colicky, a wildly difficult baby who, basically, was crying if he was awake. When he wasn’t actively feeding, he was deeply upset. It seemed like he just wasn’t getting the hang of this whole living thing.
This time was an utterly overwhelming experience, all-consuming in its urgency and attention for his mom and I. We took turns feeling crazy, giving each other little breaks, and teaming up to tackle that baby’s problems. Now that we’ve got couple weeks’ distance, I can appreciate the struggle for what it was. Despite what everyone says, I truly don’t think I’ll ever miss those days.
I could go into great detail about that trying time, but it doesn’t matter now. I’d rather not revisit that time, even in my head. Kaitlyn said it best when she described it as running triage around-the-clock. Spending every moment on edge takes a distinctive toll, something many other parents we’ve spoken to have confirmed. I started and deleted several blog posts in the meantime, always thinking that I lacked energy and inspiration. But once things started changing for the better, I felt ready to share my story.
Now that Miles has settled into a relatively calm level of existence, he’s still unpredictable and intense. But it’s so, so much better. The stress moments aren’t gone; instead they’re drowned out by the blooming light of everything around them. When he’s sleeping, he’s angelic, peaceful as can be. Sure, it may not be for long, but it’s deeply earned. When he’s awake, he now spends the majority of his time feeling pretty okay with the world. He quickly jumped from the relative miracle of simply looking around without crying to the real magic: smiling.
When my son first started smiling, I described it to friends like this: Imagine working 200 hours a week and on Friday your boss gives you a sick high-five instead of a paycheck. The crazy thing is, you LOVE it. You high-five in return with wild enthusiasm. It’s the greatest feeling you’ve had in months.
It’s a seemingly tiny reward for so many weeks of grueling effort, but it feels like the first hint of light at the end of a dark tunnel, the first breath of air after a deep dive. It was the first hint that we were doing something right, that we were maybe going to be okay at this parenting thing.
Miles smiles. It feels so good to say so.
Becoming a father has helped me reconnect to my own adolescence in a deeply felt way, like nothing ever before. It’s beyond nostalgia – it feels like real empathy for the person I was and the things I experience. When my son smiled, I was reminded of the exuberant feeling of this old favorite Underworld tune, with a vocal loop saying, “you bring light here!”
Now that Miles is cool with consciousness, he’s been a much better companion for getting out and about.
So we go on adventures as often as we can. It’s pretty cool, because we know that it’s both an enrichment tool for the baby, and a fine excuse to have some fun together. Dates mean more time at the park, hiking dunes with a baby strapped to our chests, and less time smashing happy hour appetizers and nitro stouts at our favorite brew pubs. There’s no real difference in satisfaction; it’s just a new form of an old, warm feeling. Life is good now in the sense that it’s stabilized, that our challenges have taken shape and we know how to engage with them, and that our parenting journey is on the right path.
Recently I’ve been trying to write down a few things that I am thankful for, once every day. It hasn’t solidified into habit yet, but I’m working on it. As a nod to this practice, I’m sharing one thing I’m thankful for today:
My son is almost always ready to go, and he loves his car seat. When I strap him in and look down, I see triumph. We’re ready for what’s next.