Finding Time

Before having a baby, I thought the saying “it takes a village” meant that new parents have to turn to their elders for child rearing advice. Since Felix came on the scene, I’ve come to think it’s literal.

Once upon an evolutionary time, humans lived in close-knit communities. Many hands were available to carry the baby or fetch things that the mother needed. People could help the babies that needed a lot of support, which is why those digestively challenged big headed babies survived. These fetuses had developed noggins of such girth they were ejected out from their momma’s narrow pelvises (which narrowed when humans went up on two legs) before systems such as digestion and respiration had matured. Despite being gassy, cranky infants, their large craniums meant they had big brains, which helped them live long enough to pass on their intellect. In this way, our intelligence wouldn’t have developed without a society to support it, the glue of which are emotions like love and compassion, particularly that felt for our children.

Now that many of us live in isolated little families, there are fewer people around to care for baby—typically it all falls to the mother. No wonder moms feel overwhelmed and depressed after childbirth! The baby needs so much, there’s little bandwidth for anything else. The mom becomes a baby feeding, changing, and comforting machine.

We’re fortunate to have a pretty chillaxed baby. But sometimes, inexplicably, Felix wants to be carried around and jiggled to no end. Putting him down for even thirty seconds causes his jowls to drop (this is his puss face) and starts a chorus of the “la la la” cries that signify he wants something. Maybe the motion aids his digestion, or maybe he’s emotionally needy, or bored, or on a power trip. There are times when dancing around the house with him is fun—he makes eye contact, lets out short gasping breaths of excitement, and recently has started smiling (oh, the small rewards). Other times Daddy’s arms become leaden and I need to pee or grab a drink or maybe I just want to detach and act like a grownup for five minutes, at which point I pass him to S.

Over the past month we’ve learned that Felix’s needs can magically expand like a ShamWow, sucking both of us in. We passed several afternoons shuttling him back and forth between us every twenty or thirty minutes, one of us pacifying him while other cooked, cleaned, shopped, tried to keep up with correspondence, exercised, or caught up on sleep. At the end of those afternoons, Felix seemed like just another chore, one that wouldn’t end for eighteen years.

S in particular, as Felix’s food supply, found herself chained by his side, her day broken into two hour chunks between feeds. She only made it out for one hour of solo time during his entire first month. People would ask her, “What’s new besides baby?” Or, to me, “How’s the writing going?” Polite gestures that twisted the knife, making it seem like one of my pre-babies fears was coming true: our whole lives had collapsed into a nine pound ball of baby boy joy.

So, a month post-birth, we’ve gotten smarter (we think). We’re setting boundaries. During the morning hours, between breakfast and lunch, S takes baby while I have time to do what I want. In the afternoon, I have him, along with a bottle of breast milk so S doesn’t have to be disturbed for feeding. We’re hoping a few hours of grown-up time every day prevents baby fatigue and increases the quality of the time we spend with him. Our plan also severs our dependency on one another, sundering the dual-headed parental unit into two slightly more crazed yet still functioning individuals.

I can hear him downstairs as I write this, upset with S, who’s putting him in his stroller for a morning walk. But I’m not going down to help. Now’s my time, and I need to be selfish in order to be fully engaged with him later. Though it’s hard ignoring those wails.

Today’s day two of putting our plan into action. Hopefully I’ll have more time in the coming weeks to keep you posted on how it goes.

The cuteness excuses a lot.

The cuteness excuses a lot.


4 Responses to “Finding Time”

  1. 1 Daniel June 26, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Finding functional time to do essentials is a constant process. For a while after Dahlia was born, I continued to divide up my time: I’d give whatever time Dahlia needed, then whatever time my wife needed, then I would use whatever was left over to read, write emails, websurf, or run. But more and more I think of all that time as my own. My time with Dahlia, or with the family, or just the wife and me, is all my time, time for myself.

    Felix is one beautiful little boy!

  2. 2 Camille June 27, 2009 at 1:13 am

    Brian, I have spent this morning reading your entire blog from start to finish. What a joy. Your (and S’s) personal journey has been breath taking. I wept so much reading your labour entries – my god. I found myself saying out loud words of encouragement to S during those dark parts. I’m so releived and glad that you all made it!

    As a wife to be (Winter next year – your Summer, I’m southern hemisphere) and a mama hopefully soon after, I related so much to your earlier beliefs of not wanting children but then changing ten fold. What is a life without making life? Sigh!

    Please keep up with the writing here when you can, your transition and insight from a husband’s perspective are quite amazing.

  3. 3 briangresko July 3, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Great advice Daniel, though something I’m definitely struggling with. It certainly is a big shift from post-baby life, when it was easier separating out my time from all the other tasks I had to do. This is something I tend to do: apportion my attention and engagement, schedule out my day. My new intention is to be flexible and go with the flow. There’s joy in every moment, whether caring for Felix, running errands, or relaxing with a book. Does this sound like Zen and the Art of Childcare?

    Thanks for the lovely comment Camille! Best of luck on your wedding.

  4. 4 titus2woman July 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I just read Felix’s entire birth story, and I’m in tears! I’m so glad it linked to Hazel’s so I could glean from it. We are expecting again, and I must admit that the fear of the pain and HARD WORK of labor grows with each child. His pic is sooo precious and helps me to focus on the purpose behind it all~OH is he BEAUTIFUL!

    BTW~you write beautifully! LOVED the Daddy’s perspective on it all! ~smile~ (((((HUGS))))) sandi

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