Eleven months. It’s been eleven months since my daughter was born. Eleven months is the answer to the question: “how long did it take before you felt like you could devote brain power to something other than raising your kid and working?” I am not, however, going to do my typical post-hiatus, overly-elaborate, self-indulgent setting of the scene. Time is too valuable these days and I’ve matured too much over the past eleven months.
Though I suppose I should provide the detail that it’s 5:30am and the only two sounds I’ve heard to this point have been the creak of the wood floor yielding to my careful footsteps and the enveloping but subtle chirp of the crickets chattering outside in locations unknown. A wave of cedar aroma greets me with pleasantry behind the moan of the closet door wailing the relief of its atrophy, if only for a moment. I reach in to grab my tattered blue rucksack, with the brown leather flap – the holster for my weapon of choice: my Microsoft Surface Pro. I head first to my enclosed porch, which is the location in my house where I feel most creative, but dad-brain kicks in and I want to make sure I can hear Ivy if she awakens – hopefully I can grab her before she makes too much ruckus and allow my wife to sleep a little longer. So, the dining room table will have to do.
I’ll warn you now that this review will provide you no closure. In fact, this is only a fraction of a review, as I have yet to experience fatherhood in total. Yet, I feel like I’ve learned so much about her, about myself and about the universe. I’m not sure yet how these pieces fit together, so this first chapter will be more of a list of revelations and how I feel about them than a cohesive essay. So here we go….
Unfathomable Love and Joy
The first few minutes/hours, days even, I felt mostly shock. “Welp, there she is. This is it. I’m a dad… etc.” was on repeat in my brain. A few days in, however, I started to get this odd feeling. I’d look at my daughter and she’d look at me, or move her little hand, or blink, or do not a goddamn thing at all and my brain would go “aww.” I’d look around to see who said that and no one would be there. I’d look at Ivy again and this time there’d be like a sort of internal gasp – like my heart was having trouble breathing. “Is this a very mild heart attack,” I thought at first. I felt fine otherwise so I shrugged it off, but I did feel compelled to tell my wife (Megan) about it. I don’t recall her exact phrasing, but it was something to the effect of “Emotions. Those are feelings, dummy.”
“Ohhhhh,” I thought. “This is what Megan feels when she sees a rainbow or a squirrel, or, like, A LOT of cheese.” Unfathomable joy. Honestly, it’s much more uncomfortable than I expected. I mean, once I knew what it was, it was fine but you’d think that much unconditional love would feel more like a really dope massage than a near-vomit. It doesn’t – at least not to me. Yet, somehow the bliss still seeps through because I’m looking at this little creature that has half my DNA or however biology works. It’s pretty cool.
Desensitization to Urine and Feces
Poop. To be honest, that’s probably not the first time the word has appeared in my writing – almost certainly not. I do not, however, recall ever using the word poop as a complete sentence of its own. That’s likely a first. But if you’ve gone through what I have (and continue to) you know that, indeed, “poop” is a complete thought unto itself. “Poop” is the subject. “Poop” is the action. “Poop” is the object. And, you know what?… I’m not mad. If I had no means of effectively communicating with the only two people I’ve met, who also happen to be my only means of survival, yet did have the liberty to express my bowels and immediately beckon one of those individuals to “clean me up and make it snappy too,” I’d probably take advantage of that as well.
I used to recoil at the thought of using my hand, clad only with a wet wipe, to excavate doodoo from someone else’s bottom. Now I’m like, “meh” there are worse things. Not even when this girl pulls her bullshit wait-until-you-take-my-diaper-off-to-absolutely-unleash-urine-all-over-this-chainging-pad maneuver – you know the one? – not even then is my resolve broken. This is my own flesh and blood. It’s 50% my poop and urine anyways. What’s a little incidental contact between chums? I’m not saying it’s my favorite thing – just that it doesn’t really register on my radar anymore.
Don’t be gross. This is my daughter we’re talking about, so have some respect and sensitivity. That decree was as much for the writer as the reader, since I know how difficult it’s going to be for me to approach this tactfully and still provide some truth and jest (Hey! That’s the theme of the blog! Too cool!), without making this uncomfortable/offensive for everyone. So here goes…
I can’t speak for anyone else specifically, but in my experience as a straight male person, it’s been a really odd relationship between the vagina and me. I emerged from one (sorry), then literally didn’t think about one again for like 13 years. Then it was all I thought about while also knowing nothing about. That’s a wild trip. There was just so much wonder and mystery surrounding it. Where is it? What does it do? How does it do that? Why does it do that? Wait, whatnow? Holy shit!? Etc.
-Fast-forward through the teens and 20s where discoveries occurred, the details of which are not pertinent to this article-
Even after marriage there’s still a sacredness to it. Like you know it’s in the house but it exists in an astral plane of magic and aether, only to be accessed by the worthy and cunning. Then came Ivy – and here’s where I need to be careful. So, here’s the thing… you can’t un-deep-clean a vagina. Once you’ve done it, you’ve done it for the rest of your life. Remember what the prior section of this article was about? Yep, now combine the theme of that section with the theme of this one. You follow? And, hey, I’m happy to do it. That’s my little girl. I’m just saying that the vagina and I have certainly turned another corner in this relationship.
Just think about it. V and I went from just hanging out and having fun, directly to being comfortable in the bathroom together while one of us is using it. Also… listen, I’m not an imbecile. I know where babies come from. But I hadn’t seen it – not live and in person. I have now, and I’m still terrified. If it can do that, what other feats of might could it be concealing, and who’s to say that such acts of aggression won’t be aimed in my direction? It’s like in books or movies when someone makes a deal with the devil and the devil grants the wish but there’s an unexpected twist that the wisher hadn’t anticipated. I don’t recall my teenage or twenties self wishing upon Satan’s mane for more intimacy with V but there were some dry spells in there where it certainly wasn’t outside the realm of possibility. That is to say, if such a deal was struck, I sure do know V better than I ever dreamed, so wish granted, I suppose.
In her defense, Ivy doesn’t know any better. Literally, she has no idea she’s acting like a little bitch sometimes. I guess that’s technically her mom’s and my fault for not teaching her that during her first 11 months but she hasn’t exactly been a willing student either.
Great example: We always give her a bottle before bed. Just last night, I gave her a lovely dinner of mixed veggies, zucchini fritters and whole wheat pasta, oh, and a few blueberries to end it on a sweet note. Ivy ate until she was satisfied (which she signals by smearing the remaining scraps all over the goddamn table), and I changed her, pajama’d her and put on some relaxing music. This was barely 50 minutes removed from the feast I just detailed but as soon as the bottle I’d prepared came into her view, this b had the nerve to start pouting, crying and flailing her limbs like a goddamn baby or something. She calmed down as soon as I gave her the bottle but, c’mon bro… Act like you’ve been there before.
Another stellar example: Poop. This gal has the nerve to throw a tantrum as soon as I lay her on the changing table. Like she can’t believe I have the audacity to inconvenience her by not letting her lay upon her own feces for extended periods of time. I’m ruining that for her. Plus, she wants to do the leg kicks with her freakish baby strength and carry on in a manner that increases the likelihood of me coming into direct contact with said feces. Or better yet – dunking her foot into the poop so I can then clean that up too. What a gem.
One more dope example: Her favorite game – Take toy. Shake toy. Throw toy on the floor and get upset if someone doesn’t pick it up and hand it to her right away so she can throw that shit on the floor again. Repeat.
I suppose we all get that brief period in our lives; we just don’t fully appreciate it until the reparations are due. I guess that’s why they make ‘em so cute, otherwise it’d be tough to justify these types of shenanigans.
So you may have detected a twinge of negativity besprinkled throughout this review, which may lead you to a false conclusion about my stance on fatherhood. I only said all of that stuff because I find negativity easier to make comedic, but also because it’s all true. However, what I really want to convey is that it is all very much worth it. I will endure anything for her happiness. If that means that I have to touch a little poop and pee sometimes, so be it. If it means that this gray patch in my hair is going to continue to proliferate at an exponential rate, well, I’m here for that too. If it means that I need to continue to sing and dance like a buffoon in pitiful attempts to coax out that gummy grin, then I guess tap shoes are in my future. Her happiness is my currency and every bit is worth it.
Verdict: Incomplete (but so far so good)