“She’s got to be hungry.”
“But she just ate 45 minutes ago.”
“Maybe she’s gassy?”
“We gave her those probiotics. I held her up for 40 minutes. And she was all burped out.”
“Did she poop?”
“Yeah. And she’s all clean. I checked.”
“We should try swaddling her with her arms in.”
“They were in. And then she jailbroke.”
“Maybe she’s hungry.”
“You already said that.”
Anyone who has a newborn has had exactly that kind of conversation with their spouse, parents, nanny, experienced friends. You instantly turn into Henry and Liza trying to figure out where the hole in this d*mn bucket came from in the first place. All the while, your baby is crying (wailing) in the background.
I’m a marketer by trade. I tend to think I’m a pretty good one, but maybe that’s just because I’ve done such a good job marketing myself to myself. We’ll leave that alone as it becomes an infinite loop. Marketing is a fairly broad discipline but one of its foundational principles is the idea of test and learn. I will probably write a post on this separately so I’ll spare the details here, but the bottom line is that the only way you get to the right answer in Marketing is to test your ideas live with your audience, and commit to learning from them. No amount of analysis up front will bring you all the way to your answer. The right answer.
Munchkin, you put my test and learn skills to the test. Some people tell me you’re supposed to have different cries. It’s been 3.5 weeks and I agree, you do have different cries. Heartbreaking. Gut-wrenching. And awe-inspiring. Three very different cries, but they don’t help me a lick.
What has happened over the past few weeks is a few things that I believe change our lives forever.
First and foremost, I believe that I now have in my power, the ability to stop you from crying. Somehow. Some way, I can make things better just about all of the time. If I don’t get frustrated. If I don’t give up. If I don’t get lazy. If I don’t let tired dominate. I can find a way to make you feel better. That’s a beautiful feeling. Because you are both my responsibility and my concern. Knowing I am getting better at fulfilling one and alleviating the other makes me feel better about the father I can be to you forever.
Next, comes the approach for solving your crying. I can sometimes feel myself making it about me wanting you to stop crying. Those are the times I fail you. My body tenses. I am not holding you as softly. You feel my energy and are thrown off. If I allow myself to get overwhelmed in trying to make you stop crying for me, I can expect you to continue crying in spite of me. Instead what I need to do is pay close attention. Life is better when I make the answers about you. Isn’t that what parenting is about?
Even at 3.5 weeks my munchkin, you are extraordinarily expressive. I can tell so much about how you’re feeling by how much I pay attention to how you respond to all of the little things. To being cradled or being placed on your back. To being in a swing or in the MamaRoo. To being swaddled (hands in or out) or being left to roam free. To being stroked from your bottom up, or from your shoulders down (and being stroked with the whole hand or just the palm of the hand.) To having your head near my heart or having your heart near my heart. To hearing a babbling brook or standard white noise.
What I have learned is that as a father, it is my job to listen to what you tell me and pay attention to what you don’t tell me. But no matter what I do, I have to make it about you. About all of you. It’s not enough to be wrapped around your fingers, because that means I can’t hear or see what the rest of you is telling me. What a realization the past few days! And there’s nothing more inspiring than finding a way to put you at ease. To stop you from crying. To get you doped up on milk to a point that you’re limp and wiped out. To get you to sleep for a few consecutive hours at a time. All of these nuances change frequently, with the things that worked yesterday not quite working today. You’re teaching me already how to stay on my toes and pay attention to you. Not because you’re demanding. Not because you’re spoiled (if anyone says or thinks that ever, let them feel my wrath.) Simply because you are my daughter. And that is my job.
Finally comes recognition of something I have noticed more and more since your birth: I will not have all the answers. Many timesyou’re just better off in your mom’s hands (who isn’t?) Some times we need to let you soothe yourself (we haven’t quite gotten there yet, but we know we have to soon.) Some times you don’t want anything specifically, you just want to be held. My job is to try when there is an answer, and let you know I love you and am there for you when we can’t find one. That will never change.
I promise to always do that for you, my lovely. Today my love for you manifests itself via trial and error (and god willing, success.)