It is a cliché to say that parenthood changes you. It might elicit a few eye rolls when you say it is the best thing that has ever happened to you. But it is repeated by so many parents specifically because it resonates. Your children continue to surprise you. They warm your heart. They motivate you. They make you proud. The act of parenting is a constantly evolving process.
That sentiment was never truer than during my first week as a father. I tend to look at it as my favorite time as a parent, but I use the term “favorite” incredibly loosely. It is impossible to have a favorite time period. But I look back on those first few days fondly, because everything was brand new. Not just for me, but for my wife and son. We were all learning so much, and we were doing it together.
I remember thinking,
“It’s the three of us now.”
There is a point somewhere in the first month or two where that sense of wonder scales back somewhat. Everything is still new to your child, but as a parent, you start to get comfortable in your role. But in that first week, nothing was rote. Nothing was part of a schedule. I didn’t mind waking up in the middle of the night. I didn’t mind changing diapers. I didn’t mind getting formula all over me. I welcomed it. I was excited about it. I still don’t mind those kinds of things now, but the excitement over a dirty diaper is definitely gone.
During this time, I also gained so much more appreciation for my wife, which I previously didn’t even think was possible. She was so strong before and during the birth of our son, and she did so much to nurture him after he was born. The amount of pride I felt as a father and husband during that first week was incalculable. I didn’t think I could love my wife any more than I already did, but somehow the heart makes room.
We were stressed and sleep-deprived, sure. But we could just stare at our son lying there sleeping, and that was enough. Watching him open his eyes and experience the world was overwhelming. I had this innate understanding that I needed to provide for him. And that first week of learning the ropes gave me those tools to provide. Figuring out how to comfort him and feed him and change him that first week meant everything to me. I started out that week nervous and overwhelmed, and ended the week feeling like I could do anything. And that is to say nothing of my wife. She was up constantly throughout the night. She really gave everything she had for our family. That first week, as exhausting as it could be, brought us so much closer together.
And the first time you realize that it is no longer just the two of you, but you are a family, is odd. Obviously, you understand that there is now a third person in your house. The doctors and nurses hand you a baby and you leave the hospital with said baby. But it feels a bit surreal for a day or two. It first set in for me when my wife was holding our son and rocking in our chair, and I remember thinking, ‘It’s the three of us now.” It is such a unique moment: fully understanding not just my role as a father now, and hers as a mother, but how we all fit as a family unit.
Fatherhood brought so much joy into my life, and I continue to find joy in it every day. But I never took the joy for granted in that first week. I never complained. I never checked my phone absentmindedly. I never snuck off to the kitchen for a few moments of quiet. These are things I am guilty of now, as I am sure most parents are. And they aren’t bad things, really. They don’t make me a bad parent. But I try to constantly remind myself of that first week and how amazing it was. How I should never be annoyed about getting woken up late at night. How I am better off leaving my phone in the other room when I am playing with my son. I don’t want to miss a moment where he is learning a new way to put his train tracks together because I had to check my messages. It is the reason I try to remind myself of how I felt that first week. Forgetting that sense of wonder and newness doesn’t make me a bad parent. But remembering it does make me a better parent.