It’s been a week since Yvie was born. I’m happy to report we all survived, though I have to say with some surprise that the Wife and child are doing much better than I am. More on that later as I recap our first few days as a family of four.
Day 1: At the Hospital
You may have read about the minor drama surrounding the delivery. As we settled in at the hospital (we were there for only a day, so it wasn’t much of a settling-in), I notice the hospital staff were rather extremely adamant about their maternity patients taking up breastfeeding. We had no problems since we said yes immediately upon being asked, but our bed neighbour did not, and we overheard a very-close-to-angry exchange between patient and nurse when the staffer tried to insist the mother opt to breastfeed – after the woman straight declined no less than 4 times.
You will also be interested to know that when we had Xander at a private maternity hospital years back, the staff there were rather extremely adamant about us taking up formula feeding – the exact opposite. We would eventually take up mixed feeding for Yvie (at least for the first few days, though the Wife is much more confident of providing for Yvie naturally (we needed the formula as a timeout feed because the poor woman’s boobs can only take so much abuse every 2 to 3 hours). What disturbs me is how such maternal ideals are so polarised between medical institutions, and how the staff are trained to force their hospital’s prescribed ideals into their patients, who probably spent the last 7-8 months pondering over and making their final decision already.
The whole debate in the next bed kind of reminded me of the current LGBT war of words going on the last few months (or years, if you count the 377A debate). No prizes for guessing who the nurses resembled.
The confinement nanny we booked had to fly down from Perak on short notice, seeing as we were discharged only a day after we were admitted. Thankfully, it worked out well… until I got into a car accident whilst driving her to the supermarket to get our first batch of confinement groceries.
The confinement nanny was incredibly apologetic for distracting me with her questions and causing me to lose focus. After I paid off the guy whom I induced to take off my bumper (really, it was my fault), I told her, “Look at it this way. If not for the accident, we wouldn’t have been able to break the ice so quickly, right?”
In my heart, I was thinking, that was some damn expensive ice breaking.
Now, let’s get this absolutely clear: when you’re hiring a confinement nanny, you are in fact hiring a trained professional to take care of mother and baby, and not a maid. With this understanding, I had to rearrange our bedroom such that the confinement nanny be able to stay with the Wife and Yvie with as little obstruction and disturbance as possible.
That also meant I would be sleeping in the living room sofa for the entire month. I don’t sleep well on the sofa, partly because the sofa’s been broken for a while now. In fact, it really does seem the Wife, the confinement nanny and Yvie are all much more well-rested than I am.
The confinement nanny did say to me that besides caring for the mother and child, she would also try to take care of the household chores that the woman of the household would normally be doing were she not recovering from having another person forcefully ejecting out of her nether regions. That being said, she was only going to be with us for a month, and The Blogfather knows better than to take for granted that someone else was cleaning up the house on a much more regular basis than we were for the last 8 years.
So I’ve been mopping the floor, too.
Grocery shopping is now a three-times-a-week activity, each trip costing between $20-80, car accident notwithstanding. You also learn the proper Chinese terms of a lot of premium meat cuts, fish species, herbs and vegetables you would normally just eat and not sit down and get to know on a first name basis. Like I said, the confinement nanny’s a professional, and Google is your (multilingual) friend.
It starts getting a little blurry by this time. I am told I lasted some ways longer than the average new dad, but I did reach my breaking point somewhere in between day 5 and day 6.
On day 6, I got into a minor spat with the Wife at the polyclinic, lost my patience with the nanny whilst she was trying (and not quite succeeding) at teaching me how to bathe Yvie, and I was this close to swearing at my own mother when she unexpectedly expressed her disappointment at my not driving carefully enough and losing money over the car accident.
But the biggest victim was Xander. Throughout this time, he’s been the ultimate trooper with all the changes that’s been going on. He been nothing but loving, courteous and patient while we’ve been busy cooking, cleaning, planning and fussing over Yvie. And yet, on a Saturday afternoon, I managed to not be the loving, courteous and patient dad I should have been to him by flipping out on him for not paying attention when I called his name or asked him a question. In all honesty, I knew I was flipping out on him for being what he naturally is – a happy, playful, sometimes distracted 5-year-old boy.
That thought was my wake-up call to end what would otherwise have been a pretty ugly meltdown.
It’s 1am into Day 8, as I think about the things I did on Day 7 that days 1-6 prepared me for. I’ve relearned how to change diapers, give baby baths, and how, while doing these two things, no matter how you take care not to, you will still get peed on. Every. Single. Time.
And boy, am I glad.
It doesn’t matter what you do for a living – self-employed, full-time employee, part-timer, or freelancer – the first week of your child’s birth is your most crucial week in fatherhood. You have got to be there with your wife and your child, no matter what, or you lose the one precious week that will inevitably define your relationship with your entire family as a husband, a father, and a person.
I’ll be back at work today, not only missing the first 7 days of having Yvie in our lives, but knowing that it was one of the most well-lived weeks I have ever had.