Week 2: Blurry Days, Sleepless Nights

At some point in a new father’s life, one might come to the conclusion that newborn babies are in fact a Samsonian test of strength. Who would think a 4kg bundle of flesh and cuteness could wreak such havoc with his parents’ biological clock to the point where one barely knows what day of the week it is (my wife has already given up keeping track).

It’s the end of Week 2, and Xander’s appetite has increased overnight. What used to be 60ml of milk a feed every 2 hours has shot up to 120ml of milk or more in 3 hours. And if you’re wondering where it all goes, last night I had the answer sitting in my hand after another sleepless night deciphering my baby son’s cries of complaint; at about 5am this morning, I had removed and disposed of what I believe to be the heaviest diaper load in the history of diaper changes. If I weren’t so sleepy, I’d have had it weighed and submitted into the Guinness Book of World Records. Instead all I can do now is open a can of Guinness and celebrate my victory of having learnt to change diapers properly without my son peeing all over himself and me. And I don’t even like Guinness.

You’d think I’d have gotten used to it by now, and I thought so too, but the sudden increase in appetite threw the entire house off-guard, even though I was pre-empted 3 days before the 2-week mark from the instructions printed on our (largely unused) can of S26 that from the second week onwards, baby feed will be increased from 60ml to 120ml, with slightly less frequent feeds per day. Slightly less frequent feeds? It feels like Day 1 after the hospital all over again, except this time, my mother-in-law had trusted me enough to run my own show for the night. Either that, or she was too bushed to wake up from my boy’s screaming.

My wife is also having a hard time keeping up with the total breastfeed program. She is now breastfeeding a lot more often, and pumping out reserves a lot less, because dear little Xander has seemingly inherited the Tay family appetite, and someone must have taught him not to waste a single morsel of food that’s served to him, so he’s sucking my wife dry every time. And when I take over to burp him after a feed, he tries to latch on to my boobs too (kudos to Xander for not discriminating). If he weren’t so darn cute, he’d be a fictional alien offspring with a voracious appetite for nipples in a B-grade bisexual softcore horror movie.

So, on Week 2, I have learned:

  • When newborns cry, it can only mean one of 3 things; either he’s hungry, or he’s soiled his diaper, or he’s in pain. If only adult life were so uncomplicated.
  • I am proficient enough with burping babies to be awarded with a certification. My big hands seem to scare the air out of my son the moment I sit him up and start swinging him around all Indian dance-like (video coming soon). nobody else in the house seems to know how to get him to burp, without lack of trying.
  • Diaper changes require quick thinking and pre-planning. Wet wipes, powder, nappy rash cream on a sterile cotton ball at the ready, and a fresh diaper positioned for optimum switching with soiled one. I haven’t timed it yet, but if I did, I might get a job swapping tires in the F1 pit with the Honda team.
  • Breastmilk poo is greenish-yellow, runny and has curds. I can no longer look at feta cheese the same way again.
  • When baby takes a shit, timing is essential. You got to wait for him to complete the transaction first (usually takes another push or three, and is usually punctuated at the end with a glorious fountain of pee if you’re not careful (a huge warning sign is if his pee-pee goes to 12 o’clock position, but by then it’ll be too late and you’re gonna need another shower).
  • Newborn baby farts are as dangerous, if not more, as fountains of pee.
  • Nappy rash hurts. Just ask Xander.
  • Hiccuping, though disturbing at times, needs to be accepted as a newborn’s routine, so there’s really nothing to worry about, and nothing much you can do. At first we tried everything from burping to feeding water, but now we just stand at his cot and laugh at how cute he is when he’s vibrating.
  • Just when you think you got the hang of it, your kid will pull out new surprises to keep your days a blur and your nights sleepless. Patience is key, and shift duties are essential for the sanity of any newborn’s household.
  • Being there to father your son and husband your wife is the best gift you can give to your family at this time, and especially to yourself. So don’t run away from those diapers and take it like a man. Your child will hiccup to thank you.

Week 1: Searching For The Joy of Parenthood

I’ve been reading through some other blogs on the topic of post-natal confinement, and it seems that while people are lauding over the joys of pregnancy, few people actually speak of the aftermath of giving birth. In fact, the most I’ve gotten about the subject prior to Xander’s birth were either a very sympathetic “Good luck, bro” or a very solemn “Welcome to parenthood. Try to stick with it.”

It really isn’t until you’re in the thick of it that you realise exactly why these responses sound the way they do. And even then, they don’t even begin to describe the ordeal you have to go through, regardless of whether you are the father or mother.

Take my wife (not literally). Having been through the pains of the 3 major types of delivery in one sitting (normal, assisted and C-section), one can only imagine the pain she must be going through during the recovery process. Add breastfeeding (proof that big boobs does not necessarily a happy husband make), a strict regiment of confinement foods (and very little else), perpetual house arrest, an overbearing parent, and of course a baby that cries for milk, a change of diapers or colic relief every hour without fail, and you start to wonder if it’s really hormonal changes that’s affecting her mood or just emotional retaliation to the conditions she has to go through. Whatever the case, from the day Xander was born, my love and respect for her has grown to such a level no words or actions are enough to justify its worth.

The baby, too, seems to be having a tough time. Jaundice is common among newborns, requiring a short stint in the morning sun at a specific time frame so you don’t overcook him. And since he’s only a week old, one cannot expect the kid to tell you he needs to pee or poop, though he has learnt since day 4 (to my knowledge anyway) to make known to the entire household when he’s made a bowel movement or bladder clearing (sometimes he emphasises the point some more by peeing over everything within 2 feet of his cot halfway through a diaper change). Our first night we had to pile on wet wipe after wet wipe over his poo, resulting in a sculptural masterpiece on his soiled diaper that resembled a half-serving of lasagna. And just like any offspring of mine would, he has a voracious appetite, further laying claim that he is my son by loving every minute of his face being immersed in my wife’s bosom (he’s luckier though; he gets to do it at least twice a day, while I get nada). But it is his cry that really gets to you; my wife once quipped with such terms of endearment that his crying carries such sadness with it. I can best describe it as a sudden sucking of air, followed by small whimper that grows a little in volume until it trails off into a high-pitched whisper as his lungs run out of air before he lets out a big blast of a wail that’s guaranteed to wake the other side of the estate. You got to hear it to understand how heart-piercing it is.

Being the new addition to the family, he is also showered with attention by my mother-in-law (commander-in-chief of the Great Confinement Period), her trusty maid (sometimes second-in-command) and me (the blur recruit). At some points during middle-of-the-night diaper changes (and some daytime changes), my son gets molested all over by 6 hands trying to make sense of his soiled buttocks, the diaper his clothing and his swaddle all at the same time. I’ve since learned to back off during this kind of situation. You have to trust your mother-in-law knows what she’s doing; she did bring up your wife, after all.

After all this, I cannot possibly lay claim to having the toughest job of all. over the past week, I have taken on the task of night-time nanny, allowing my wife to rest while I took care of Xander, with some help from Commander-in-Chief and her trusty sidekick and when they wake up to the sounds of Xander’s crying and think he’s complaining about me. The past week I have been clocking 2-4 hours of sleep a night – none of those hours consecutive – forcing me to retreat like a beaten dog back to my Sengkang flat as soon as the night is over to assume the foetal position in my bed and suck my thumb. I am lucky on 2 counts; that it is the holiday season (so most of the time I don’t have to work in the day), and that I got my driving license (so I can get home in 20 minutes as opposed to the 1-hour public transport option).

To all mothers (including my wife, my wife’s mother and my own), I take my hat off. If my hair weren’t so short and ugly right now, I’d take that off too. And if I didn’t need my skullcap to protect my brain, I’d take that off too.

To all new fathers, … Good luck, bro.