Sooooo……..I’m A Dad.

KeepCalmGirl

Well that two weeks sure flew by!

On the blog, at least.  And for my readers, from what I’m told.

But in my life, with a new child, and with a virtual “vacation” from real estate, it seemed like an eternity.

Indulge me on my first day “back” at work, and let me tell you what I think about fatherhood thus far…

KeepCalmGirl

It would have been very easy to come back today with a blog post about any number of topics.

The red-hot Hamilton real estate market that’s resulted from buyers being priced out of Toronto.

CMHC whispering about a minimum 10% down payment.

A new investor “loophole” in British Columbia; this time, on farm land.

The debacle at Union Lofts that adds more fuel to my anti-pre-construction fire.

And on, and on, and on.

But you know what’s not easy?

Sharing.

Sharing personal details, and personal experiences.  I do have the ability, and the inclination, to keep my private life exactly that.  And yet I feel this burning desire to share with you what I’ve experienced over the past two weeks.

I’m not sure why.

Maybe it’s because I was so incredibly unprepared for being a first-time parent, that I feel sharing my experience might help others.

That’s how this blog started, after all.

Back in 2007, it was an open diary on the Internet, where I could share my thoughts about real estate, to any, and to all who were interested.

For whatever reason, I’ve always felt at peace with the keys on the keyboard, and seeing the words come up on the screen has always acted as a means of putting my subconscious thoughts in front of my very eyes to see.

I’m sure many of you can relate.  Sometimes you simply “start typing” and whether you send that email, often written out of anger or spite, or whether you come back to it hours later and delete it – you know what it’s like to write for the sake of writing.  You get it off your chest, then and there, and you often learn from the emotions you experienced while writing it.

I’ve had two weeks to think about what I wanted to write today, and I keep coming back to this experience of being a new parent.

Because if I may be so bold, and so honest, I’d like to admit that I wasn’t entirely prepared.

I read books.

We took courses.

I talked to friends.

But in the end, none of that prepared me for the first week as a new parent.

I just don’t think you can prepare.

I wish somebody had told me, “You’re going to experience emotions that you didn’t expect, and you’re going to have thoughts and feelings that you had never even considered in the realm of possibilities.”

From the birth, through the first week, it was probably the most confusing time in my life.

Maya Elle Fleming was born at 8:09am on Sunday, November 20th.

We arrived at the hospital and were admitted around 7:00pm on Saturday evening.

I helped us “get situated,” as though my wife and I had just checked in to a hotel on a vacation.

I hung up our coats, unpacked our bags, and I changed into pajamas.

I lined up our bottles of water and Gatorade on the window sill overlooking University Avenue, all labels facing out.

I turned on the TV, found a college football game (my wife is amazing – she loves football!), and she and I watched the Oklahoma Sooners blow out the West Virginia Mountaineers.

The hours went by rather slowly, as I tried to learn the process of “having a baby,” which you would think is pretty self-explanatory, but alas, is not.

Men – a very simple explanation; one that I took all night to figure out.  The baby comes from the uterus, via the cervix.  The cervix needs to open to ten centimeters for the baby to fit.  So the “labour” is really just waiting for that damn passageway to open.  “One centimeter every hour,” a doctor told me.

And that is labour.  Well, for men, anyways.

Nobody told me that, at any point.  Through a four-week pre-birthing course, I never really picked up on the answer to a simple question: “What has to happen for the baby to come out?

Honestly.  I had no idea it was that simple.

And since then, I’ve asked people around me, friends, colleagues – “Did you know that the cervix has to open to ten centimetres for the baby to fit?”

I’m usually greeted with blank stares, and those might be accompanied by a roll of the eyes, and a shake of the head.

So Men – you’re welcome.

After the football game, we turned to Saturday Night Live, watched, parts of Dumb & Dumber, and a couple chick-flicks that I couldn’t identify through countless IMDB searches, which helped pass the time.  Then found ourselves in the early morning hours, and suddenly “things started to happen” as the nurse put it.

Contractions.

What the heck is a contraction?

I still don’t really know.

I know it hurts.  That much I can tell.

And I know there’s a monitor next to the hospital bed that graphs these contractions like a stock chart, so reading these contractions like Nortel Networks from 1998 to 2001, I was able to figure out exactly when my wife needed to clutch my hand, and when she needed a “you’re doing so well, babe;” a phrase that every woman could do without after six, eight, or twenty hours.

By 5:00am, we were “ready,” but again, I didn’t know what that meant.

“Start pushing,” we were told, as the nurse began to “set up” for delivery.

So Men – let me regroup.  “Labour” is the entire process, and “Delivery” is the pushing.

Ladies – do I sound like a moron?  Wait…..don’t answer that.

We were told, “First time moms usually push for between 1-2 hours.”

We ended up just shy of 2 1/2 hours.  Is there a prize for that?

Now here’s where things get a little strange, and I’m detailing this for the men out there.

I had certain expectations, coming into all this.

I fully expected that I would be a model state of calm during the delivery, and that once the baby arrived, the doctors would take that little boy or girl and place him or her on my wife’s chest, and the three of us would share a warm, tender embrace.

However, when the baby started to come out, I started to cry.

Crying is an understatement.

I started wailing.

I was hysterical, and I backed away from the table.

By the time the baby came out, I was one step from laying on the floor in the corner of the room, in the fetal position, sucking my thumb.

I heard, “It’s aaaa giiiirrrrrllll,” and I was so utterly confused.

Is that good?  Is that bad?  What did I want?  I didn’t even know!

My head was spinning, and my tears were streaming down my face.

So much for drinking beer, hammering up drywall, and bench-pressing.  I had officially lost my man-card.

I felt deaf.  And numb.

I didn’t notice anything going on around me.  I had to be asked three times about the name we had picked, as my wife laid there, looking over at me for some confirmation.

“Yeah.  Maya.  Girl.  Yeah.  Sure.”

I could barely form words.

And when they took “the baby” over to clean her off, I sat down in a chair, and didn’t turn over to look at “it.”

Maya.

I didn’t think about Maya.

I thought about “the baby” and “it.”

Because you spend nine months referring to “it” as “the baby,” talking about “it” day and night with your partner.  And then all of a sudden, a light-bulb is supposed to off and, it’s a person.

This all wasn’t real.

And why was I sitting down?  Why wasn’t I over admiring my newborn baby – the love of my life, who I had been waiting 36-years for?

My reaction to the birth disturbed me, to be quite honest.  Partly because I had expectations of what would transpire, none of which were remotely accurate, but partly because I was trying to look within myself to find the catalyst for that reaction, or lack thereof.

It took a while for me to calm down, which my wife and I did together, as clearly she had just been through more than either of us had experienced in our lives collectively.  But the crazy thing is – she was so calm the whole time.  She never yelled, screamed, or cried out once during the delivery, and she was so calm afterwards.  I was an absolute mess.  A pathetic mess.

Men – the moral of the story is, you just don’t know how you’re going to react.  You might think you’re ready, or that you know what to expect, but you have no idea.  You can’t have any idea, since you’ve never been through something like this before.  And you can’t expect to have an immediate connection with the baby.  You should, or at least you would think you should, you would, and you will, but you might also be in shock, and your mind can take you anywhere.

I held Maya in my arms for a good twenty-minutes, just looking at her, touching her skin, listening to her breathe.  It was so unreal.

Nothing seemed real.

That was the overwhelming feeling that morning – nothing seemed real.

We were moved up to the post-delivery room, and visitors started streaming in.

Then around 7:00pm, having been awake for 36 straight hours, something bizarre happened: I sleep-walked.

I fell asleep for about 5-10 minutes, and then (as I’m told by Jenna, and as I somewhat remember), I jumped out of my “recliner-chair” that they expect the men to sleep the night on, and I asked Jenna very plainly, “Who are you?”

I then asked her, “Who am I?”

And added, “Where am I?”

I walked out of the room, and down the hall, and that’s about the time I started to wake up.

I realized what had just happened, and it kinda scared me.

My heart was racing, and my stomach was in knots.  My pulse was about 220 beats per minute, and my stomach felt like I had just gone over the top of a roller-coaster.

But my wife had been up for 36 hours, and she could probably parallel-park an 18-wheeler at this point.

I couldn’t understand how she was in such great shape, and I was a mess.

And that’s when I realized: women are stronger than men.

We might be larger, and physically stronger, but they are, by far, the stronger sex.

My wife birthed a child with no drugs, and never cried out once.

She was up for 36 hours, and never wavered.

And I was an absolute mess, every way you look at it.

A little more than a half-day later, we were back at the condo.

It’s a surreal feeling – walking into the condo with a baby in a bassinet.  This condo, that you had come home to maybe 1,000 times before, had a different vibe.  Or maybe it was your perception that was different, or your mindset.

We had a few more visitors that day – all of whom brought food (get used to that…).

But then when night came, we had that first, “What the hell do we do now?” moment that every first-time parent goes through.

Because what do you do?

You can take all the courses, and read all the books you want, but nothing prepares you for that feeling of uncertainty once the sun has set, and your eyelids start to flutter.  Usually you’d just go to bed.  But now?  With a baby to look after?  What the heck do you do?

You hold her, of course.  And you sit there.  You wait for something to happen.  You don’t know what, and yet you don’t really make any moves, or plans to move.

We tried to put Maya in the bassinet by the bed, but she cried.

So Jenna stayed up with her for three hours, and then we switched.  And we did this back-and-forth until the sun had been up for a while without either of us noticing.

We repeated this throughout the following day/night, as there didn’t seem to be any division of the periods when the sun is up, and when the sun is down, nor did we realize when one “day” became the next.

And over the first three days, I felt terribly out of place.  That’s about as well as I can describe the feeling.

I had grown very accustomed to my routine.

I work six days per week, and often a half-day on Sunday.

I get home most nights before 10pm, I eat a late dinner, tuck my wife and dog into bed, and then work on my laptop until 1am.

I repeat this five days per week, and I feel completely comfortable doing it.

I know I’m a workaholic, but perhaps some of you don’t realize that in this business, work is a drug.

You get high selling real estate.  When you see a condo up for sale for less than it’s worth, you rush your client over to see it on his lunch break, you get an offer in to the listing agent before anybody else has seen it, and you have it sold by the time other agents are typing up offers for their buyers – that results in a high.  When there are twelve offers on a house, your clients submit a bid, and you pick up the phone to hear the listing agent say, “Congratulations, you’ve got it,” that results in a high.

And I get high all the time.

My job is a non-stop thrill-ride.  It’s a rush.

It’s fast-paced, dynamic, and there are no two days the same.

It keeps me on my toes constantly, and I’m always moving, always on the go, and never knowing what I’ll be doing in an hour’s time.

And when Maya was born, and I spent three full days in the condo without leaving.  Sitting on the couch watching her sleep, feed, or cry.

I had never been this sedentary before.  And the “pace” of my life had slowed down from a jumbo-jet flying at cruising altitude, to the same jet taxiing to the gateway.

Men – you have to be prepared to put every aspect of your life on hold for three days, and you have to try your best to accept, ignore, or absorb the feelings of confusion, helplessness, anxiety, uncertainty, and above all – change.  And once you’ve done this, you need to remember that what you think and feel matters not, since it is your wife that you need to live and breathe for, as she has already borne a burden that you can’t imagine, and whatever you’re feeling – she’s feeling twice over.

As I write this, I’m staring at two photos of Maya that are the only real differences between my office before and after I had a child.  Everything else in here feels the same.

Well, I suppose there’s one more thing that’s different, and that’s me.

I’m back in the office for the first time in two weeks, but I feel different.

Everything around me is the same, and I’m working the same, but I have a new purpose, a new motivation, and a completely new future.

What a surreal feeling eh?

Many of you reading this can relate.  To many of you, this is just another story; same as you’ve heard before a hundred times.

But for those of you without a child, especially to those of you with one on the way, all I can say is: be ready for anything.

Expect the unexpected, and you will not be caught off guard.

Let your emotions overwhelm you, and just go with it.

Thanks for all the warm wishes on the baby-blog from two weeks ago; that was very special, and it reminds me how great my readership truly is.

And thanks for indulging me with today’s blog post.

Back to real estate on Wednesday.

We’ll talk about why people are moving out of Toronto to areas like Oakville, Mississauga, and Hamilton, and I’ll give you two case studies on clients of mine who made the move; who they are, where they came from, and why they moved.

16 Comments

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  1. natrx says:

    Great post. Took me right back to my experience. I wished I got a chance to speak to you before as you described almost exactly what I went through too. Similar age as you, and had our kid just 2 years ago but remember those first few days/week like yesterday. I always said afterwards, it’s like going to ‘War’ and fighting in the trenches (figuratively) + pulling multiple consecutive all-nighters beyond anything you did in university.

    You will be in for a wild, but just awesome ride. The best advice I can give is sleep train early and make her independent. It can be started in as short as 2 months, and independently sleeping throughout at around the 4 month mark. That will lead to balance and much happier family and development for your daughter.

    The other thing that will happen is ‘the talk’ with the wife as around 2-3 week mark, inevitably through the adjustment process, one person will not read the other person’s mind and cause a bit of a disappointment or rift. Always remember that the guy has it easy, and it’s up to us to open that channel of communications. The main thing is to let them know you want to help more and not to be afraid to ask specifically. Congrats again.

  2. TTL says:

    Congratulations and what an amazing birth story from a man’s perspective. Our main stream media often sets expectations on how a man should react meeting his child for the first time. Sometimes, the encounter is not as magical and the bond is not immediate as one would expect. It is comforting to hear a truly genuine story from a new father. It makes all of us who hasn’t had this experience yet to feel ok to be not as brave as expected, not as in love as expected in those first few moments and not as prepared. Thank you for sharing your personal story.

  3. Geoff says:

    A very apt description of the unique feeling of being as new dad. I will give you some advice no one gave me: one of the things that no one says about being a parent is the importance of managing simple logistics. Especially with both parents working, a lot of parenthood is simply getting Kid A to Place B by C Time.

  4. WEB says:

    David,

    That was an incredibly captivating story. I think you have what it takes to write a best-selling book. Sign me up – how do I pre-order?

    And for what it’s worth, I think you’ll be an amazing father for two reasons. First, the love you have for your daughter shone through. She’ll get the most important thing from you: unconditional love. Second, the remaining part of parenting requires common sense. And that you have in droves.

    What special gift for you and wife for the Christmas holidays! Enjoy!

  5. Paully says:

    If you don’t mind, I will offer one piece of amazingly useful advice that came to me from a friend. Pick up and read a copy of “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” by Marc Weissbluth, MD. The good doctor offers up some wisdom about infant sleep that seems to be counter-intuitive, yet it turns out to be spot on! My wife followed his sleep schedule suggestions with almost military precision, and we benefitted greatly. Making sure that your baby is properly rested is crucial to your own sleep and sanity. An overtired baby sleeps less, and is much crankier, which makes you overtired and cranky too.

    1. Joe Q. says:

      “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” is a good book, maybe a bit contradictory at times. The sleep schedule is important overall, though.

      Another worthwhile book is “The Happiest Baby On The Block”. We found that one valuable, even more so than “Healthy Sleep Habits”.

      I would also recommend (in general) not spending big bucks on stuff your baby will soon outgrow, like particular toys, swings, bassinets, etc. Get them second-hand on Kijiji or local Facebook moms’ groups, and sell them when you’re done with them.

  6. Celeste Bravo says:

    David, you are such a great story teller. This was an exceptional post and I loved reading it. Can’t wait to meet Maya one day.

    PS: you’re doing great job as a dad…even only two weeks in 🙂

  7. Julia says:

    I found the first couple of months to be the toughest as you havent fully figured out or adjusted to the new you and of course the sleep depravation doesnt help. I spent a lot of that time obsessively cleaning to ensure that the house was as dust free as possible (nearly impossible in a big city) and enforcing strict hand washing for everyone who stepped foot in our home. Things got a bit easier (and relaxed!) once the new routine became the new normal. All the best to you and your wife !

  8. Joe Q. says:

    Great post, David — I went through a lot of the same experiences and emotions when our first child was born — and again, in a different way, when our second was born.

    You’re absolutely right that nothing can fully prepare you for parenthood, and that lack of “full preparation” can be jarring for people who are used to being completely in control of their lives.

    Just remember that parenthood is one of the few true human universals, and no-one has it completely figured out. A lot of what we do, about how mothers and fathers interact with their children, is baked right into the very core of human nature.

    Trust your judgement, seek the advice of trusted friends / family, be flexible, and try to enjoy the ride!

  9. Eric says:

    Wow, David! A real tear-jerker here on a Monday morning. I echo the opinion above about your writing prowess. You really made me feel your emotions as I read this. You also made me scared to death to have a child! Jk!!

  10. McBloggert says:

    When I read “And I get high all the time. My job is a non-stop thrill-ride. It’s a rush.” – I immediately thought about Pumping Iron “The most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump…” I will leave the rest Arnold’s take out for the sake of younger readers.

    In all seriousness – great post and welcome back.

  11. Timothy M Fleming says:

    Congratulations on your first born and on a wonderful blog.

  12. Tina says:

    “I couldn’t understand how she was in such great shape, and I was a mess.
    And that’s when I realized: women are stronger than men.”
    I’m sure Maya will enjoy reading your version of her birth story. Congratulations and get ready for countless tea parties! They grow up so fast.

  13. GinaTO says:

    Thanks for sharing, David. I love the honesty and the dad’s point of view. It is indeed a roller-coaster, but every time you look at your little one you feel a love so deep you’re thankful for the amazing ride. 🙂

  14. LikeChristmasEve.JCF says:

    Everyone should read this blog, David. You managed to capture every single part of the experience perfectly.

  15. Kelly-Ann says:

    This is beautiful! If this real estate thing doesn’t work out, you’ve got a future as a writer.

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