What my 5-month-old taught me

Published: August 3, 2011
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My daughter taught me to hold onto the people you love as if it’s the last time you’re holding them.

Usually, what goes on in the labor room, stays in the labor room. While some progressive hospitals allows dads to enjoy the whole birthing experience, more often than not, us dads and the couple’s close relatives sit in the waiting area, praying for the health of the mother and the baby.

Just like in the movies, the father-to-be can clearly be distinguished from the lot as he paces the length of dimly-lit corridors, biting his nails, waiting for the nurse to come out with some good news – it’s just like a scene straight out of a movie.

It could take hours, even days (God forbid), till you hear from the hospital staff, and just when you’ve given up all hope, a nurse sporting blood-splattered scrubs bursts out of the labor room screaming:

“It’s a girl! It’s a girl!”

What follows is nothing short of a miracle. The silent room breaks in to shrieks of joy and cries of:

Mubarak ho! Mubarak ho!

Now that I have been inducted in to the father club I think I know what to expect. New fathers should be prepared to:

  1. shed a tear or two of relief, or even have a full-blown outburst – believe me, no one will judge you.
  2. shed another tear or two of joy when you see the baby for the first time (again, no judging)
  3. check on the mother’s health
  4. sharing sweets with everyone
  5. your mother and your mother-in-law arguing over who she resembles
  6. say the Azan (Muslim call for prayers) in the infant’s ear
  7. look at the baby some more (you just can’t seem to get enough of her)
  8. have some more sweets (Pakistanis will be Pakistanis)
  9. shortlist baby names (if you haven’t decided on one yet)
  10. give the baby something sweet to taste (honey, in most cases)

And then the baby comes home, bringing with it, two invisible companions named “sleepless nights” and “ceaseless crying”. You have no choice but to welcome them into your humble abode; no compromises.

Waking up at unholy hours of the night somehow becomes routine. People at work mock and pity you as you walk into your office with bulging red eyes.

You seem to be running to the doctor every time the baby sneezes.

If you used to think your wife was high-maintenance; well guess again!

The formula milk and the diapers, the cleaning wipes and the bouncers, the bottles and sterilizers, rattles and swings don’t come cheap; and don’t even get me started on the filthy expensive vaccinations.

But wait – there’s another intruder that creeps into your life and needs no invitation: postpartum depression.

Your wife’s mood swings, an essential part of her hormonal imbalances, may drive you to the edge and back; tears of joy might turn into a crying frenzy on how she would be a terrible mother. In her defense, after what she’s gone through, she deserves a breakdown or two .

As a loving husband, you hold her hand through all the highs and lows and make sure she knows that you are there to support her no matter what.

The last paragraph should pretty-much sum up your life for the first three months after the baby’s birth. But as soon as the baby crosses over into her fourth month, most lucky parents (myself included) see a visible change in their lifestyles.

The baby becomes more responsive, starts cooing, even gaga-ing, she might even recognize you and bestow you with a smile.

Sleeping for four, maybe even six, hours isn’t just a dream anymore. Life somehow seems much more settled.

There are a few outbursts, a tummy ache here, a little gas there, but all in all, you feel blessed after having gone through what you have in the early days.

My daughter is a little over five months old now and she keeps getting more adorable every second.

I can hardly restrain myself from giving her soft cheeks a loving bite. Besides being my favorite dessert, there’s a lot more she has to offer, be it a sincere smile, or a gentle caress.

But more than anything, she has drastically changed my perceptions on learning; it is not a one-way street as perceived by most new parents. We spend all our lives trying to mold our children into ideals, but we somehow miss so many things our children can teach us, even as infants. Here are twelve things I learned from my five-month old daughter.

1. Persistence is the key to getting what you want, when you want; crying always works.

2. Curiosity might have killed the cat but it won’t kill you, as long as your parents are watching.

3. Change is healthy, even if it’s just a loaded diaper.

4. A smile from the heart can change any situation from bad to good.

5. Don’t be afraid to try out new things even if they are not edible.

6. Appreciate the little things in life, even if they’re as mundane as the ceiling fan.

7. Don’t care what people might think about you; just let it rip.

8. Time shouldn’t limit your abilities to do wonderful things.

9. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying; you’ll eventually learn to sit on your own.

10. Hold onto the people you love as if it’s the last time you’re holding them.

11. Raise your voice; you won’t get any milk if you aren’t heard.

12. Be content with what you have; drinking milk everyday is enough to keep you alive.

Raising a child can be nerve-wracking and fun, all at the same time. But more than anything, it’s an amazing voyage of self-discovery. It has its ups and downs (mostly ups), but most importantly, it allows you to appreciate the gift of life.

You may have other children later on, but the experiences of raising your first born will last you a lifetime.

Yousuf Bawany

Yousuf Bawany

A writer who enjoys to cook foods from across the world. He blogs at yousufbawany.wordpress.com. He tweets @YousufBawany (twitter.com/YousufBawany)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.