Five years, to the day, after my wife, Courtney, and I purchased our first home as newlyweds, our firstborn son, Gabriel, came into the world. It was a long, intense labour. Forty-seven-and-a-half hours to be precise. Courtney graced the entire duration with otherworldly strength and resolve—an awe-inspiring feat I can never fully comprehend and will forever admire.
It was a little surreal the first time someone referred to Gabriel as my son. I’m a father. The weight of it still hasn’t fully sunk in. He’s been home with us for two weeks now and life has certainly changed. Sleep is sparse, but giggles, smiles, and joy abound in a measure they never have before.
In these early days of parenthood, our day-to-day has taken on an interesting dynamic. Much of the direct responsibility for Gabriel’s well-being rests on Courtney right now. Aside from changing diapers, cuddling, and keeping him warm, my role as a parent is ancillary. My most important responsibility as a new dad is ensuring that mom is well taken care of, to enable her to best care for our son. Conceptually straightforward. Surprisingly complex in reality. I’m finding that fatherhood requires a level of empathy and selflessness I never thought—and occasionally doubt—I could ever rise to meet.
Paradoxically, over the past few days, I have come to the humbling realization that for me to be maximally selfless requires a modicum of selfishness. I can push myself to run on minimal sleep, in order to afford Courtney more rest, but, at the end of the day, I am mortal and I am fallible. If I deprive myself of sleep for too long, I’m not going to be a pleasant person to be around. Cumulative sleep debt results in poorer cognitive reasoning, which is not at all conducive to being empathetic. Taking measures to keep my blood glucose levels in check adds another layer of complexity. As with so many things in life, the key to being effective is balance. Courtney and I are both doing our best to be disciplined about sleeping when the opportunity is there and to maintain as consistent a routine as possible to stay nourished. We’re supremely grateful for the support we’ve had from family and friends to help us in these regards throughout this transition, as well. By grace, when I am awake, I do the best I can to be as supportive and helpful as possible.
Before being a dad, I thought I knew what it was to love, but I am beginning to comprehend that love may, indeed, know no bounds. Throughout the labour and following Gabriel’s birth, my love and adoration of Courtney multiplied in a way I didn’t anticipate. Added to that, a whole new being for us to love has become an inseparable part of our lives. With each passing day, my affection for both Courtney and our son increases, with neither detracting from the other. Their every interaction is endearing. Oxytocin, a friendly, trust-building hormone that abounds naturally in both men and women during childbirth, no doubt has its part to play in this, but armed even with that knowledge, I had no idea a heart could love this much.
Composed with my precious bundle of joy, Gabriel, sleeping soundly against my chest, wrapped in a Moby, while Mom takes a much deserved break.
top image captured by Courtney Edwards