A smile changes everything

My daughter’s eight weeks old today. Time flies by. When you read my posts here every day, it may seem like it’s been a breeze. This may be true on some days. With an emphasis on the ‘some’ part. Other days it’s a hail storm and a hurricane all at once. This baby can cry and scream like you’re really hurting her. And to make this clear, we don’t. No, this little lady screams her lungs out when she has two droplets in her diaper. Or sometimes for no apparent reason. In many cases there’s just no way on earth that I can comfort her and calm her down, while the moment I hand her over to Heike, she calms down. (Maybe this view is exaggerated in my mind, but she certainly calms down more easily near her mother.)

The first six weeks or so, baby’s are helpless little larvae. They, well, just lie there and do nothing. They drink, cry, poo and pee, and mostly stare right through you, into the abyss. For me, this is tough. There’s nothing to gauge whether you’re doing the parenting right. And as a father that can’t soothe a screaming baby, it really sometimes feels like you’re doing everything wrong. (Luckily, my two year-old is very clear in that I do things right every now and then, so that helps me maintain some confidence.)

No matter what you do. These first eight weeks are tough as balls.

You’re in a continuous state of self-doubt. The crying. The screaming. The helplessness. The sleep deprivation. It just gets too much.

“Will this ever end?”

And then. Out of nowhere.

She smiles.

First, it seems rather uncontrolled. A muscle twitch in the mouth area? Then, some days later, she locks eyes. She’s no longer staring into the abyss. No. She’s looking at me. And then, there’s no way around it. She’s looking at me, following me with her gaze, her eyes light up, and she smiles in response to things I say to her. It’s wonderful. Whenever it happens, my heart refills with love and – somehow – empathy and strength. And it happens every day.

One smile a day will pull me through.

It’s almost like evolution wanted it this way. I once read some theory about smiling in babies developing at this time in early development to avoid fathers abandoning their children in the times where everything feels horrible. (Maybe this also should select for the fun babies that smile most?) I can’t remember the source. It may not have been very scientific. But it certainly feels somewhat true. Parenting is no less tough, smiling babies still scream for no apparent reason, but at least with a smile there’s a reward. A bond.

It works for me.

Two months old already… It feels like last week. Before you know it she’ll walk and talk. Whatever happens, I hope she keeps smiling.

The first grin on camera!

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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