Life always takes twists and turns. Some of those twist and turns aren’t welcome, some are surprising, some have no effect at all on us, and some change us profoundly. Who can argue that parenthood is one of life’s most dramatic curves? Jenia and I are changing. We’re having to become kinder, more self-sacrificing people than we were before. We have to serve our son, for the time being, as his very life depends on our ability to look after him well. It’s tiring. It’s time-consuming. And it’s wonderful.
I’ll let Jenia write a post about our experience in the birthing suite of the hospital here in Al Ain. Suffice it to say, for now, that everything went well and we welcomed a healthy baby into the world. What a feeling that was! No father has ever tried to describe to me what it’s like seeing his child emerge into the world after hours of his wife struggling in labor. I’m glad that no one did, either, because there are simply no words that can describe the experience or the emotions that go with it. I’m tempted to write about what I felt–the rollercoaster of agony and ecstasy that ends in pure joy and love–in depth. I could fill lengthy paragraphs with my heartfelt gushing. And yet, if I did that, then I’d fail, I’m sure, to capture what is most important about it. There are some things that a person must live to fully understand, and this is one of them. To sum up, one word returns to my mind over and over–amazing.
The last three weeks have seen us changing, as I said. We are being stretched and forced to grow in new ways. Here are some impressions and anecdotes:
1) Sleep is precious. On my way to class last week, I stopped to chat with a fellow teacher. He paused, mid-sentence, and exclaimed, “Dude, you look f***in’ exhausted!” Evidently having a newborn does that to people. Who knew?
2) Food is special. I don’t mean any old food. I mean the sort of food that people have brought to us so that we haven’t had to worry about cooking dinners. What a blessing it has been to have that kind of love shown to us. We’ve been able to spend more time enjoying (or coping, depending on the day and our level of sleep deprived-ness) having a child and less time in the kitchen. That’s really something.
3) Expat friends are like family. Andrea (whose blog is mentioned in the “blogs we read” section) brought us toothbrushes when we forgot to take them with us to the hospital. Other dear friends brought us numerous gifts and, most important of all, their presence, congratulations, and encouragement. We’re totally blessed.
4) Emiratis love, no, that’s not strong enough; they loooove, no, that still doesn’t capture it; they L-O-V-E infants. When we got the kiddo’s birth certificate (interestingly, the hospital doesn’t provide that to you here; you have to take the certificate of live birth you’re provided and head over to the Health Authority to get an official certificate with the baby’s name and so forth printed–that’ll set you back 100AED if you get one in Arabic and one in English) the ladies there were just gushing over the little one. When I offered to let one lady hold him, she was thrilled, and she posed for pictures holding him–her coworkers swished around the desk to aim their Blackberries and snap away–and they kept saying, “Mashallah, mashallah!”
5) Being peed on really isn’t so bad. That’s enough about that, right?
6) Baby passport photos. Yup. Not super easy, but necessary.
7) Baby passport. Not that hard, but it does require the aforementioned photo, and it’s required for doing any traveling outside of the country, which we definitely plan on. When we applied for el nino’s passport, we left a couple of fields on the form blank: hair color and height. I guess we could have penciled in, “Not sure yet and 20 inches, last time we checked,” but we didn’t. I asked the woman at the Embassy about this. She chuckled and said, “It’s okay. Don’t worry. It will be ready in four weeks.”
8) Baby voice. It can’t be helped. Sometimes I notice that I’m using baby voice. I’m cooing and being silly and sounding like the most ridiculous man since, well, maybe ever. And I don’t care. It’s fun!