Getting to know an infant is like getting to know anyone, I suppose.
It takes a little time. There’s the awkward initial stage. In my case, that was getting comfortable holding my little girl, Emma, without the overwhelming, chest-squeezing fear of breaking her. I mean, she was so tiny and fragile-looking. Her fingers were so small and her torso so frail I was petrified that she’d just disintegrate in my hands if I squeezed too hard.
For her, the adjustment was my penchant of letting her noggin flop around like a bobblehead.
Once we got past that stage and I felt comfortable with her in my arms and she felt the same sleeping in them (it didn’t take long, to my great relief, and I’m sure, hers) we moved on to the next phase of our burgeoning relationship.
The reading-each-other phase.
It may be dubious at best scientifically to believe this, but I got the feeling from staring into her eyes that she knew I was her father and she knew I loved her more than anything on this planet or any other in the universe. I also got the feeling she loved me.
That’s when we bonded – and that also came quickly.
The next step was picking up on the subtle cues.
A look. A twist of the lips. A flail of the arms and the kick of the legs.
Soon, I began to understand what each movement meant.
It’s not like they can say aloud, “Hey, dad, I’m hungry.” It’s not like they can send you a text, “Sup, my diaper is wet.”
Yes, a discussion with a six-week-old is a bit one-sided – Emma isn’t much of a conversationalist in the traditional sense.
In reality, Emma says quite a bit.
I know when she is hungry by the way she purses her lips and moves her head around, rooting like a zombie on The Walking Dead.
I know when she’s tired by the way she brings her arms up to her chest and stares at me with drooping eyelids.
And I know when she’s, um, turning two in her diaper by the way her face turns ruddy, shuts one eye and curls her lips.
As a new father, I am amazed at how acquainted I have become with Emma.
One of my concerns before we got her was I wouldn’t have the instinct necessary to know what she needed when she needed it. I feared I would fumble through fatherhood unable to give her what she desired.
I suppose all parents feel that way at first. I have come to realize we all have certain instincts when it comes to caring for a helpless infant. It’s ingrained in us.
We just know.
Thank God for that.