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Quality Daddy Time

On April 26, 2015, I became a first time father. My wife, Chelsey, and I welcomed our daughter, Keira Laye Jatau, into this world after many months of anticipation.

Fatherhood is something that I’ve looked forward to for the past few years. As it approached, I was never really nervous about my role or responsibilities, but more so filled with excitement and eagerness at the opportunity. I felt that I was ready to be a father. I get along pretty well with most babies. I can hold them without either of us crying; they’re easily entertained by noises that I make; and I generally return them to their parents in the same condition that they are given to me. Those are good qualifications for becoming a father, right?

The first few weeks after Keira was born were filled with visits from relatives and friends. Fifteen minutes after we returned home from the hospital, we had our first guests. Over the next few weeks, both sets of grandparents visited (multiple times), as well as her aunts and uncles. Friends and colleagues also stopped by to see Keira. The guests would hold her during her brief moments of being awake, and when she was ready to nurse, she was handed back to her mother to eat and eventually fall asleep. Her interactions with me were limited, and I often felt a desire to be a bigger part of the nurturing process.

As Chelsey was returning to work, I was given a chance to be a part of the feeding routine with Keira. Before she started daycare, we wanted to get her accustomed to taking breast milk from the bottle. It is recommended that someone other than the mother feed the bottle to the child, so that responsibility fell on me. Initially, I was excited to be included in the feeding process, hoping that it would be an opportunity for more bonding. But after the first few feeding attempts, I felt traumatized! Keira would scream and cry as I was trying to get her to eat. She wouldn’t calm down until she was returned to her mother and able to get the milk from its natural source. These moments were difficult for me particularly because I didn’t want Keira to relate the negative feeding experience to her time with me. I also didn’t want to get to a point where I was handing her off every time she started to cry.

Kate wrote in the previous blog about “mommy superpowers”. It’s amazing and very much true! Breastfeeding seems to be the cure-all for a crying baby. Not only does it soothe the child, but it also cultivates the mother-baby bond. This is a very convenient superpower to have. Unfortunately, dads are empty-handed in that department. If the mother is Wonder Woman, then the father is Batman. Batman is considered a superhero, but in reality, he has no superpowers. As fathers we are tasked with developing our own secret weapons and getting creative in our attempts to soothe and bond with the baby.

Though it can be frustrating at times, I’ve recognized that there are benefits that come along with being Batman. I think that it has helped me better learn to read Keira whenever she gets fussy. I can tell whether she’s hungry, tired, sleepy or bored, and I feel fully equipped to handle any of those situations. I now know what to do to make her happy, and she often rewards my attempts with a smile. I also cherish the moments when she is content, and I have learned to take those opportunities to bond with her. I call it Daddy Play Time. It usually happens in the evening right after dinner. We crawl around on the floor together or play our own special game called Cirque du So-baby. She loves it so much that she wakes up around 5:00 a.m. to play some more! I admit that there are nights that I don’t feel like playing, or mornings that I’d much rather be sleeping, but I just keep in mind how important and precious these moments are.

The past few months have gone by pretty quickly, and Keira is now 7 months old. She is moving right along in her development. She is crawling and pulling herself up on furniture and people. It has been fascinating not only watching her grow, but also watching our father-child relationship develop. I’ve really come to appreciate the interactions that I have with her and the quality time that we spend together.

About Z. Andrew Jatau, LPC

About Z. Andrew  Jatau, LPC

Z. Andrew Jatau is a Licensed Professional Counselor and content creator currently working at Hopscotch, a leading pediatric behavioral health company.  He is the founder and CEO of Mylemarks, a website dedicated to providing engaging social-emotional resources for children and adolescents.  Andrew has worked in a number of settings providing mental health services to youth and families, including a day treatment center, a university counseling center, and most recently, a private practice in Virginia Beach.  He previously served as a Fatherhood Consultant with CHKD, helping to organize and facilitate fatherhood programs in the Hampton Roads area.  Andrew resides in Aurora, CO with his wife and two daughters.