January 20, 2008

Fatherhood First Impressions
Lima, Peru

Jennifer left a comment wanting to "hear more about your experiences as a new father! Thoughts… feelings… diapers…", and I thought I might oblige.

It was the afternoon after mother and son's return from the clinic (and the Christmas bug attack), and I was feeling particularly unhappy. Our bedroom had been turned into a hot, stuffy, dimly lit nursery, filled with the shrill cries of a newborn.

I'm a big believer in communication, and talked about my frustrations with Tatiana. I'd felt like I'd completely lost the only safe and comfortable zone I had in the house—a place that I was free to work and play privately, or avoid interacting with the same faces I'd seen day in and day out for the past two months. I no longer had any place I felt at ease, and that wasn't something I wanted in my daily life.

Things have gotten better in the week following. The bedroom curtains are open during the day, the window is letting fresh air circulate, and people are sticking their noses in our parenting less.

A personal issue that I've been trying to deal with since arriving in Lima is the sound of children. It's with complete honestly that I say I utterly hate the sound of infants and children. I hate when they cry; I hate when they moan or complain; I hate when they speak loudly; and I hate when they scream (regardless of delight or anger). It's the sad truth that I even hate the sounds of happy children playing. And if you can imagine me cringing at the noise from that event, imagine how the wails from a newborn ranks on my list of sounds that I can't stand.

I think a lot of it has to do with volume. I can tolerate a lot of loud noise pollution (such as music or automobile), but some sounds, amplified by high-pitched voices, cut deep into me.

In this home filled with nearly a dozen people, there's a barking dog, a two-year-old girl, and a four-year-old boy. Add into the equation that the girl loves to shriek, and that the dog and boy have no yard to play in, and you've got an idea of how I've been warming up for Aidric's arrival.

"Oh, but it's one thing when someone else's child is screaming, and something totally different when it's your own"—that's the sentiment that I believe is floating around out there. Is it true? Somewhat.

The difference is that the parent has no place to hide, and an obligation to soothe the child. The bystander need only complain and/or walk away to resolve their auditory misery. That obligation (and repeated exposure to the event) gives the parent a thicker skin than the bystander.

I try to find comedy in the tragic. I laugh when Aidric works himself up into an inconsolable torrent of fury, especially when he's so angry that he chokes on his own rage. Waaaaa-(GASP) (GASP) (GASP)

I'm working in a supportive capacity for Tatiana. I hang the baby's wet clothes on the roof's clotheslines, and retrieve them when they're dry. I make bottles from powdered formula when her boobs are empty and Aidric demands more (which is very often). I change diapers and empty the trash. I attempt to console my son when he cries, and keep him company when he's calm. I take lots photos. And I hug Tatiana often, and tell her she's doing a great job, because she truly is.

I can't imagine a woman caring any more deeply for her child than Tatiana. Her nipples are decimated, her time seemingly all consumed by Aidric (even her dreams and nightmares), but her love and perseverance is unquestioned. This woman, who had major surgery only a handful of days ago, is moving around at full speed. She hasn't even taken a pill for pain since she left the clinic. Her ability to recover, learn, and adapt is an amazing thing to witness.

Tatiana is dreaming of getting her body back into shape and back in Miami. I'm dreaming of getting the hell out of this bedroom and onto a beach. In this respect, neither of us are doing the things we want, but that will change very soon.

I'm going to travel into southern Ecuador in about a week and a half, leaving Tatiana and Aidric behind in Lima for an unknown duration of time—probably two weeks or so. Tatiana has known about this since we arrived in Lima. I was given a 90-day tourist visa upon entry, and she knew that I wasn't going to renew it in town before it expired, but cross a border and travel around for a while. Northern Chile is a giant, unattractive desert (been there, done that), Bolivia now costs US$134 to enter, and Brazil is deep in the jungle, leaving me with Ecuador.

Truth of the matter is that my mental health is starting to degrade in this place, and Tatiana has a loving and supportive family to help her in my absence—something that she won't always have when I'm gone. This is sure to be the first of many occasions when I travel without her and Aidric, and see no reason why she shouldn't get acquainted with the idea now.

I'm not running. I'm not a flight risk. I'm coming back to Lima. But it's going to be after some much needed independent travel and private time in southern Ecuador and northern Peru.

I may be a father, but I'm also a traveler. Travel is my pleasure, my profession, my passion, and my vice. It's as much a part of me as anything else in my life, and can't see spending my days any other way.

Life's too terribly short to spent it sitting in an office, or a bedroom.



January 22nd, 2008

Go Craig!

I really admire your courage! I might have mentioned before that I landed in a similar position than you regarding becoming a father.

I'm also blessed that the mother is someone really special, and though we never went out or will ever be married, we manage to communicate and raise our son without stiffling each other's spirit.

Relationships are what people are able to make of them.

My hat off to you!

Stellenbosch winelands…


January 22nd, 2008

When does Tatiana get to take a vacation? Are you willing to take the baby for two weeks in the future should she need some R and R?


Craig | travelvice.com

January 22nd, 2008

Sure — but after Tatiana stops breastfeeding and gets over any baby separation anxiety (which keeps her from going to the market for an hour without excessive worrying) :)

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