Stay-At-Home Dad: Still have what it takes?
By Howard A. Ludwig April 12, 2012 11:16AM
Howard A. Ludwig found out he still has what it takes to care for a baby while babysitting his friend’s 3-month-old daughter, Claire. | Howard A. Ludwig~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 16, 2012 8:08AM
It’s been four years since I’ve cared for an infant. I once considered myself rather proficient at baby care. But with such a long layoff, I wondered if I still have what it takes to raise a newborn.
With that in mind, I jumped at the opportunity to baby-sit my buddy’s 3-month-old daughter, Claire.
Her mom dropped her off at 8 a.m. last Thursday. I was given a detailed itinerary. It included how much to feed her and when as well as a long list of likes and dislikes. This was a welcome cheat sheet, as I’d forgotten many of the details of caring for a baby, such as the ratio of formula to water.
The first hour was rough. Claire mostly screamed while I reached deep into my rusty bag of tricks. Nothing worked until a neighbor visited and held her while quietly humming.
“Thank God you came over. I’ve been really struggling,” I admitted.
“I don’t know what I’m doing either,” he said. “Nobody does. With babies, you just make it up as you go along.”
I had forgotten that bit of advice. And hearing it changed my entire approach. From then on, Claire called the shots. I did my best to make her happy. We got along great.
Claire wanted to watch the ceiling fan in the kitchen, so that’s where I set up her bouncy seat. It’s not where I wanted to hang out, but it wasn’t about me. When she was tired of the scenery in the kitchen, we moved. When she was hungry, I made the bottle. When she was tired (which wasn’t often), she slept.
Surrendering to the will of an infant was my greatest revelation of the day.
Not that there weren’t some follies along the way. Early on, Claire fell asleep on my shoulder. I closed my eyes too and smiled at the once familiar scent of her newborn scalp. She woke up about 15 minutes later with the checkered pattern of my hand towel pressed into her face. It remained there for a solid 90 minutes.
Shortly after lunch, I managed to get both Claire and my 4-year-old son, Peter, down for naps. I had forgotten how great it feels to get two children to nap simultaneously. It was during this brief, glorious 40-minute window that I began to regain my confidence.
I then learned the hard way that Claire is a puker. She’d spit up three or four times from each bottle. By the end of the day, the smell of regurgitated baby formula was burned into my nostrils. I smelled baby puke everywhere. I eventually realized that Claire’s clothes were the culprit. I changed her outfit, and the lingering stink seemed to die down.
Now, changing diapers is no big deal. But I have two boys and changing a girl’s diaper is a bit more involved. Claire exploded all over her lady parts around 3 p.m. I never realized how many places green, soupy poop can hide until I changed this little girl’s diaper.
Later, I was packing up Claire’s things just before her mom was about to pick her up at 5 p.m. I wanted to give her a fresh diaper for the ride home. I removed her slightly-wet diaper and ran to get a new one. In that 4-second span, she peed all over the living room carpet.
And even with that send off, I had a great day. I was exhausted (I had forgotten that feeling too). Yet, I came away from the day realizing that I still have what it takes to care for a baby.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former business writer for the SouthtownStar who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.
He can be reached at email@example.com.