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Tales of a First-Time Father

Gil Hoffman
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 1, January-February 2007, p. 34

For the first 29 years of my life, I thought I was a pretty complete human being. Until I met my daughter, Eliana.

I'm not saying this in a mystical sense or a spiritual sense. And not even in the emotional sense the way that Tom Cruise told his girlfriend in the movie "Jerry McGuire," "You complete me."

I mean it in a literal, physical sense. Since Eliana was born two weeks ago, I have noticed for the first time that men are an incomplete species.

I was never jealous of my wife when she was carrying the child, as her belly gradually grew. I'm very thankful that I never had to experience morning sickness, difficulty going up stairs, or a craving for humus on my ice cream.

But now I envy my wife because she can give my daughter what I can't: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and those five meals between dinner and breakfast.

I love holding my little daughter in my arms when she falls asleep on my chest. But as soon as she wakes up, she turns into Woody Woodpecker. No, she doesn't have that annoying laugh of the cartoon character, but when she is hungry she starts pecking away.

Eliana opens her mouth, gets an excited look in her eyes, and starts aiming for my chest. Thankfully, she has never actually bitten me, but she has come close on more than one occasion. And she has always emerged disappointed.

So far, my wife has agreed to leave me alone with the baby just once when she went shopping down the street. Even though she fed Eliana immediately before leaving, it didn't take very long for the baby to start sucking my fingers and nose, hoping milk would come out. I called my wife in a panic and begged her to drop everything and come home immediately. I felt helpless.

We men have nothing to offer at all. We have boring, foodless chests that could never satisfy a baby. Even large men couldn't feed a baby if they tried.

In the movie "Meet the Fockers," Robert De Niro's character invented a contraption called a "mannery gland" that allowed him to simulate breastfeeding. While this is a novel idea, it doesn't change the fact that we men were not made to breastfeed any more than we were made to fly.

Since Eliana was born, people have been asking if I am getting enough sleep. I have answered somewhat guiltily that I am sleeping great, while my wife hasn't slept more than three hours in a row this month.

Now, I know what some people are saying. If my wife knew what was good for her, she would pump her milk into a bottle and have me feed the baby in the middle of the night.

But my wife is wonderful. She wants to let me sleep through the night so I can go to work in the morning. And she doesn't want to give up the experience and the bond with our daughter that breastfeeding provides.

It's a bond that we fathers can only dream of. But I am hoping that I can eventually come close by feeding her solid foods when the time is right, by playing catch with her, and especially by reading books to her and feeding her mind.

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