From the first days as a new parent.
This was written more for myself than anyone else. We had a plan, a really good one. The bag was packed and in the car 2 weeks in advance. I tore down the standard shelves in the house and custom fabricated more meaningful configurations in their place to optimize our storage space. I even had the baby seat docked in one car and the latch base in the other a month ahead of time. The plan was working, until it was not on Saturday, August 12th.
Lesson 1: The outcome of the plan doesn’t matter.
After my wife had endured 24 hours of failed labor inductions, we grudgingly decided to opt for a ‘less-than-natural’ cesarian birth. The pain wasn’t worth it for the pipe dream of a vaginal delivery and frankly, we were both ready to see our baby boy.
In the end the plan didn’t matter because what I will always remember Saturday August 12th for is the birth of my first son, not a compromised birthing plan.
Lesson 2: You start over everyday.
The past few days have taught me whatever I learned about my son the previous day doesn’t matter. He is growing so fast, doing new things each day, it forced me to relearn his behavior each day untethered from the experiences of yesterday.
The forcing function of this principle makes me focus on being curious, observant and a keen learner each day. My experience made me self-aware of the bias I may be walking around with. Lastly, it’s humbling each day to realize how little we truly understand.
The root of all this perspective comes from empathy.
Lesson 3: True empathy requires persistence.
With dark circles around my eyes, hopes of even an hour of sleep dashed by well intentioned nurse visits, my bed-ridden wife or my newborn. It had been 3 days and 4 nights at this point and my patience was wearing thin. The baby is screaming as I change his diaper, while one nurse is caregiving to my wife, another nurse is knocking at the door asking if my wife wants a complimentary massage and I have just ran out of diapers, shit.
I took a deep breath. It was in that moment I consciously chose to practice empathy for myself and others. It was more important than ever to persist on understanding the situation and others
Lesson 4: Get the help you want from the help you’re given.
The magic of childbirth is so powerful, it has a way of galvanizing your close family and friends around you. It’s a very special feeling to be able to share the newness with everyone you care about. The flip side of this help is — it comes with a lot of advice, mostly unsolicited. Combine this with a cocktail of sleep deprivation, information overload, and getting to know your baby for some pretty emotional moments.
In the delierious, sleepless moments I mystically discovered some guiding principles that helped me get through it all, for the most part.
- Capture everyone’s excitement by providing them a role.
- Just listen to your baby, he/she is telling you a lot.
- Stay in the moment.
- Take what makes sense, ignore what doesn’t.
You may already know where I am going with this — these lessons aren’t confined to just fatherhood. Most in fact, apply to life at work. A great deal of design values translate to our interpersonal skills. It makes sense doesn’t it? If we have design principles to make beautiful, meaningful design experiences — than why can’t that be translated to how we treat each other in the biggest stages of life. I’m excited for one to return to work with this new dimension and discover my next chapter to learn.