I’ll never get tired of saying that. His name is Daníel Valur and he was born late in 2014. He has soft red hair, 8 teeth, grunts when he wants things, his favorite food is bananas and liver sausage (but not together) and he loves playing with spoons.
My husband Ágúst and I have written about our experience fostering in the past, our first time with two brothers aged 5 and 7, and then again with a one year old boy. Raising a child from birth, with no possible transfers of custody in the future, is a totally different ball game. We can make plans, we don’t worry about third-party gatekeepers changing arrangements out of our control (super stressy) and if our child has issues, it’s our fault, not someone else’s.
I’m not going to go into the technicalities of our situation (best described as a special type of co-parenting where a good friend of ours carried him for us), instead I want to tell you how much my own life has changed since I became Daníel Valur’s father.
Águst and I keep a small development journal to chronicle various stages of his life; such as new teeth, first time crawling, walking, holding his head up or rolling over.
My favorite entry is the day we saw him first look up and recognize us and give a big smile. The most memorable being about his birth, when I was able to catch him as he was born. One funny story from our friend, as she was getting ready for the final pushes, she decided the pain was too much and asked the midwife for something for the pain. The midwife said she could get some more essential oils, and our friend said “I want *modern* medicine!” while gripping the midwife’s hand. The midwife smiled sweetly and said simply that it was too late for that. Luckily he was born less than 5 minutes later.
“My favorite entry is the day we saw him first look up and recognize us and give a big smile.”
I’d had more than 9 months to prepare for that moment, but I was still completely overwhelmed. I couldn’t stop crying as I pulled his tiny wet body to my chest (wet because we had a water birth at home). His tiny wrinkled hands, his scrunched up eyes. He barely made any sound, just a tiny exhale after a few moments. Ágúst and I took turns holding him, the gleam in our eye apparent to everyone around.
We did a cord burning rather than snipping the cord, because we wanted to turn the event into something more memorable. So we each held a candle under his umbilical cord, his tiny body clutched tight to Ágúst’s chest, wrapped in a towel. It took a lot longer than we thought, but it definitely sticks in my mind more than a quick snip from scissors.
After the cord was taken care of we retreated to our bedroom (a benefit of a home birth) where our family members came by, one at a time, to admire our son and congratulate us. There we had a few drops of expressed milk to pour into his tiny mouth and made sure to have lots of skin to skin contact to keep him warm and to aid in bonding.
Since the day of his birth Daníel Valur has progressed in leaps and bounds.
He has already outgrown most of his initial clothing and toys that used to be his favorite have been discarded for cars and puzzles, as well as any book with a button that makes sounds. If he can’t figure out how to press the button, he will grab our hand to pull it down and press it for him.
He also adores going to weekly parent’s meeting at church Hallgrímskirkja, both for the food and for the singing (I’ve roughly translated the lyrics of one of the songs – Tröllalagið – with an added verse that Ágúst and I made up and put it under the photo on the right).
Going through our journal it’s also fun to compare our Christmas from 2014 to the one in 2015.
Our first holidays together as a family (2014) went by in a blur because having a newborn and taking care of it is hard work. But we were still able to cook not one but TWO (!) Thanksgivings (for all the guests we had at our house) as well as a nice Christmas dinner.
This Christmas was much easier. Daníel Valur can now walk on his own and it’s way easier to prepare his food. That allowed us to host our friends, put up a tree (that Daníel Valur would love to remove the lowest hanging ornaments from if we let him) and start planning traditions he will hopefully appreciate as he gets older. I can’t wait to stuff a tiny stocking for him, with an orange at the toe, and leave it at the foot of his bed to be found Christmas morning.
He’s also becoming a big fan of our cooking and we love seeing which items he finds best (mashed savory or sweet things are the best, meat – not so much).
Of course none of this would have been possible had it not been for our friend who carried Daníel Valur for us. She is our amazing friend, a veritable fourth member of our family (as well as her children). Someone we have stayed in touch with after our son was born and intend to visit in person as he grows older. She is definitely a special person in our lives.
I’ve written before about how my current life would seem a fevered fantasy to my younger self, but being a father is truly amazing.
I spent my early twenties moving from state to state, then country to country, in search of something, though I wasn’t aware of the reason at the time. Now that I have a family, it seems that was what I was looking for all along. I just had to cross an ocean to find them. 🙂