When my daughter was born, I experienced a happiness I had never known before.
As a father, I wanted to be there to experience my daughter’s first few precious weeks of life, so I did something many fathers do not, or are unable, to do: I took paternity leave.
I was fortunate to have an understanding supervisor who supported my decision and allowed me to take a 20-day leave from work to be at home with my wife and daughter.
At the time, I didn’t understand why my colleagues were wishing me a good night’s sleep, but I soon figured it out! Taking care of a baby is a 24-hour-a-day job.
I was determined to experience the new joys of parenthood with my wife (and help her out!) and to observe local customs related to the birth of a child.
My family follows Uzbek traditions, and the birth of a new child brings with it a specific set of rules, rituals, and attitudes.
The most sensitive period of this time is the 40 days following the birth, which we call chilla. Since I would be home for 20 days, I was following a “little” chilla.
I expected my daughter’s first 20 days to be full of new joyous experiences and challenges, and I was proved right. I saw my baby’s first smile, heard her first cry, and learned what gestures she used to tell us how she was feeling. For example, when she doesn’t want to be around other people, she’ll close her eyes and turn her head from left to right.
The basic requirements of chilla that I followed included the following:
- Be home before sunset.
- Have no guests in the home. If you are hosting guests, the mother and child should be separated from the guests. I followed this rule only for the health of my wife and daughter, as the first few weeks after birth are quite sensitive for both mother and child.
- Do not drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes in a room where your baby is sleeping or playing.
- A breastfeeding mother should avoid fruit, salads, sodas, and artificial juices, and should drink only black tea and boiled water.
Another large part of being a new father was planning a new family budget to ensure my daughter has everything she needs to be healthy and safe.
Where I live in Tashkent, I have access to many drug stores. This meant that I could now compare prices to ensure I was getting my daughter the medications and supplies she needed but at the best price.
Paternity leave also allowed me the chance to bond with my child and realize that the decisions I made now affected my entire family. Becoming a new parent means adjusting your lifestyle and assessing your priorities.
A good example is that I’m now aware of how important it is to spend my time at home with my wife and daughter. Instead of bringing work home, I now spend my evenings feeding and caring for my daughter and helping my wife put her to bed.
Spending those first few weeks of my daughter’s life at home is an experience I’ll remember forever. I strongly encourage fathers everywhere to take paternity leave if they’re able to. You don’t want to miss all of those new “firsts”!