To the guy with the wife with the baby

She’s a natural, you know. She is competent to a fault, emitting a swift, cheery self-sufficiency that makes people think she’s not in need of anything. But there is something she does need, especially now: you.

She needs you to come home asking for her, for the baby, dropping your stuff in a pile at the door and calling to her I’m just washing my hands! in that way that tells her without seeing your face that you're smiling, like you’ve spent the day at the office willing the time to pass so you can get back to your girls.

She needs you to trust her, to follow her lead. By virtue of time logged this child is her domain. It won’t be like that forever but it is, now. Even if she’s at a loss, pretend she’s not — for however long it takes for her to find her feet.

She needs you to know, beyond any doubt, that the isolation and responsibility of her days and nights is infinitely more draining — emotionally and physically — than how you spend Monday to Friday, 9 to 5.

She needs you be at her side in this love affair, to see you as baby-drunk as she is. Because there’s almost nothing more appealing than to hear Come quick! Come see what he’s doing! and to witness the baby you made together in his daddy’s lap, and to see concentrated joy there.

She needs you to get dirty. She does.

She needs you to be patient. She is.

She needs you to be proud of her. Most days, kneecapped by self-doubt, she’s not.

She needs you to know these two things and send them back to her, received and absorbed and agreed as sure as a reflection:

1) It is not easy to be a baby — to have no understanding, no context and no control, physical or otherwise. To feel an almost constant sensation of vertigo, of falling and startling. To be hungry for milk and to not know for sure, regardless of past evidence, that someone will put something in your mouth.

2) It is not easy to be the mama of a new baby — to have no understanding, no context and no control, physical or otherwise. To feel an almost constant sensation of vertigo, of falling and startling. To be hungry for validation and to not know for sure, regardless of past evidence, that you are not alone.

For all this: such is the mark and the duty of a good sort of man.

—For a friend