by Alex Krutov
Becoming a Father
This is something, I wanted to write for our son’s 1-month birthday. It is hard to believe that Levi is going to turn 1 month old in a few days. Where did the time go? Yes, many people told us, do not rush the time and enjoy every moment of him being a baby because babies sure do grow up fast. Sometimes when you hear certain things you nod your head in agreement but deep inside of you, you might not able to truly process what you are hearing because it takes time.
I also remember when people would ask me, am I ready to be a father? Well, that is a big question. An even bigger one is: what father or a mother is ready for the arrival of the baby? What does it look or feel like to be ready when it is your first one? Is it even possible to be ready? Even for someone like me, who has worked with children for the past 20 years, I would constantly evaluate the aspect of becoming a father. I would tell people, well, I have been working with children and I have the experience; yet, people would say, well, it is going to be different with your own child.
For me personally, the word father, and fatherhood goes to the day of my conception. Sadly, if you know my story, I do not know who my father is or was. Thus, even when I was born, he was already gone. I was never raised by a father. Being raised in the Soviet state orphanage system, I was always surrounded by women. Thus, the concept of a father is unknown to me. I was adopted once, but it did not work out (I am being diplomatic here). Then, when we finally began to have some male workers in my orphanages, I did not have the best experience or a model by having a father figure. How do you become a father to your child when you never had a father yourself? How do you parent and guide when a model was never portrayed to you? Most of us become parents and we use the model that was portrayed to us whether it was good or not so much. So, what do you do if there is a complete absence of it?
Well, when I met the missionaries from America in the early ’90s, some of them were families and I watched them like a hawk. I studied and analyzed them because it was all foreign to me. I remember how various fathers would relate to their children and children relate to their fathers. It was fascinating to me because I have never seen anything like it. I noticed the respect that I never saw in the orphanage. I also noticed the value and love.
Then the missionaries told me about the Lord, and I learned that the Lord is my Father because He is the Father to the fatherless. This is something that I do not take lightly. He truly has become my Father in so many different ways and there are no words that can describe what it is like to have such an amazing relationship with the Lord who is your Father. Directly (physically) the Lord does not teach us, yet He has amazing guidelines that are mentioned in the Scripture. When you read them and write them on the tablet of your heart then your life changes forever. You first learn what is right and what is wrong. You realize what you should have had and how it should have been. You realize where you have wounds and work on the healing aspect. You come to the conclusion that you never want to be the same type of father to your child as your father was especially if the model was not so good. Easy? No, but nowhere in the Scripture says the word "easy." You do your best and constantly work at yourself to become more and more like Him so that you can be that role model to your child so that when he grows up, he will not depart from it. The Lord continues to work in us by chiseling piece by piece before we become more like Him. We will never be perfect, but we can thrive to be more like Him.
In I Samuel 1:27 it says, “for this child, I have prayed.” We sure have prayed for our son Levi before he was born. Amy and I talked a lot about how we would raise him, guide him, discipline, train and much more. It is so important to be on the same page so that the child knows that mom and dad are one. We also agreed that we will be vulnerable with our son so that he knows that we are not perfect, and we have issues but together we are working at our issues because we desire to be different and be healed, restored and transformed. We know that our son will uncover certain aspects of our past that we will have to deal with, and we are OK with that and preparing ourselves for it emotionally and spiritually. We know that he is going to push certain buttons and this is where we have to be patient even when we do not feel like it or have no strength to do it and this is where you get the strength from the Lord because you realize that you, yourself cannot do it with your own power or ability. When you have those sleepless nights or 24-hour nonstop crying or screaming and you cannot figure out why is my child acting like, it is easy to snap at your spouse and lash out in anger. Yet, you realize you cannot do that because you must love and respect your spouse because you are one and you are portraying the model to your child that you would want him to carry on to his children. It all starts from the beginning the day of conception and the first day when your child comes to this world.
We wish, we would have been told more about certain things in the hospital, but it is also not possible to comprehend all that you are told anyway. I do have to say, we had phenomenal nurses and staff at the hospital. I remember how Amy and I were so ready to leave the hospital after being there for 2+ days and when we got in the car, we gave each other a kiss and realized a new reality is here. I drove slower than usual because now it is a paternal instinct to be careful and watch over your child. Not that I drove crazy before, but it is different when you have a newborn child on board.
We are grateful to our family and friends, who stepped up to support us in tough times. We are also super grateful to each of you who have expressed your deep love and joy for the birth of our son Levi and for the gifts that you have sent to us for Levi. Thank you. The words cannot describe how grateful we are and how blessed we are. I told Amy and our son Levi that he is a “spoiled” child. It gives great joy to me that our son is “spoiled” because I was not. I did not have that chance to be pampered, loved, cared, nurtured, diapers changed, being fed and much more. I wish I had many of those things, but it is no longer about me but about our son Levi. By caring, loving and providing all of those things to our son Levi it gives me peace, happiness, and joy because I know that he is loved and cared and blessed Infinitely more -- more than we can ever ask or imagine.
We had no idea what to expect but God did and that is the beauty. We belong to an amazing family of God and together in unity, love, kindness, support, and care, we can overcome a lot of things. We can raise a generation that will never depart from the truth because it was instilled in them from the day of their birth. It became their identity and was written on a tablet of their heart just as the Scripture teaches us. The foundation that is being built right now for our son Levi is crucial because bonding, trust, value is being instilled and he will carry it until the Lord takes him home.
We feel honored and blessed to be the parents of our son Levi.
Our son Levi is now over one month old and I have some other views to express. One of them is swaddling. Many babies in the baby orphanages would be wrapped or swaddled really tight in a bedsheet and be left alone in a communal crib. Obviously, this was traumatic for me, but I have been set free from it. Thousands of children have gone through the same experience but many have not been healed of it and are still victims of their past pain and wounds.
Now, I wonder what is the difference between being swaddled in the orphanage versus being swaddled in your home. Well, at home you do it as a form of comfort for your child when he is fussy or cannot get comfortable or peaceful. You do it to keep their hands still so that a baby does not hit himself. Yet, you know that when your child is hungry or dirty and he cries then you quickly handle his need; thus, you undo the swaddle in order to properly care for the baby. However, in the orphanage when you are hungry or dirty, and you cry sadly, no one comes to help you or care for you so you lay there for hours hoping that someone will eventually do what a loving parent would do. Thus, the biggest difference is the love and care given by a loving parent or a government worker in the state system. Yes, I am sure there are some nurses in the baby orphanages who do sincerely care for these children but when you have 30+ babies to take care of, it is simply physically not possible. You do your best but was your best good enough?
Another thing is photos. From my childhood I have, all in all, just five or so photos. The first one was taken when I was around seven years old. Do you wonder why we take so many pictures of our babies? Well, we are building a memory that we will cherish and value forever. It is something that you could always go back to and relive the memories or show them to your children when they grow up. Some of them are probably not interested or feel embarrassed, but we still love going back and looking through the photos. We communicate a lot of information through stories and photos are a powerful tool to communicate a story. Thus, Amy and I are taking lots of adorable photos of our son as a way of building a family story. Photos are also a great way to see how quickly your child grows and changes; thus, it gives you a different perspective. It reminds you of the importance to spend more time with your child because you cannot afford to lose the moment. There is such thing as too late. Amy's parents actually sent us a photo of when she was a baby and there are many similarities between Amy and our son Levi. I enjoyed seeing that photo because I cannot see or show a photo of when I was a baby.
Also as a parent, when you are raising your child, especially while he is really young, you pretty much rely on your child's schedule. Whereas in the baby orphanage. it is the nurse's schedule and that is why so many babies suffer from malnutrition, or have an abscess on their skin from being forgotten or neglected, or develop slower than he is supposed to, etc. No one sings or rocks babies in the baby orphanage so there is no touch involved at all. Amy and I constantly touch and build the bond with our baby son so that he firmly establishes who his parents are and he knows how much we love and care for him. Many orphans have no idea who their parents are, and I do not mean from a physical concept but an inner one.
With the birth of our son, when I do my work has changed significantly. Before I was always efficient and quick in replying to my messages. Now it takes some time. At first, it stressed me out because I knew that I had to still manage my work and other stuff, yet now I am in a new stage of life - fatherhood.
The Bible is clear that you make God as your priority, then your family and then your work. Sometimes it is easy to say but hard to do, especially for someone like me who has been single and doing mission work for over 20 years. I had to seek peace in my heart and mind knowing that if it takes me a little bit longer to do something, it is OK. I can rely on the understanding and mercy from people and the Heavenly Father.
Sadly, as normally happens, Levi is not yet on a schedule so he usually does not sleep more than 3 or 3.5 hours at a time so, which means still feeding, diapers and rocking every 3 hours. Amy and I take shifts where one of us would be on a shift between 9 pm and 3 am and then 3 - 9 am. Sometimes when Levi is sleeping it is possible to take a snooze or two but sometimes it is not the case because it is not a deep sleep, and he wiggles like crazy if he is not swaddled. Sometimes his nasal passages are so clogged that he has difficulty breathing especially if we did not do his unfavorable Nose Frida procedure. Yes, we do have the humidifier, but it is not helping as much as we have hoped. Sometimes he has gas and constantly grunts, which is all normal but makes you wonder what could I do to help our son besides massaging his tummy, putting him on a lap, doing bicycle movements with his legs, etc. Now I have learned that there is such thing as The Windi, which helps to relieve gas from their tummy. Another unpleasant procedure, but in the end it is worth it because it gives him comfort.
Yes, sometimes you wonder how did babies survive 40 or 50 years ago. It also makes me think about how many orphan babies feel when they go through the same experiences but there is no response even when you cry. You cry and cry but no response. Then your brain tells you, I cried and no one came and assisted me so why should I cry. When the needs are not met and emotions are not heard then you bury them and become internally tough and cold and show no emotions, but it is not natural. God created emotions for a reason, and they must be noticed and met.
Another thing is fussiness and patience. Your baby cries or has a fussy moment and you know that you have done everything on the list but something is still wrong. You rock but it is not helping so it starts to test your patience and nerves. Because you love, care, cherish, and treasure your baby you know that you should never shake him fervently or do something else that could hurt the child, yet many parents do. In the orphanages, shaking happens a lot and no wonder why so many of children are traumatized or abused and wounded. Babies do not talk so through their cry they are communicating their needs. Yet you know if your voice was never heard as a baby then you silence your voice and you feel that there is no need to voice things especially in the orphanage because everything is done and decided for you.
You, as a parent know your child better than anyone else outside of God. People have shared or recommended thoughts to you to do this or that. Our sweet pediatrician said I would not do this or that. Well, usually it is a lot easier said than done. What works for one baby does not work for another. It is the same as when people have asked me to write a book on successful keys on how to work with adoptive orphan children. Well, no such book can ever be written because each child is a unique and special gift from God. He or she has his own fascinating gift and bent created by God. We as parents have to pray, watch and identify what that gift and bent God has given our precious miracle and help him develop in it so that he can use it in his life to further God’s kingdom when he grows up. Of course, we always graciously listen and accept what people share but the ultimate decision will be ours and we will be accountable to God and our child for what and how we raised him, just as we will be accountable for our steps, decisions, and actions before God.
It is an amazing and challenging journey at times, yet it is so worth it.
You know what is so interesting, is the fact, that most people are drawn to babies and have the desire to touch and hold him or her. I even observed a toddler looking at a car seat or a stroller where Levi is laying. I wonder why and what is the power of touch and hold. Well, everything and it goes a long way.
There are many babies who are never held or hardly ever touched. There are babies who are hardly ever hugged. The lack of touch and hold creates many emotional barriers and even a lack of certain emotions.
I also think of how powerful touch is to a baby and what it speaks to him. Even in the Bible, in Matthew, a woman who was bleeding for years had touched the cloak of Christ and she was healed. Yes, it was ultimately her faith in Christ that healed her but through faith and through touching Christ’s cloak she was instantly healed. Think of Christ healing a blind man, when he took the mud and rubbed on his eyes and he was healed. Could Christ have simply prayed to Father and ask for healing? Yes, but he did not!
When people hold a baby it soothes and comforts not only the baby but the person as well. For some of us, it gives us what we did not have so it is very therapeutical. It changes our demeanor and body language while we are holding the baby. It releases certain endorphins in our brain and sends signals saying how good, important and peaceful it is. Think of another instance. When your baby is fussy and cannot soothe or comfort himself, you pick up your baby; thus, you touch him and rock him to calm and soothe. What would happen if you simply left him in a crib for hours while the baby is screaming? Well, eventually the baby would calm down but many babies begin to rock themselves because their natural instinct is saying I am not being held and rocked; thus, not being touched. The lack of touch creates a deep emotional trauma and it takes years of hard work and deep healing to overcome such emptiness in your life.
Amy and I are loving, holding, touching, singing, talking, kissing our baby boy Levi because we realize how crucial it is to develop a healthy bond and to raise him in the way that God has designed. None of it is easy but it is natural and we are doing our best to fulfill those needs. We so much desire that our son Levi will have the deepest and fondest memories of his babyhood and the same goes for us when it comes to creating the memories especially if you never had such as a baby.