Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Everything hurts (I mean changes)

I have just returned from my work Christmas night out. A meal and some drinks. How lovely and inoffensive.

Or is it? I'm a teensiest bit drunk. I had no intention of this, but largely due to an administrative balls-up a pile of free wine arrived.

This means a drunk daddy. Not good.

People wanted to see Henry. I don't blame them, he's awesome! But I invited people for a lift. Mistake 1.

I then tried to calm him using standard dad tricks. Mistake 2.

I then offered a lift home to a friend. Mistake 3.

All in all...nice one dadhead.

But...I am home because of him, because gaining friendships paled into significance next to him. Drinking is attractive. He is more so. Life has changed, I'm playing catch up, but I will never stop running for him.


Sunday, 16 December 2012

Teething and late nights

So it's 12:30 on a Saturday night and I have just spent the last half hour trying to convince Henry that going back to sleep is the right choice to make. I failed. At times like this there is only one thing that works - cue supermummy with her breasts of nectar.

I am making light of this because the alternative is despair. This has been going on for weeks now, and if the usual pattern is to be expected we will be up another two times between now and when we get up with him between 7 and 8am. It is exhausting, frustrating and stressful. After failing in my endeavours I came back to bed realising I felt targeted by him, that he wasn't helpless and somehow he was choosing to do this to me. Obviously he isn't and the rational part of my mind was telling me to stop being such a pillock, but for a couple of minutes the irrational side was on top.

"Why won't he sleep? Why is he doing this to us?"

led to:

"What are we doing that is so wrong?"

Maybe we are doing something wrong. We are responsive parents, rarely leave him to cry for long. Perhaps this is a rod for our own backs, but it doesn't even feel like a choice as the alternative is inconceivable to us.

The likely culprit is a tooth. Or possibly teeth, we are not sure yet. But it leaves me worrying - he has a whole mouthful of piano keys yet to sprout, how long is it going to be like this?

Unfortunately, for us, only time will tell.

Monday, 10 December 2012

All I want for Christmas are my two front teeth

Time marches on.  Our last two weeks have been amongst the hardest since Henry was born.  And today, the culprit, emerged from his gums like some ivory flag, proudly marking the reason for all the upset.  Henry has not had a good time of it cutting his first tooth, and for the last weeks has had regular doses of ibuprofen, paracetomol and Bonjela.  His appetite has been affected, sleep cycle and general happiness (we are very lucky and he is normally a cheerful wee soul).  But perhaps now he can rest a bit?  We hope so, because a tired, cranky Henry leads to two very tired parents.  Again and again I reminded of how difficult this would be if I didn't even have a partner to share the burden with.  Single parenting is not an easy choice I imagine.  If, of course, it is ever a choice.

And what else has changed in life in recent times?  Stinkpig is now independently mobile.  That's right adults, lock up anything you don't want chewed, slapped, pulled or slobbered on because it is now likely to be within his reach.  And if it is not within his reach?  Why, he will just stand up and attempt to bring it within his reach!  Henry is now crawling, and is on the verge of walking as he shuffles round various pieces of furniture.

This has led to new highs of parental guilt.  I challenge anybody living in an everyday home, looking after a newly moving child to protect them from knocks, bangs and scrapes.  In the last week, and only with me, he has:

  • had a lump under his eye where he slipped in the bath (he even bloody crawls in that), banged his head off the side and slipped momentarily under the water.  I have never moved so quick, very nearly cracking ribs in the process of pulling him out of the water.
  • pulled a pan rack, complete with pans, down.  It was only by sheer luck that it bounced beside him rather than on him.
  • within the space of two minutes slipped three times on the kitchen floor and banged his head.
  • slipped pulling himself the kitchen cupboard resulted in another banged head.
  • trapped his hand under the pan while his other hand pushes down on it to lever himself into a standing position.
  • pulled a cola bottle over onto his hand.
  • pulled the bin down on top of himself.
The list could probably carry on.  And that is just with me. His mum could probably add an even longer list (because she his with him more, not because she less competent than me).  Being a baby is an extreme sport; being a parent is a continuous test of how good are your risk assessment skills and how much guilt is it possible to feel without breaking down into a gibbering, weeping wreck.  And, as a parent, the standard response is to quickly pick him up, laughing, and pretending it's all a game.  What a thoroughly confusing approach for the child!

"Oooooo...a tall thing.  I wonder what tastes like that?"


"Owwwwwwwww - where are those people that supply the food and the wet wipes?  Ah, there they are...I have hurt myself, I feel like cryin...why are you laughing?  Why is that funny?  Why are you bouncing me up and down?  I've just banged my head, I don't feel like dancing.  Actually, this is quite fun...more, more!  Oooooo...what's that tall thing?"

If you have a newly crawling child - good luck.  Life is about to get interesting*.

(* for interesting read a terrifyingly stark reminder of how incapable you are of not only keeping a tiny baby safe but also how untterly incompetent you are at predicting, in a home that you have likely lived in for years, what will be of interest and pose a risk to said infant.)

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Eating everything

Joy of joys Henry has now joined us at the dinner table (in his brand spanking new highchair that met the exacting specifications of my wife and simply could not be purchased from eBay - much like our pram, which she now hates.  Not that I'm bitter, you understand) for his evening meal.

The magical six month mark has been reached, so the kitchen is now open and he is joining the world of proper food.  Which has been slightly pureed and cooked without salt or any spices that might be too hot.  (Or dried chickpeas that are two years out of date and have been included because his dad is too tight to throw anything away and thought they would be ok.  You might want to read my previous post for the likely fall out of this.)  But apart from these slight stipulations, he is now enjoying a range of foods.

This is absolutely amazing.

I cannot describe how awesome (and I mean that in the dictionary sense) I find feeding my son food that I have cooked for the family and he appears to be enjoying.  Food is important to me and, thus, it is important to me that he enjoys it.  And boy does he enjoy it!  I love it.  We often have breakfast together to try and give mummy a little bit of a lie in and it is the most special moment of my day.


I am finding the mess somewhat difficult to deal with.  Weaning has coincided with a streak of independence and developing hand-eye co-ordination that can whip food off a casually wielded spoon in a blink of an eye.  Does that food make it to his mouth?

Of course not.  It makes it just about everywhere but, smearing across whatever he is wearing, his chair, the table, his face, bits squeezed between his fingers, down his legs, on the floor.  Daddy struggles with this.  A lot.  Mummy does not appear to have a problem with it.

Daddy also struggles with occasional lumps.  Mummy, again, is considerably better at this.  I have, occasionally, needed to leave the room as he chews something a bit troublesome as my instinct is to whip him out of his chair and perform a paediatric heimlich manoeuvre on him.  Not wanting to communicate this sphincter-tightening anxiety to him and develop a fussy eater I instead extricate myself from the situation when it becomes too much to bear.  Henry, thankfully, remains oblivious to this and has happily gobbled up anything he can get his sticky little mitts on.  Daddy, meanwhile, has bought shares in antibacterial wipes.


Henry turned six months today.  He spent the last night of his first half year at A&E.  Vomiting.

There is nothing more worrying, nothing that induces more of a sense of utter helplessness, than watching your poorly baby knowing there is nothing you can do about it.  Between being sick he appeared largely fine, he had no temperature, he was not sore, no rash, not crying, and, generally, himself.  Apart, of course, from the oral excretions.

Which highlights for me how utterly illogical being a parent is.  It matters not what you know to be true, what you deem to be ok for you, what the rational part of your brain tells you.  When there is something wrong with your child you enter a Twilight Zone of paranoia and great, galloping leaps of thought that in the cold light of a day when considering ANYTHING else you would scoff loudly at people for coming to those conclusions.

As it happens, Henry is now, and was rather quickly last night too, considerably better.  It is always a highlight, I am finding, when a highly qualified and pleasant medical professional wakes up your son - who has just nodded off because, as far as you are concerned, he could be at death's door and is trying to eke out some last moments of comfort - and proceeds to examine him, eliciting great beaming smiles from your hapless infant as he does so. 

"Ah, he would appear to be considerably better, doctor.  Sorry to waste your time.  We'll just get our coats."

I am fairly sure these Health heroes see this frequently.  And whilst on the topic, I would like to praise how incredible it is look up information on the NHS Direct website, subsequently speak to somebody on the phone, and an hour later be seeing a nurse followed by a doctor, and all for the pittance I pay out of my monthly salary.  The NHS is a wonderful institution and the two times I have needed to visit with Henry (and the countless times for myself) they have always provided an excellent service and do so thousands of times a day.  Like social workers we only hear about it when it goes wrong - it goes right an awful lot more.

Thank you to all those that helped us last night.  As parents we felt listened to (vital) and reassured (immeasurably vital).  My wife still slept on his floor through the night, but as we hoped he is much better today and we have made it through to tonight without falling asleep, whilst Henry sleeps upstairs utterly oblivious to the grey hairs that I have sprouted.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Weaning and blockages

Well I can honestly say I have never been as delighted to see the sloppy brown contents of Henry's nappy as I was yesterday. Henry had not had a poo since last Thursday and Emily and I were beginning to become a little concerned as this coincided with our first foray into foods other than booby juice.

One of the delights of my morning over the summer break has been letting him give some of my breakfast apple a darned good gumming. He has loved it! Pulling my apple-filled fingers to his mouth and gnawing and licking to his heart's content.

We moved from this to a little bowl of puréed apple last Wednesday, carrot on Thursday and banana on Friday! Banana didn't appear to agree with Henry though and we may wait a bit before we try that again.

However, all this excitement was soon interrupted by a powerful bout of parentanoia - he hasn't pooed for days! Have we blocked him up with our cursed attempts at weaning?!

The advice we received from a friendly health visitor was that we shouldn't be starting to wean before six months as his gut won't be filtering anything out yet and there is evidence to suggest this period is particularly sensitive for developing allergies. As we had started though, now the advice was to give a little more to try and push through the blockage. More puréed apple then, was the order of the day.

And we have now had three nappies in the last twelve hours, bless him. So we are happy again and daddy can go back to letting him give my apple one hell of a licking!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012


I've been talking a lot recently about the role of the father and the challenges we face with various people. Henry is now at a point where, on occasion, only mummy will do. He can become rapidly inconsolable by anything apart from a cuddle with Emily. This can be particularly difficult for the hands-on dad, like I am trying to be. When you want to be a part of the parenting and do your very best to meet your child's needs it can be quite an emotional challenge to recognise those times when you're not enough. And clearly Henry isn't doing this to hurt, the mother baby bond is vital and well-documented. And a generation or so ago this wouldn't have been an issue, there was less expectation, I think, on dads to be active parents. The hands-on dad was the exception, not the norm.

However, times have changed and people do expect more of dads - although I think I pressure myself more than society expects of me. This is what leads to the difficulty. I want to be able to do it, but sometimes I am just not what he wants. I can imagine at this stage it is tricky for dads to maintain the involvement, it can be difficult to continue when you feel you're having to hand over to mummy each time. I am fortunate that I've got a chunk of time off work now and can be about a lot more and strengthen the relationship. For dads that don't have that opportunity it must be very tough and I would question what support, or consideration, they get. My mum talked about my dad, who was an exception but also was in the navy so had to be away for long periods, and how she hadn't considered what it would have been like coming back from months away to a child that wanted mummy. I cannot imagine how difficult that would have been - I am sure all he wanted was hugs and smiles and to not put me down, yet I imagine I had other ideas when young.

The importance of the relationship both parents have with a child is important, and I think preparing dads for these trials would be beneficial.

Thursday, 26 July 2012


In the past I have considered when does a child become a child - i.e. when do they move from simply a mass of cells into something with a consciousness?  I did not provide an answer, I am not sure there is one to be honest.

However, is there one for when a behavioural reaction becomes a tantrum?!  Friends of ours have ascribed their four week old screaming and kicking to a tantrum.  Emily and I do not think that's right.  One of the things that we have learnt since having Henry is that:

1)  You change your mind about everything you thought you would hold dear.
2)  Everybody, and I do mean everybody, has an opinion.  Be they friends, neighbours, passers-by, everybody think they know how it should be done.
3)  When you watch other people you think "ooo...I wouldn't have done that..."  In this, though see point 2 above!

But when does a tantrum become one?  We had a long chat about what the difference between a tantrum and a baby screaming was...we found it difficult to draw the line.  The issue is that they are both behavioural expressions of when something is wrong.  What we think the crux of the matter is, is the ability to access other strategies, such as talking about it, that are not available to a baby.  But it is far from decided in our household.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Oh, they grow up so fast!

Henry is at an amazing stage. He smiles, beginning to have good head control, and, amazingly, babbles away in full conversations with us. We get to kiss him all over and have bath times with him. If he gets crabby he goes up onto a shoulder (although this has resulted in a number of top changes) and gets taken for a walk - around the garden is a sure fire calmer for all but the most serious of ailments.

I was standing in the shower this morning thinking about all of this and worrying, again, about him growing up and only getting to experience those moments in my memories.

It actually offered me some insight into why people, even in these modern times, have large families. These days are so precious with Henry, dependent on us and attachments emerging. I am tremendously excited about all that is to come, but these few months where a silly noise is enough to get a smile (and I will do ANYTHING for one of his smiles), a kiss is enough to get a giggle, he looks for you as you leave and is fascinated by his own hands, are so short. When he is a bit older, moving around and talking I know I will miss these days. I'm fairly sure I will feel like this at every stage of his life. But there does seem to be something particularly precious about these first few months.

A biological imperative? Probably. Do I care if it is? Certainly not! My little boy is waiting for a silly voice and a kiss on the lips - there are more important things to be worried about!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

I'm a parent too!

I've just posted my last blog and it has occurred to me that it would be useful to quickly vent my spleen.

I used to work for a Children's Centre (a hub of staff and activities for families with children under five) and we ran a Dad's Club every week.  Currently, in my city, there are two monthly Dad's Clubs run.  Despite increased awareness of our role we remain a very neglected part of service provider's considerations.

During Emily's pregnancy the midwives treated me as useful, or interesting but entirely surplus to requirements.  They were never rude or dismissive, but nor did they attempt to really engage me.  And I am confident professional; heaven knows what it would be like for somebody without my background and experience.

Now that Henry is here I continue to be left out.  I work so none of the normal weekday activities are possible.  Evenings, I'll grant you, would be out of the question.  But a couple of hours on a Saturday to have somewhere to go and meet other dads?  Apparently this is too much to ask.

And Henry recently had a minor health scare and we spent a night in hospital.  They tried to get me to leave, arguing that only one parent could stay as any more presented a fire risk if the floor had to be evacuated.  At the time it was obvious that this was service led, rather than patient led rules, with no basis whatsoever in fire regulations.  'Luckily' Henry was still undergoing assessment, so decisions needed to be made so I was never forced to leave, or to make a stand.  But when a child is that young, to ask one of the parents to leave is cruel.  We live quite close to the hospital, but it is a regional servant to a large swathe of Devon and Cornwall.  What if something did happen suddenly and home was an hour's drive away?  This is a terrible state of affairs and one that I thought we had moved on from.

Dads are important; services need to actually take that on board now and stop paying lip service to the idea.

Everything changes

Life is busy.  I know I used to fill my time before Henry came along but for the life of me I cannot remember how.  It is a common occurence for my wife and I to be cooking dinner around 8-9pm.  Not good for our waistline, but it is shared time, and important to us both.  And Henry's routine is paramount!

Thinking about how he sleeps has made me realise how much has changed in the 13.5 weeks since he arrived.  I commented today how he used to scream when having his nappy changed - the worst moments for me in those first few weeks were a 2/3am nappy change.  Tired, bleary-eyed with a screaming banshee of a son exercising his surprisingly powerful lungs were the moments that pushed me to near breaking point.  But now, he 'enjoys' having his nappy changed - he appreciates the necessity of it and enjoys the focussed attention he gets.  Henry talks to us, engages with us, smiles at us.  He is taking a great deal of interest in the world around him.  He is very sociable - at his happiest when he has our undivided attention or he is held on a shoulder and taken for a walk to see the world.

When I visit these pages I am reminded how useful it is to record my thoughts here - but I just do not seem to be able to find the time!  I get back from work, then it is into spending time with him and Emily before and during his final feed of the day - then tip-toeing around for a bit until he invariably wakes up and he gets a final top-up and settled for the night.  He has slept through a couple of times now, and is in his big bed (he looks tiny!).  The goal of this blog was to capture our evolving relationship - it now feels like this is changing daily as he learns new skills and responses.  He recognises me now, he settles on me when he is teasy on others, smiles when he sees me.  I'll grant you none of these are 100% of the time, but they are certainly often enough that it does not feel like chance.

(Of course I may be deluding myself - biologically I am programmed to see things in Henry that make me believe a connection is growing so that I feel the need to protect my progeny and preserve the future of the species.  However, that is a cold outlook and I prefer to think that it is not random facial twitches, but genuince pleasure that daddy is home!)

And it has struck me whilst having a Twitter exchange with Michael Rosen (http://michaelrosenblog.blogspot.co.uk/) that it is about time I started to read to my son.  I have so far only read a few excerpts from the paper - now, though, it is time to start him on his exciting journey towards becoming a reader.  One day I hope he will read these posts.  If so...tidy your bedroom and get a hair cut son!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Respect and hardwork

Young single parents catch a lot of flack in our media, which results in a public rejection of them. My personal opinion is that we should, as a society, criticise ourselves slightly more than the products of a systemic issue. These young people have suffered, generally, a generational lack of aspiration and becoming a parent is all they know.

However, that is not what I want to focus on. Rather I respect anybody that attempts to raise a child by themselves. I cannot imagine bringing Henry up without the support of my wife; I think she would echo the sentiment. It is such hard work. I admire my wife greatly for getting through the day independently. Getting through life independently would be inconceivable.

We have some friends who need to care for their children (plural!) by themselves frequently and frankly Emily and I are amazed by them. We have one child, we are always late and it is a mission that requires a level of planning that would impress special forces to get out of the house. How these (bionic) friends of ours manage is beyond me. My hope it is like driving. At first you cannot imagine how you can lift the clutch pedal, whilst pushing down on the throttle and simultaneously checking your mirrors. It becomes natural and sub-conscious but at first it feels clumsy, awkward and you always forget to take the handbrake off.

So rather than denigrate single parents we should recognising what hard work it is - it is probably much harder than they realised, so let us not add insult to injury through generalisations and criticisms.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Everything changes

It's been far too long since I last visited here.  But that is a definite feature of parenthood - caring for Henry is so incredibly time consuming.  We run half an hour late for most events, and evenings are written off as we try to establish a routine that Henry is resisting with every ounce of his being.

It is difficult to even think what to write - the last (nearly) eight weeks have been tumultuous.  Henry is growing at a rate I did not believe possible.  I was looking at him lying in his carrycot yesterday thinking "you know...he's not going to be in that in two months time.  I'm not even sure he'll be in it in a month's time".  You can almost see him grow.  He has gone from a gangly (midwife's actual description) tiny scrap of baby to a bit of a chunk!  We have not had him weighed for a while, but his cheeks and arms have a reassuring thickness to them now.

And joy of joys - he is smiling!  It is simply the most beautiful, life-affirming sight and I find myself prepared to do anything to get him to smile.  So far, I think, it is largely pot-luck - Henry smiles at what amuses him, which is occasionally mummy and daddy, but can also be a picture on a wall, wind, baby dreams... Current favourites are incy-wincy spider and this little piggy.  The smiles happen most in the morning, which is a bit tough because five of seven I am in work.

I have settled into a routine of being his evening bather.  I would not say that he enjoys having a bath, but for the most part he gets to stare at the window (he is attracted to light) or me and allows me to pretend this is a wonderful bonding time for the pair of us.  He will soon let me know when he has had enough and wants out.  To be honest getting him out is the best part because he then gets double-wrapped in towels and snuggled up and then we do get some quality bonding time.  Unless he cries.  Or fills the towels with poo.  Which has happened.  Back into the bath with you sunshine...

One thing I will note here is how principled we were before becoming parents in what we thought was appropriate, and those things we would never do.  Try very hard never to set those principles in stone. Henry has had a pacifier (one of the few Americanisms I think is actually worthwhile).  That is the big one for us.  We swore that we would never use one, but when he has been crying for an hour, is not hungry, does not need changing and cannot get to sleep because he is so upset you resort to what will help him, and abandon your high ideals.  Do not beat yourself up about it; be aware of the sacrifice you are making and why you are doing it and ensure you do not forget that principle, but the uppermost principle is your baby's well-being.  Everything else is secondary.

On that note, I will share very briefly my checklist to run through when a baby is crying.  Conveniently they all start with a B - I try to use this as an aide memoire, trust me we have needed reminding of some of these things from time to time.

Breast or bottle - am I hungry? (or thirsty - we just had a very hot spell and Henry upped his intake, but, as always, Emily's breasts responded miraculously and produced more fore-milk, which is the lighter watery milk)
Bed - am I tired? (a difficult one - Henry fights going to sleep in the evening.  A lot.  For ages.)
Burp - have I got wind? (Henry likes on the shoulder, or bent over my hand.  But we have learned, repeatedly and to our cost, that if you feed him too much or wind too aggressively after a feed, it all fountains out in a glorious geyser of milk.  This normally results in having to strip and redress the bed at 3am whilst drying the mattress with a towel.  Oh and you can never have too many muslin squares.)
Bottom - do I need changing? (somehow, this is the one we commonly forget, and we always assume that if he is not settling it is because he is hungry or 'over-tired' (which I personally think is a ridiculous concept).  Suddenly, it will occur to us that he may be comfortable.  A quick change = relaxed Henry.  This has changed in the last three weeks - at first he didn't realise or care what was in his nappy.  Now he does)
Bored - do I need entertaining? (I think this one is becoming more important for Henry, he is considerably more interactive in the last couple of weeks, so the need to stimulate is becoming more salient).

What is most difficult to capture here is, well, everything.  The emotions, which are no doubt heightened by exhaustion despite him being reasonably forgiving at night, the changes, the learning, the bonding.  All of it happening and evolving on a minute-by-minute basis.  I started this blog hoping to record my thoughts and experiences as I went on my personal journey of fatherhood, but I now realise that fatherhood is actually just an extension of Henry and I cannot keep up with him!  It is so exciting, so rewarding, so incredibly hard but wow.  Just look at what you get.  This makes every struggle worthwhile, and somehow it does just enough to make you forget the screaming and the bad dreams and the tiredness.  That little boy smiling is my panacea and I love him.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Sssshh...is he breathing?

I have discovered that there are three main emotions now that I am a father, and all three are experienced quite intensely.

Firstly, there is love. I am addicted to my son. I want to kiss him, hold him, stroke him and generally be near him all the time. He amazes me.

Secondly, there is excitement. We are a family, our future is both wonderful and mysterious, which makes it exciting. There is so much to look forward to, and even more to appreciate now. Life with Henry is filled with love and excitement.

However, as I lie here awake at gone midnight, listening to the coughs, wheezes, splutters and movements of my 15 days old son it strikes me that fear also makes up a rather large component of my emotional state. I currently cannot sleep because each splutter terrifies me that he is choking. Perhaps he has thrown up and cannot clear his airwaves. So I lie, waiting for the next noisy breath. Which doesn't come. I tell my wife to stop breathing so I can listen for his. And just as I am on the verge of leaping across the room to his crib, he coughs and I let out a sigh of relief.

The strange thing is I am usually a rational and logical person. I am fully aware that I am biologically programmed to care for his welfare, whilst he is biologically programmed to carry on breathing. Yet this does not stop that yawning pit in my stomach when something happens. And so many things happen! His joints crack, I accidentally touch the soft bit on his head, he splutters in his sleep, he jerks and his head goes further than I expect, he throws up lying back.

I once joked to my wife that all we had to do was keep him alive, anything else was a bonus. It would appear that my brain has taken this seriously and now will not let me rest. I have been reliably informed that this never goes away.

This love - how exciting...

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Welcome to the world Henry Michael!

And the deed is done - on the 11th April at 8:30am, Henry Michael entered the world.  So what have I learnt?

Firstly - I love my son more than I thought possible.  The emotional impact this little man has had on me is incredible.  There was so much I did not understand when people talked about their children.  Things such as you can spend just hours watching them, they grow up so quick, and so on.  Now I know.  I love kissing him, holding him, watching him, talking to him.  I am already worried about him growing up and me not getting those utterly dependent cuddles.  The birth of a child changes you in ways you cannot imagine, or prepare for.  My son is awesome; he inspires awe.

Secondly - childbirth is a painful experience for mothers.  Now I know it obviously is, but again, I had no idea how much pain, and what was actually involved.  My wife was amazing - Henry came with the help of some forceps, which has resulted in some hefty consequences for Emily, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience.  She soldiered; I was in pieces.  I have nothing but admiration for her, and my son is lucky to have her.

Thirdly - nothing can prepare a father for the utter helplessness felt whilst observing the mother's role.  During childbirth and beyond.  Breastfeeding appears to be quite difficult to get off the ground, and mothers are attempting to learn at a point in their life when hormones are raging, exhaustion is present, and pain is constant.  And apart from make tea, stroke hair, bring food and hold hands there is nothing you can do to ease your partner's lot.  It is horrible and it makes you want to scream and shout and throw things.  Don't.  It won't help.  But having some ideas for things that you can do when the frustration does boil over is key.

Fourthly - do not pretend, and do not allow your partner to pretend, that you should know it all.  As an example, this morning Henry was refusing his first feed.  He should have been hungry, my wife started to panic (we'd had a scary midwife visit, more on that particular topic in another post).  My mother-in-law has been staying with us whilst Emily gets feeding established and was quickly called to the scene.  The reason? His nappy was fit to bursting with his first poo!  Neither of us had thought to check and we're both childcare professionals.  Tomorrow we will remember.  Just as Henry is learning new things everyday, so are we as parents.  It is ok to make mistakes and perfection is impossible.

And finally, from my viewpoint as a new father - nothing we go through as fathers compares to mothers during this period.  Later on you will become a much more equal partner - at this stage I see my role as doing everything I can to make her life easier so that she can make Henry's life easier.  I am currently trying to find ways to look after myself.  I will not pretend, that whilst this is difficult for new mothers, it is also emotional and difficult for new fathers.  It makes me miss my own father, as it is him I would have turned to talk about this time in my life.  My advice would be do not allow yourself to become isolated and pretend that you can cope with it all. But try not to add to your partner's burdens, certainly not in the first couple of weeks.

So that is some of what I have learned - what about Henry?

He is currently learning how to breastfeed (this is a skill, and although there is an instinctual urge, Henry does not appear to have read the manual).  He is improving, bless him, but he does need to relearn frequently something we thought he had weighed off just hours before.

His body is also learning how to expel stuff it does not want.  Today saw his first proper poo.  And his second.  And a bit of vomiting.  It's lovely, but messy.

The world is an interesting place, but parents are particularly so.  Henry appears to be delighted to be carried around the house listening to a running commentary provided by daddy.  He loves the sound of voices.

I will try to get back here a bit more often now - I will share what I learn as I go, as well as some of the personal stuff that happens.  But right now Henry is crying and daddy wants to cuddle him.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Sweet wheels dude!

And here's junior's ride. We could buy a car for what this cost grandmother Sullivan!

Home sweet home

Here's junior's room - very much a work in progress!

Been a while

Dear Junior,

It's been a while since I've written to you and I thought it about time, after all a lot has changed.

Where to begin? Firstly, you'll be happy to know that mummy and I finally started your room. Well, I say mummy and I. I was in there for about 20 minutes and mummy for 30. The truth is that mummy's mummy and daddy have started your room. It doesn't look up to much at the moment, but by the time it's finished it will be the nicest, snuggest room in the house.

We have also finally ordered your furniture, so there will be somewhere for you to sleep and keep clothes! And mummy and daddy finally picked a pram. You will probably never understand how stressful it was, and how grateful we are to my mummy for buying it for you.

Mummy's beginning to get quite achy and tired now - you're in the process of growing quite quickly and we can feel you moving and kicking as your current home gets smaller and smaller. Don't worry though, in no time you'll be out and safely in our arms where we can watch you grow! We're both a little bit worried but very excited about meeting you, as are your grandparents and uncles.

I've got to go now because mummy has brushed her teeth and you need oiling and her feet need rubbing - daddy has some very important jobs.

I promise I'll try to write again, but who knows you may surprise us and arrive before I get chance!

Sleep well, dream sweet dreams.

All my love


Saturday, 18 February 2012

It ain't always easy

Firstly, let me direct your attention to the Wonderland film that appeared on BBC recently.  It follows three dads (and bumps into another couple along the way) through the last few weeks of pregnancy and first few weeks of their new child's life.  Watch it here.  It is beautiful and moving.

Watching things like this, reflecting on the impending reality of our baby's arrival, always makes me miss my dad.  One of the most touching scenes in Wonderland is when James, who is pressuring himself into knowing everything and terryifying himself in the process, talks to his dad about how he knew what to do.  Obviously his dad didn't have books and films, he relied upon instincts and common sense.  There is a hole in my life as I can no longer have those conversations.  I feel so incredibly lucky that my dad showed me such a fine example of being a father, he was caring, attentive and proud of his family.  He was prepared to discuss emotions and was sensitive and supportive.  I just wish he was around to help me take those first steps.  I am also lucky that my father-in-law is a fine and caring man, so I do still have somebody I can talk to; he just isn't my dad.

And the other thing that I have not been prepared for is the strain it places on your pre-birth relationship.  Becoming a parent, let alone being one, is incredibly hard.  Massively difficult.  It is difficult to understand the changes being wrought in my wife's body, the tiredness, the hormonal chaos, plus her own nerves.  I honestly don't know how women do it, they have my utmost respect.  My wife has been incredible, and I probably don't tell her enough how much I admire her.  Yet two increasingly tired adults facing their own worries and trying not to burden the other can make it difficult to be close.  I'm not saying we are failing at it, but it has been surprisingly hard work and I don't think either of us expected it.

This feels like a dark post today.  It isn't, it's just that I have found myself reflecting on the difficulties and the harder emotional side of being a father.  It isn't always easy, but we are both still very excited by the prospect of being parents and welcoming our new child into the world.  I do not think anything can fully prepare you for what it means.  All the people in the world can tell you about the tiredness and the effort required, but until you live with it you don't understand it.  I know we haven't got our baby in our arms yet, so it is bound to get harder still, but the challenges do not simply begin when the baby has arrived.  I understand James's concern about 'getting it right' but I think Viktor had it right.  That kind of thinking starts you on a path that is ultimately futile and will make it worse for you.  You can never have all the information, and most of the information is simply that - information.  Babies don't come with user guides, nor should they.  All you can do is your best.  And I hope my best will be good enough, for my wife and baby.

Time to give my wife (who is my best friend, soulmate and has offered tireless support during the recent months despite everything that she is also going through) and bump a cuddle.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

A pram, a pram, my kingdom for a pram

Finally, and with much stress and soul-searching, my wife listened to reason and went for the pram I said I liked months ago. 

We passed the 28 week mark yesterday and this has come with a large amount of panic for me - nursery not ready, no cot yet and no pram.  So 12 weeks before Junior's arrival time is planned for there was nothing to arrive to.  A second day it was then of vehicular experimentation and a brave quest through the baby shops.  Once more into the breach...

Buying a pram, gentlemen, is a nightmare.  And no single pram offers all the features or, more importantly, eliminates all of the irritants.  There are an absolute wealth of options and ask three different people and they will give you three different priorities that your pram simply must have.  Carrycot?  Check.  Parent-facing chair?  Check.  Car seat that fits to frame?  Check.  Folds down conveniently?  Nope.  Light?  Nope.  Everything is a compromise.  The models that were light, were flimsy, the ones that folded down well had fiddly clips, or rubbish carrycots.  Picking a pram is a continuous compromise - I challenge anybody to pick one that they are universally happy with.

And this week I was faced with another new (to me) phenomenon.  The 'everybody-tells-you-you-need-that-but-you-don't-however-X-is-essential' advice.  Everybody that has a baby, and even some that haven't, has an opinion on what is necessary and what is not.  And all the advice is well-meaning and gratefully received but so much of it is conflicting that for the first-time parent it can be somewhat bewildering.

I worry that people these days bury their instincts underneath advice, rhetoric and literature.  I recognise the security blanket that this offers and I will admit to wanting to read some books to help me out (Martin Seligman's Optimistic Child is top of my list), but I do believe I need to allow myself the chance to learn with my baby.  None of these books know my child; it is a journey that nobody can fully prepare me for and one that my wife and I will travel with the kiddie bean when it arrives.  There will be wrong turnings, dead ends and the occasional bump but for thousands of years parents and children have reached the destination of independent adulthood and I see no reason why we should be any different.

Brave words now.  Come back and ask me how I feel two weeks after birth day!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Preparation, preparation, preparation...

It's been a while since I was last here, but I thought it was time to finally pick up my proverbial pen and record some more thoughts.  Due to the passing of my dad at the end of November I have been continually reminded of the importance of family.  I will probably share more thoughts in this regard in future blogs, for now it is a little too soon still.

So what has been happening with regards to the kiddie bean?  A lot of growth!  My wife now sports a highly desirably front extension, that occasionally entertains the both of us with visible bulges and kicks.  There is simply no hiding the fact that she is pregnant and with this simple fact seems to have come an explosion of appetite!  Clearly junior is demanding a lot of calories, and my wife is only too happy to supply them.  :-)

More seriously we visited Asda's baby event today and have begun to stock up in preparation.  We have two huge boxes of newborn nappies now, which my wife predicts may last three days if we're lucky.  The goal is to do towelling nappies when junior's digestive system settles down a bit, but I am reliably informed the first couple of weeks are particularly explosive and prolific.

We now have a selecton of lotions, wipes, cotton products, bibs, sleepsuits, with some Sudocrem and a travel cot thrown in.  With this flurry of purchasing came a not insubstantial level of nervous anticipation - it is now becoming very real and I do find myself asking if I will be ready?  Is anybody ever ready?  We moved from Asda to the babies section of Toys R Us, where we examined a number of very similar looking cotbeds, as well as pushing around a number of prams that approach the market value of my car, yet apparently don't even have ABS.  They are extortionate!  Baby products come with quite a mark-up it seems.  And so far we have not even got a room ready to put all this in.  While I am very excited about junior's arrival, it is beginning to feel that time is running out for us to get things ready for the big day.

With that in mind, I'm going to go help the wife put away the Christmas decorations (we've been really busy, ok?!)