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.