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.